Political Beliefs and Tort Awards: Evidence of Rationally Political Jurors from Two Data Sets

Scott Wentland 1
  • 1 Longwood University


To better understand jury decision-making, this paper explores the extent to which jurors’ political beliefs impact real world trial outcomes. The key finding of this study is a strong empirical link between a jury pool’s political leanings and tort awards, robust across two distinct data sets, namely pooled panels from the Civil Justice Survey of State Courts and Jury Verdict Research data. I find that a one standard deviation (12%) increase in a jury pool’s Democratic vote (in presidential elections) increases tort awards by approximately $157,600 (or 30%) on average. This general relationship remains consistent through county and time fixed effects estimations, and controlling for a number of socioeconomic demographics. While the empirics presented here do not establish a definitive causal link, the data lends evidence to the case for what I call a “rationally political juror,” suggesting further examination into juror incentives and decision-making.

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The Review of Law & Economics (RLE) is published in cooperation with the European Association of Law and Economics (EALE) and De Gruyter. The Review publishes theoretical and empirical interdisciplinary research in law and economics-related subjects. The Journal explores the various understandings that economic approaches shed on legal institutions.