By Dr. Ken Broda-Bahm:
Earlier this week, the U.S. Supreme Court announced their 5-4 decision in the case of Burwell v. Hobby Lobby finding that closely-held corporations, based on sincerely held religious beliefs, can exempt themselves from a requirement to provide certain contraceptive services as part of their employee health plans. Predictably, the news cycles and the social media spheres went nuts, with conservatives proclaiming a victory for religious liberty and a blow to the Affordable Care Act, and liberals bemoaning an expansion of corporate personhood, as well as another limit on women's reproductive freedom. Once again, the stark differences in the public's reactions can make you feel like there are really two Americas, blue and red, living in very different realities. Aside from the moments like this one and the 2012 election where there seem to be just two groups, a closer and more fine-grained look at political values and attitudes actually reveals a broader political spectrum.
According to a recent Pew Research report, the political types that define the American ideological landscape extend beyond liberal and conservative or Democrat and Republican. Based on Pew's comprehensive study, there are eight reliable and broad categories that an individual might fall into. These are useful distinctions for those who analyze the American public, and take into account the distinctions in economic, governmental, and social views, as well as differing levels of party attachment and political engagement. For litigators looking to study a potential jury pool, political leaning has tended to be one of the more reliable demographic predictors, with Democrats being more pro-plaintiff and anti-corporate in a way that influences their likelihood to find for an individual over a large company. Armed with the eight categories and their more specific distinctions, jury consultants and trial lawyers can gain additional insight on a number of the key attitudes that influence litigation: the role of government, whether protection is found in self-reliance or external help, and whether big business is a positive or a negative force in our lives.