CHARLESTON – Nearly half of potential West Virginia jurors believe lawsuits have a negative effect on the state's economy, according to a new poll.
Lawsuits have a "very negative" impact according to 24 percent of those asked in the poll, and 22 percent said they have a "somewhat negative" impact.
Also, nearly one-fourth of those surveyed said they could not be impartial jurors if one of the parties was a "tobacco company." Another 16 percent said they couldn't be impartial if one of the parties was a "corporate executive," and just more than 10 percent said they couldn't be impartial if one of the parties was a "coal company" or a "nursing home."
Mark Blankenship Enterprises conducted the poll of residents qualified to serve jury duty last month.
Seventeen percent of respondents said lawsuits have "no impact," 13 percent said they had a "somewhat positive" impact and 5 percent said they have a "very positive" impact on the economy.
The results are similar to a previous Jury Opinion Poll that MBE did in May.
MBE recently conducted the telephone survey of 430 West Virginians. Mark Blankenship, president and CEO, said the independent survey was conducted to assist attorneys in understanding the attitudes and opinions of potential jurors as they develop litigation strategies.
"These findings, because they are so consistent with earlier opinion research, begin to establish a trend," Blankenship said. "The current economic climate has certainly increased concern about the economy and this survey shows respondents continue to believe lawsuits have a negative impact on the economy by significant margins."
As for the question about impartiality, Blankenship said he was taken aback by the results.
"These numbers are somewhat surprising due to the nature of the question," he said. "Serving as an impartial juror is considered by many to be a civic duty or responsibility. As such, it is very difficult for respondents to admit they would not be able to meet this obligation."
MBE conducted a random sample telephone survey among 430 West Virginia registered voters and/or licensed drivers. The sampling variation on a survey of 430 respondents is plus/minus 4.7 percent at a 95 percent confidence level.
Interviewers used random-digit dialing procedure to interview respondents. The numbers are generated by computer to achieve maximum representation in all West Virginia counties. This technique is designed to produce a sample of registered voters that is representative of the entire population in such areas as age, gender, race, and family income. Both listed and unlisted telephone households had an equal chance of being selected in the sample.
Blankenship noted that the results of the survey do not reflect the opinions of MBE and are meant only to provide insights into public opinion.