By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Litigation has one thing in common with real estate: location matters. There will be reliable differences when trying a case in one venue versus another. And some of the most reliable differences come down to the sometimes vast distance between a city jury and a country jury. The distinctions are often measured in politics, but the attitudes can extend far beyond that. Still, politics is a pretty good place to start. For example, try comparing a red/blue map at county level (like the one here), with a nighttime satellite image of America from space (like the one here). You'll see a striking similarity: Where you see the city lights, that is also where you'll see counties that voted Democrat. This connection of rural with conservatism, and urban with liberalism is backed up by a new chart shared by Pew Research. Looking at all U.S. cities over a quarter million in population, nearly all of them are above the national mean on the conservatism scale. So is there something about urban living that makes people broad-minded and tolerant, and something about rural or suburban living that brings people closer to traditional values? Or does the causation run the other way as the 'Blues' head for the cities while the 'Reds' stay in the country?
For litigators, the reasons aren't that important, but the result can be critical. We typically encourage attorneys not to rely too much on demographics. But in this case, the demographics of urban or rural living carry with them some reliable attitudinal differences. Trial lawyers always need to play the ball where it lies, and that means taking particular care to account for the uniqueness of the venue. The data remind us not only that rural and urban areas are different, but also that not all urban areas are created equal. This post takes a quick look at where our largest cities fall on the liberal-conservative spectrum, and also provides a few reminders on taking the temperature of your own trial venue.