ducted a national study of public attitudesntoward the civil justice system andntort law reform. The survey was commissionednby Aetna Life and Casualty,nan insurance company that is oftenninvolved in civil litigation and that favorsnchanges in some regulations governingncivil lawsuits. The poll’s questions addressedntopics ranging from citizens’nperceptions of current problems withnthe civil justice system to citizens’ attitudesntoward proposed changes in thensystem.nSome results of this study were reportednin an article in The New YorknTimes on March 7, 1987. The surveynwas characterized as indicating thatnalthough the public was satisfied withnsome aspects of the civil justice system,nit was dissatisfied with others and favorednmany reforms. Most importantly,nspokesmen from Aetna, the TortnReform Institute, and the InsurancenInformation Institute were quoted asnsaying that the poll demonstratesn”broad public support for changes innthe civil justice system” and that thenpoll’s findings “reflected the public’sndemand for reform” (emphasis added).nThe findings of this survey were characterizednsimilarly in a press releasenproduced by Aetna and in the Harrisnreport of the survey’s findings.nThese characterizations are misleadingnfor two reasons. First, the questionsnactually asked respondents how acceptablenthey found each proposed change:nvery acceptable, somewhat acceptable,nnot too acceptable, or not at all acceptable.nBut instead of describing thenDAY CARE:nChild Psychology & Adult EconomicsnPublished by The Rockford InstitutenCenter on the Family in AmericanFinally a book that makesnsense out of the current debatenover day care. The psychologicalnrisks and the economic implicationsnreceive thoughtful scrutinynfrom leading analysts,nincluding Jay Belsky, JacknWestman, Peter Barglow, andnRobert Rector. Essentialnreading for anyone interestednin child care.n166 pp.n$9.95 Paperback $15.95 Hardcovern(Please add $2.50 ea. Postage & Handling)nFor Your Copy. ContactnThe Rockford Institute – 934 North Main StnRockford. Illinois 61103n48/CHRONICLESnpercentages of respondents who foundneach proposed change “acceptable,”nThe New York Times and the Aetnanpress release descriptions claimed tonreport the proportions of respondentsnwho favored, supported, agreed with,nOT would allow each of them. Similarly,nthe Harris report offered conclusionsnabout the number of Americans whonsupported and favored the changes.nThe proportion of people who reportedna proposed change to be acceptablenmight be diff^erent from the proportionnwho would have said theyn”favored,” “supported,” “agreednwith,” or “would allow it.” The wordn”acceptable” seems to be a relativelynmild word in comparison to “favor” orn”support,” so many more people maynfind a given proposed change acceptablenthan would favor or support it.nTherefore, the use of these last termsnmay have led to the appearance ofninappropriately high levels of publicnendorsement.nPerhaps even more questionablenthan this word substitution is the methodnused to calculate the proportions ofnpeople who supposedly “favored,”n”supported,” “agreed with,” orn”would allow” each change. In all reportsnand summaries, this was done byncombining the proportions of respondentsnwho said they found each proposednchange “very acceptable” orn”somewhat acceptable.” It seemsnclearly inappropriate to describe somenlegal changes as receiving “very strongnsupport” when a large proportion ofnrespondents actually said those changesnwere only “somewhat acceptable.”nIn order to explore whether usingnthe words “favor” or “support” mightnhave produced lower levels of apparentnpublic endorsement of the proposednchanges in the civil justice system, mynstudents and I recently conducted anstudy in a regional telephone survey.nResidents of the suburbs of Columbus,nOhio, were contacted by telephone.nOne-third of these people, selectednrandomly, were asked the nine questionsnin the Harris survey that askedn”how acceptable” respondents foundneach proposed change to be. Anothernthird of our respondents, again selectednrandomly, were asked instead whethernthey would “strongly favor,” “somewhatnfavor,” “favor a little,” or “notnfavor at all” each proposed change.nAnd the final third of respondents werennnasked whether they would “stronglynsupport,” “somewhat support,”, “supportna little,” or “not support at all”neach proposed change.nThe results of this experiment werenin part consistent with our expectationsnand in part surprising. As expected,nmany more respondents said theynfound the proposed changes acceptablenthan said they supported them.nThus, “support” seems to be strongernthan “find acceptable” in many people’snminds. However, about the samenproportion of respondents said theynfavored each proposed change as saidnthey found it acceptable, so “favor”nand “find acceptable” are apparentlynequally strong and can reasonably bensubstituted for one another.nThis example of a misleading pollnsummary by Harris is not an isolatednincident. For example, Harris conductedna 1981 survey of American parentsnthat was sponsored by General Mills,nInc. The Harris report of the resultsnsaid at one point:nMany (over 7 in 10 familynmembers) believe that “evennwhen they don’t work, parentsntoday don’t give their childrennthe time and attention theynneed.”nHowever, the figure of “7 in 10” is notnactually the proportion of respondentsnwho said they believed the statement.nInstead, this is the proportion of peoplenwho “agreed strongly” or “agreednsomewhat” with the statement. ThenHarris summary of answers to thisnquestion again seems to overstate publicnagreement with the statement.nConsider another example. On Mayn19, 1989, Louis Harris published annarticle opposite the editorial page innThe New York Times describing thenresults of a survey his firm conductednfor the NAACP Legal Defense andnEducational Fund. At one point, Harrisnsaid:nMore than 9 in 10 Americansnwould support special schoolnprograms for underclass •nchildren beginning at age 8.nThese classes would bendesigned to motivate the kids tonstay in school and to convincenthem that they can extricatenthemselves from poverty. . . .nHowever, the survey question did notn