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Survey Reveals Public's Ability to be Swayed by Questions

From the American Association for Justice, a May 20 news release, New Poll: "Americans Say 'No Thanks' To Binding Arbitration"

Washington, DC--Americans generally disapprove of binding arbitration provisions in consumer contracts as an alternative to civil legal proceedings involving a judge or jury, according to a recent national poll by survey firm Peter D. Hart Research Associates Inc.

"Mandatory binding arbitration doesn't give consumers a choice," said American Association for Justice President Kathleen Flynn Peterson. "This poll proves that when asked to choose, consumers overwhelmingly say 'no thanks' to unfair arbitration agreements. Arbitration can only be a valid and effective method of resolving disputes when both parties agree voluntarily."

No news pick-up of the survey that I can find, and the AAJ website doesn't have the executive summary or polling document, which is almost always a sign of a survey based on loaded or leading questions.*

However, Depak Gupta of the anti-arbitration Nader outfit, Public Citizen, writing at the Consumer Law & Policy Blog, does post the executive summary. The summary includes much criticism of a survey conducted by the Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform, which has been very active defending the value of arbitration.

The ILR's survey was released with the full document, a news conference, and more materials, all available at the Chamber's website. So on transparency alone -- again, a key to interpreting survey results -- the ILR wins and the trial lawyers lose.

Of course, it's hard to take any public opinion survey seriously when it's on a complicated matter or detailed questions of law. The intricacies of arbitration versus litigation are not matters of daily consideration for most people.

* Not to impugn the good people at Peter D. Hart, who are reliable pros and Democratic pollsters. It's up to the client to determine how much of a survey is released. And the methodology is familiar: "From April 17 to 21, 2008, Peter D. Hart Research Associates, Inc., conducted a national telephone survey for the American Association for Justice among 833 adults nationwide (margin of error is + or - 3.5 percentage points)."

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Rafael Mangual
Project Manager,
Legal Policy

Manhattan Institute


Published by the Manhattan Institute

The Manhattan Insitute's Center for Legal Policy.