Voters Favor Tort Reform — But are Uncertain on the Details

As part of the mission statement for the North Carolina Republican Attorneys Association, it is our goal to provide insight and information into issues affecting our judicial system. In our first statewide survey, we decided to look various parts of the current tort reform legislation being discussed inside the North Carolina Legislature. For full results and crosstabs go to www.ncgopattorneys.com.

After the filter question designed to remove anyone who said they do not plan to vote in the 2012 Presidential elections, we asked voters if they believe North Carolina is heading in the right direction or the wrong direction. Overall, 29 percent said right direction and 48 percent said wrong direction and 23 percent said they were not sure.

Registered Democrats were 38.5 percent right direction and 36.6% percent wrong direction and 24.9 percent saying they were not sure. Registered Republicans were 18.8 percent right direction and 60.9 percent wrong and 20.3 percent said they were not sure. Unaffiliated voters were 24.1 percent right direction, 53.2 percent wrong direction and 22.7 percent said they were not sure.

It is clear that voters do not feel that North Carolina is on the right track for the future and voter uncertainty is still reflected in their overall mood.

Given the historic gains made by Republicans at the state level in 2010, the survey tested on the image of both major political parties.

Overall, the Republican Party was viewed favorably by 47.7 percent of voters compared to 35 percent who were favorable to the Democratic Party. 39.6 percent of voters were unfavorable to Republicans and 49.6 percent were unfavorable to the Democratic Party. The survey shows that Republicans are feeling good about their Party, with registered Republicans having an 84.4 percent favorable to only 8.7 percent unfavorable, compared to one out of four Democratic voters who had an unfavorable opinion of their own party. Registered Democrats were 63.2 favorable to their Party while 24.2 percent said they were unfavorable.

Unaffiliated voters view the Republican Party more favorable than the Democratic Party. 45.8 percent were favorable to the Republican Party compared to only 19.2 percent who were favorable to the Democratic Party. 38.6% were unfavorable to the Republican Party and 55.2% were unfavorable to the Democratic Party.

On the issue of tort reform, we asked voters do you think we need tort reform in North Carolina or do you believe our current system is adequate? Overall, 54.6 percent of voters said we need reform compared to 19.7 percent who said keep the current system. 25.7 percent of voters said they were not sure, a clear indicator that these voters wanted more information on the issue before forming an opinion.

Republicans and Unaffiliated voters are closer on the issue of reform with 62.4 percent of Republicans saying reform is needed along with 59.6 percent of Unaffiliated voters. 46.8 percent of Democrats said reform was needed.
42.5 percent of voters who preferred a generic democratic candidate for the state legislature said reform was needed compared to 66.2 percent of voter who preferred a generic Republican candidate for the state legislature. Undecided voters on the generic ballot were 53.8 percent in favor of reform to only 18.8 percent who said no reform was needed.

Following this question, we asked if voters felt that some of the current reform issues being discussed were about right or if they went too far.

On the issue of immunity from lawsuits in most cases for emergency room doctors, 59.3% of voters said this goes too far while 25.3 percent said it was about right. 19.9 percent of Democrats said was about right compared to 30.1 percent of Republicans and 29.6 percent of Unaffiliated voters.

Democrats were more united on the issue going too far, with 17 percent of voters who preferred a generic Democratic candidates saying it was about right and 69.4 percent saying it goes too far. Among voters who prefer a generic Republicans, 35.4 percent said about right and 48.5 percent said it goes too far. Voters who are undecided on the generic ballot were more aligned with generic voting Democrats on the issue with 18.8 percent saying it was about right compared to 63.1 percent who said it goes too far.

Gender is also a factor on this issue with only 19.6 of female voters saying this was about right and 62.5 percent saying it goes too far. Male voters were 31.6 percent about right to 55.7 percent saying it goes too far.

On the issue of reducing the window for filing a lawsuit for injuries related to birth from 21 years to 10 years, a majority of voters felt this reform was about right. 56.2 percent of all voters said about right with 30.8 percent saying it goes too far. Republicans and Unaffiliated voters were more aligned on this issue with 61.2 percent of Republicans and 64 percent of Unaffiliated voters saying it was about right. 49.1 percent of Democrats said it was about right and 38.5 percent said it goes too far.

The final tort reform question focused on whether or not a defendant should be entitled to receive credit for an injured person’s insurance thereby reducing the amount the defendant would pay. 28.9 percent of all voters said this would be about right while 40.5 percent said it goes too far. 30.6 percent of voters said they were not sure, clearly an indication that voters needed more information in order to form an opinion on this issue.

Republicans and Unaffiliated voters were almost evenly divided on the issue with 30.1 percent of Republicans saying it was about right to 35.8 percent saying it goes too far and 34 percent saying they were not sure. Unaffiliated voters were 31.5 percent about right, 37.4 percent too far and 31 percent not sure. Democrats were 28.9 percent about right, 45.2 percent too far and 27.9 percent not sure.

About the Survey
This survey of 1,000 North Carolina voters with a margin of error of +/- 3.16%. The survey was conducted on March 30 – 31st by Strategic Partners Solutions through an automated phone system. Phone surveys are a snapshot of voters’ opinions and are subject to other factors that may influence the margin of error not present in personal interviews surveys.

The surveys are conducted by an automated phone system using a random sample generated by a file of North Carolina voters. It is important to remember that public opinion is fluid and is subject to change over time. Polls are not predictors of the future. They are a reflection of opinion based upon the current set of information available in the public arena at a given point in time.