With the Covid-19 pandemic complicating in-person mock jury exercises, more jury research is being conducted online. Online focus groups and online surveys can accomplish an array of litigation objectives. Online surveys, which can reach 200 respondents in 3-4 days in some heavily populated venues, help litigants preview the venue and ascertain what arguments are the most compelling, scrutinize damage considerations and start to build a jury profile.

How do online surveys generally compare to in-person mock jury exercises? Online surveys provide more quantitative data for general insight and the larger number of participants helps identify useful patterns in the venue. The more traditional in-person mock trials gather more qualitative feedback on themes, case story and overall strengths and weaknesses. In-person mock jury exercises also build on and strengthen existing jury profiles from online surveys.

After recently conducting a 200-person online survey, where the results skewed heavily in favor of the plaintiff by a 2:1 ratio, my client wondered whether those who elect to participate in online forums and offer feedback on competing case narratives tend to be more plaintiff-oriented. My initial response was only anecdotal as I had never thoroughly analyzed data to see whether those who take online surveys trend plaintiff-oriented.

For edification purposes, a majority of prospective online participants have opted in to become part of a panel that provides them opportunities to offer opinions on a range of topics when asked. After doing a certain number of engagements, respondents accumulate points or “coins” that can be redeemed for a variety of rewards such as gift cards. People who take online surveys consent to have their data used by outside companies. To illustrate the magnitude of the industry, one of the vendors I regularly use to find participants has a database of 35-40 million people 18+ in the U.S. who are eligible and willing to be part of online studies. Participants are reached by email, cell phone, or even certain apps. Now back to the original question about whether such respondents who take online surveys tend to be more plaintiff-oriented in nature.

I looked at data in the aggregate by totaling recent surveys my firm conducted. Of the 1097 respondents who participated in an online exercise, 529 or 48% favored the plaintiff(s) while 568 or 52% sided with the defendant. This difference was not significant but certainly shows those taking online surveys involving a civil lawsuit do not notably lean in one direction or the other.

In the last 20 years I have been tracking data for many purposes but my client’s inquiry gave me an opportunity to assess the data in a way I never previously thought of. Now moving forward, I will continue to track and assess the data for this particular purpose.