Dateline: May, 2008, Issue 1

How important are demographic characteristics in predicting jurors' verdicts?

Demographic factors such as gender, age, occupation, marital status, education, and income generally have only a minor influence on verdicts.

Hastie and colleagues (1983) examined the backgrounds and verdict inclinations of over 800 prospective Boston jurors. The ability to predict verdicts based on education, political orientation, occupation, age, gender, and prior jury service was small. Less than 2% of differences in verdicts could be accounted for by these demographic characteristics.

Diamond and colleagues (1998) report that only 5.4% of differences in verdicts were explainable by jurors' demographic characteristics.

Among the larger estimates, Mills and Bohannon (1980) found that juror demographic characteristics were able to explain 10% to 16% of the differences in verdicts, while Moran and Comfort (1982) report a figure of 11%.

More typical is Wissler, Hart and Saks (1999) study of the effect of jurors' demographic characteristics on damage awards. Jurors' gender, state of residence, and rural-urban location accounted for only 2% of the differences in jurors' damage awards.

In sum, juror demographic characteristics are not generally predictive of jurors' verdicts.

Source Hastie, R., Penrod, S., & Pennington, N. (1983). Inside the jury. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Source Diamond, S. S., Saks, M. J., & Landsman, S. (1998). Juror judgments about liability and damages: Sources of variability and ways to increase consistency. DePaul Law Review, 48, pp. 301-325.

Source Mills, C. J., & Bohannon, W. E. (1980a). Juror characteristics: To what extent are they related to jury verdicts. Judicature, 64, pp. 23-31.

Source Moran, G., & Comfort, J. C. (1982). Scientific jury selection: Sex as a moderator of demographic and personality predictors of impaneled felony jury behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 43, pp. 1052-1063.

Source Wissler, R. L., Hart, A. J., & Saks, M. J. (1999). Decision making about general damages: A comparison of jurors, judges, and lawyers. Michigan Law Review, 98, pp. 1751-1826.