Annual DRI National Poll on the Civil Judicial System (2012)

< Back to The Center Poll Analysis

2012 Poll Highlights

Below are some of the highlights from the first annual DRI National Poll on the Civil Judicial System. This is an independent, nonpartisan, national telephone survey conducted in August 2012.


  • 41% of Americans are not confident that the civil law system is fair and just. Only 9% are very confident.
  • 83% say that the side with the most money for lawyers usually wins. This holds true for all demographic groups: Democrats, Republicans, Independents, liberals, conservatives. The range of agreement is high 70s to high 80s in percentages.
  • In one interesting counterintuitive response, 64% prefer jury trials to bench trials even though 48% feel juries make decisions based upon personal opinion rather than facts and the law. Sixty-nine percent feel that judges base their decisions on facts and the law rather than personal opinion.
  • Confidence in the courts is higher among liberals than conservatives.


  • In a suit pitting a corporation against an individual, 54% would favor individuals. Only 11% would favor corporations. And only 23% volunteer that they would be neutral!
  • Among the industries listed, 56-59% expressed a bias against insurance, oil/gas, financial, and pharmaceutical companies. The only significantly lower bias is toward tech companies (46%) and to a lesser extent, the automobile companies (52%). The lowest bias is toward small businesses in which opinion divides almost evenly between a small business “located in your community” and an individual, 32% to 30%.
  • 52% said that a bad experience with a corporation could influence their verdict.
  • 66% of Democrats and 70% of liberals would favor an individual over a corporation. Only 43% of Republicans and conservatives would.
  • In a suit pitting a small business against a large corporation, 64% said they’d be inclined to favor the smaller business.


  • Thirty-eight percent of American adults, equivalent to 90 million people, have been invited to participate in class action lawsuits!
  • Most are not doing it for the money. Seventy percent of those joining a class action suit received a financial award with 73% of them calling it “insignificant”. Motivation may lie in the fact that 65% of all Americans think class action suits make corporations more responsible since they also feel that the suits unfairly enrich plaintiff attorneys (59%). About half say they joined merely to send a message.
  • Democrats, Republicans, liberals, conservatives, and independents are all in the 60-65% range in thinking that class actions unfairly enrich plaintiff attorneys.


  • 75% of Americans see jury service as a civic duty rather than a burden although only 27% have personally served on a jury.
  • 81% of former jurors say the experience was a positive one.

2012 Poll Results