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Reimagining Jury Research: The Versatility of Online Community Attitude Surveys



| By Clint Townson, PhD, Former IMS Strategy Consultant

Community attitude surveys (CAS) number among the very first research projects conducted by jury consultants in the history of the field. Social scientists have been conducting surveys for nearly a century, and such an examination of attitudes, beliefs, and responses to stimuli are a natural boon for practicing attorneys. The most sophisticated designs can assess a case in terms of extant juror attitudes toward the parties, strength of arguments, and likely damages.

Traditionally, these surveys have involved tedious collection of data via call centers and laborious statistical analysis. But as online survey platforms have grown more sophisticated, IMS Consulting & Expert Services has developed cutting-edge protocols for performing online survey research. The significance of this technology is threefold: online CAS allow for versatile research approaches, enhanced data analysis, and broader output in terms of results.

Versatility in Platform

Test whatever you want to test

The online CAS format offers an array of options that enable you to examine the most crucial elements of your case. Our experience in using online measures allows us to adapt the approach to suit your needs. The end result is a precise and actionable report on jurors’ responses to the given case element.

Need to know how a witness is going to be perceived? The online platform allows us to isolate the impact of a single witness to determine their credibility in terms of expertise, trustworthiness, and dynamism. This method is a cost-effective way to get quick but insightful perspective to inform the preparation of your witness.

Need to decide if a demonstrative is understandable and persuasive? We can use the online platform to assess jurors’ attention, understanding, and liking related to a given graphic. Our measures will test a demonstratives’ ability to influence their opinions toward the case. By integrating an experimental approach, we can discover which graphics are strongest and which result in the best outcomes for your case. The in-house IMS graphics and trial presentation teams can also help facilitate and inform refinement of the demonstratives you choose to use at trial.

Need to know whether jurors understand a patent? In patent litigation, it’s often crucial that jurors ‘get’ how something works. Through the online survey approach, we can test whether they see differences or congruities between products. We can isolate this piece of very complex litigation and see if jurors follow this fundamental element of the case. In essence, we test not only their objective knowledge following the video/graphical explanation of the patent, but we also identify their ability to recognize infringement.

An advanced platform for experienced researchers who use sophisticated methods

IMS is uniquely qualified to use the online CAS platform, as our consultants are experienced and practiced researchers. The online approach has been favored by social scientists for several years because it also facilitates careful question construction and experimental design. Our consultants have this social science background such that we know how to exploit the capabilities of the online platform to glean the best insights for your case.

Unlike traditional telephone surveys, an online survey allows for more complex response types, including matrix questioning, hot spot testing, reaction time testing, and ranking lists. This type of data collection enables nuanced understanding of jurors’ attitudes and opinions. Our consultants have used online platforms for years. We know how to utilize the program’s flexibility and sophistication. Ask any important question for your litigation of a case, and we can find a way to study it among a jury-eligible sample.

Assess cases across multiple venues simultaneously

Online surveys are a great option for attorneys who are trying similar lawsuits across several venues or those who want to weigh the value of trying a case in one jurisdiction versus another. Online surveys can be quickly and easily disseminated across multiple venues, such that you gain insights about distinct samples that represent several given venires.

For a client that anticipates multiple related lawsuits across several jurisdictions, the online research survey is an ideal method for assessing the environment in advance of litigation. An identical survey and methodology can be employed across multiple venues simultaneously. In instances where a change in venue is being considered, the online survey approach allows for a cost-effective side-by-side comparison of juror attitudes in multiple venues.

Scope of Analysis

The most efficient data analysis and reporting

Unlike traditional community attitude surveys conducted by telephone, online surveys facilitate quick and reliable data output that is ready for analysis in powerful statistical software. With a telephone survey, the coding and translation must be done manually—an arduous process that typically results in an error-ridden spreadsheet.

But the online platform allows us to instantaneously download the dataset for cleaning and processing, such that you get the results even faster. Rather than the process taking a matter of weeks, the collection and analysis can be completed in just days. Additionally, this level of data output allows for more rigorous data analysis and more nuance in findings. Our examination of the data can result in advanced statistics like regression coefficients and factor analysis.

Longitudinal study and trend analysis

Much of the litigation we consult on is drawn out or otherwise may face an extended timeline before it finally reaches a jury trial. This occurrence is especially common in the wake of the incredible backlog most courts face as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fortunately, online surveys can be readily and inexpensively sent out in several iterations, thus enabling attorneys to stay on top of shifting attitudes.

Consider litigation that involves a company that is facing significant and repeated publicized missteps: how might jurors’ attitudes change over the course of several months? Online surveys can assess changes in jurors’ levels of punitiveness or anger toward a relevant party. Additionally, there may be historical artifacts that impact the jurors who will decide your case. Consider how major events like the Black Lives Matter movement may impact jurors’ evaluation of a case. Through the above-described statistical approaches, we can perform a trend analysis that maps the perception of a litigating party at multiple timepoints.

Valuable Results

Insightful results at a reasonable price

Traditional community attitude surveys are inefficient due to the costs of call centers—which generally charge by the minute—and the backend costs of coding the data. The cost associated with performing a telephone survey is prohibitive for many trial teams. Online research surveys are efficient: respondents are less expensive and the cost of call centers is eliminated. More time can be spent looking carefully at the data and gleaning the best results. We recruit a sample in precisely the way we would recruit for a mock trial: we study the venire demographics and select respondents to match.

While not as involved or in-depth as a full mock trial or focus group, online surveys yield valuable findings that can inform case strategy, mediations, and even future research. Online CAS are significantly less expensive than other types of jury research, making them a wise first step in the consulting process. Moreover, we can use data collected from this very first step to inform our strategy consulting. IMS strategy consultants help us dive deep beyond the bare research results, and together we provide you with insightful interpretations of the quantitative data and sophisticated recommendations for case strategy.

An in-depth assessment of case-relevant attitudes and potential damages

A major advantage of conducting an online research survey is that it enables us to obtain a large sample size, and thus, capture a powerful cross-section of jurors’ case attitudes. Since the cost of respondents is relatively low, we can sample hundreds of eligible jurors in a given venue and generate statistical power. An accurate description of juror attitudes toward the litigating parties and the case itself is ensured by this kind of methodology.

Online surveys can also help assess possible damages, particularly in high-profile cases or in litigation that involves high-profile clients. It allows us to determine not only an informed assessment of the probability of damages, but a range and estimation of how large these damages may be. Such insights may prove crucial in shaping settlement or mediation positions.

A quantitative foundation for your case

At the preliminary stages of your case, an online research survey can offer valuable data on the potential outcomes should it proceed to a jury trial. It is an efficient and cost-effective first step in developing your case strategy. Alongside Mental Mining®, we believe this approach will help you outline a case’s progression from discovery through a satisfactory resolution. We encourage clients to consider conducting this kind of research early in the process so the findings may inform strategic decisions, settlement decisions, witness preparation, graphic development, and even additional mock trial research. It helps place you in a position of greater knowledge and certainty as your case moves forward.

Cost-Effective Winning Solutions

The online approach to a community attitude survey offers our clients an adaptable, efficient, and informative form of jury research. We encourage all of our clients to consider this type of research early in the litigation process because it results in an inexpensive yet refined foundation to inform strategy decisions, case development, and even additional consulting needs. With this online approach, IMS Consulting & Expert Services is pleased to offer our clients yet another research solution that helps them win their cases.

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