Americans Speak on Lawsuit Abuse

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1 Americans Speak on Lawsuit Abuse Results of a National Survey Commissioned by the American Tort Reform Association and Sick of Lawsuits Conducted by Luce Research August 2012

2 Americans Speak on Lawsuit Abuse Results of a National Survey Summary Americans firmly believe that lawsuit abuse is a problem in our country. They see too many lawsuits and believe that the number of lawsuits filed have hurt the economy and jobs. Moreover, a large majority of voters believe the current liability lawsuit system needs improvement. Americans are concerned that they may be victims of a lawsuit themselves. They see how consumers and small businesses are negatively impacted by lawsuit abuse and point their fingers squarely at personal injury lawyers as those most to blame for the problems in the system. Americans heartily agree that: Legal settlements should compensate people for actual lawsuits and not make them rich Safeguards need to be put into place to protect small business from frivolous lawsuits Lawsuits raise consumer prices Lawsuit reform is important to improving the economy and attracting jobs Moreover, voters want to hear candidates speak about their positions on legal reform and clearly indicate they are more willing to vote for a candidate who supports legal reform. This sentiment is widespread as a majority of Republicans, Independents and Democrats, as well as men and women of all ages, prefer to vote for a candidate who supports legal reform. 1

3 Key Findings Nearly all voters say lawsuit abuse is a problem. Nine in ten voters (89 percent) feel lawsuit abuse is a problem, including 69 percent who believe it is a major or big problem; just 5 percent say lawsuit abuse is not a problem and 5 percent are unsure. Perceptions of lawsuit abuse as a problem cross all demographic groups. This sentiment cuts across party lines: 94 percent of Republicans, 89 percent of Independents and 86 percent of Democrats say it s a problem. There is no gender gap: 89 percent of both men and women see lawsuit abuse as a problem. A strong majority of voters believe lawsuits hurt the U.S. economy. Three in five voters (60 percent) believe the number of lawsuits filed against businesses has hurt the U.S. economy, while 31 percent say they have not. A plurality of every demographic subgroup examined believe the volume of lawsuits filed have hurt the U.S. economy, including 75 percent of Republicans, 60 percent of Independents and 47 percent of Democrats. 2

4 Americans believe there is no shortage of lawsuits. Four in five voters (78 percent) believe there are too many lawsuits in the U.S. Just 8 percent believe there are too few and 3 percent say there are about the right amount. 3

5 At least 60 percent of every demographic subgroup believes there are too many lawsuits. This includes widespread sentiment across the political spectrum, with at least 70 percent Republicans (89 percent), Independents (78 percent), and Democrats (70 percent) saying there are too many lawsuits. Americans say, Fix the liability lawsuit system! Four in five voters (83 percent) believe the current liability lawsuit system needs improvement (9 percent say it should not be changed). At least 75 percent of voters in every demographic subgroup want to see the system fixed, including 86 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Independents and 78 percent of Democrats. Most voters blame personal injury lawyers for the problems in our liability lawsuit system. One-third of voters (36 percent) say personal injury lawyers are the most to blame for the problems in the liability lawsuit system. Trailing far behind at 14 percent apiece are laws, legislators, and insurance companies. 4

6 There is widespread identification across demographic groups of personal injury lawyers as the source of problems with the system, with 45 percent of Republicans, 35 percent of Independents and 32 percent of Democrats naming personal injury lawyers as the most to blame. Voters believe consumers and small businesses are most hurt by lawsuit abuse. Three-fifths of voters (60 percent) believe that consumers are negatively affected by lawsuit abuse and 46 percent believe small businesses are. In addition, 32 percent believe employees are negatively affected, 27 percent say large corporations are hurt and 24 percent identify insurance companies are adversely affected by lawsuits. Across every demographic subgroup examined, consumers are the most mentioned as negatively impacted by lawsuits. Most Americans admit they are worried they will be the victim of a lawsuit. A majority of voters (53 percent) agree they are afraid that one day they or someone in their family will be a victim of a lawsuit. Concern cuts across all of the demographic subgroups examined, including 55 percent of Republicans, 54 percent of Democrats and 49 percent of Independents. 5

7 Across the board, voters see the effects of lawsuit abuse and the need for reform. When presented with eight statements about the abuses of the system, at least 72 percent of voters agree with each one. Strong majorities across all demographic groups, including party affiliation, agree with each of the statements. 6

8 90 percent agree Lawsuits and legal settlements should seek to compensate people for their actual losses and not make them ridiculously rich. 88 percent agree It is important to put into place safeguards that protect small businesses from frivolous lawsuits that could put them out of business even if they didn't do anything wrong. 84 percent agree Lawsuits raise the prices consumers pay for products and services. 78 percent agree Enacting lawsuit reform is an important part of improving the U.S. business environment and attracting and keeping jobs. 75 percent agree Personal injury lawyer advertising encourages people to sue even if they have not been injured. 75 percent agree Our legal system should limit the amount of pain and suffering that a jury awards to plaintiffs in lawsuits while ensuring that actual economic losses are recovered. 72 percent agree Our country's liability lawsuit system makes it harder for employers to do business and succeed. 72 percent agree Our liability lawsuit system negatively impacts the United States' ability to compete in the world as it raises the cost of doing business and limits investment in jobs here. A strong majority of voters want to hear how candidates will act to curb lawsuit abuse. Nearly two-thirds of voters (64 percent) say they would like candidates for elected office to talk about their positions on reforming the liability lawsuit system when they speak about their plans to encourage job creation and help businesses succeed. A majority of voters across demographic groups are interested in hearing about candidate positions on curbing lawsuit abuse, including 73 percent of Republicans, 61 percent of Independents and 57 percent of Democrats. 7

9 A broad cross-section of voters clearly favors candidates who support lawsuit reform. To get the best picture of voter intent with respect to candidate positions on lawsuit reform, we posed questions two ways, asking half of our sample how they would respond to a candidate who supports lawsuit reform and the other half about a candidate who opposes lawsuit reform. The results indicate that majorities of voters across demographic groups, including party affiliation, would vote for legal reform. Details from the two questions follow. Three-quarters of voters (73 percent) say they would be more likely to vote for a candidate who supports liability lawsuit reform (14 percent would be less likely to support this candidate). At least 55 percent of voters across all demographics would vote for a candidate who supports liability lawsuit reform. There is strong party support: 86 percent of Republicans, 73 percent of Independents and 62 percent of Democrats would vote for a candidate who supports lawsuit reform. Three in five voters (58 percent) say they would be less likely to vote for a candidate who opposes liability lawsuit reform (21 percent would be more likely to support this candidate). At least 48 percent of voters across all demographic groups would vote against a candidate who opposes liability lawsuit reform. Majorities across party identification penalize the candidate who opposes reform: 64 percent of Republicans, 56 percent of Independents and 54 percent of Democrats would vote against a candidate opposed to lawsuit reform. 8

10 Methodology The results in this summary are based on a national survey among 1,013 U.S. voters conducted by Luce Research by telephone from July 11-19, The interviews include both landline and mobile telephone numbers. The data were weighted by age, ethnicity and region to ensure a representative sampling of voters by all demographics, including gender, education and party identification. The sampling error for this study is ± 3.1 percentage points at the 95 percent confidence interval. The survey was commissioned by the American Tort Reform Association and Sick of Lawsuits. 9

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