The White-Collar Defense Juror & The “Trump Effect”
During Donald Trump’s time in the oval office, perhaps the most common question asked of us by white-collar defense lawyers has been, “How, if at all, do jurors think differently in the age of Trump?” In our latest DOAR Research Center report, we sought to answer that question. We looked at data from pre-trial research activities between 2013-2020 and conducting an empirical analysis that compared acquittal rates from the “pre-Trump era” (2013-2016) vs. the “Trump era” (2017-2020). Here are some of the highlights from the report.
We analyzed mock trial and focus group data* from 1426 participants in focus groups and mock trials, representing 33 cases across 13 venues. Forty-four percent of the participants heard cases in the Southern District of New York; the rest heard cases in venues spread across the country.
Most of the participants (89%) heard cases involving fraud allegations; sixteen percent heard cases involving alleged violations of FCPA.
*Because we were interested in changes over time and there were no pertinent survey data from the later years, we concentrated only on focus groups and mock trials for the present analyses.
Gender, Race, and Age
Among men and among Whites, younger people acquitted more frequently than older people
Impact of Education
Those without college degrees acquitted more frequently than college graduates – especially among men, Whites and those 45 or older
Impact of Political Orientation
Overall, conservatives were more likely than liberals to acquit – especially among women, Whites and those 45 or older
Putting It All together
The acquittal rate of demographic opposites differ by over fifty percentage points
The Trump Effect:
Comparing “Pre-Trump Era” (2013-2016) vs. “Trump Era” (2017-2020)
Conservatives and liberals moved in opposite directions
Gender and education with respect to political orientation saw the most dramatic shifts
Understanding juror characteristics and political orientation are critical to jury selection.
Our findings make it clear that political climate matters—and matters in nuanced and complex ways.
Among conservatives, we saw acquittal rates drop among both men and women, younger and older jurors, and Whites and non-Whites from the Pre-Trump era to the Trump era.
Among non-college graduates, we saw the acquittal rate drop dramatically from 61% (pre-Trump era) to 44% (Trump era)—perhaps due to anti-intellectual sentiment inspired by Trump.
The shifts in conservative and liberal voting patterns from the pre-Trump era to the Trump era lead us to speculate that the change relates, in part, to what it has meant to define oneself as conservative or liberal and how that has changed over time.
If the nation remains highly polarized, we may not see much change in the patterns demonstrated in recent years. Conversely, the effects of the Biden administration could lead to shifts in liberal and conservative sentiment.
Contact us to receive the full report of our findings.