One need only look at the political debates raging all across the country to understand how those seeking to gain political advantage cite studies to support their claims. Of course, proper research is indeed an important way for all of us to understand various issues. But the problem is that there are many biased outfits which release “studies” solely to create the appearance of support for their favored position. This makes it incredibly difficult for community members to parse through the nonsense and get honest information.
Unfortunately, few credible organizations exist to properly weigh the merit of each study or research effort that comes out. For example, over the last few weeks many publications have spread information on a new “Institute for Legal Reform” study on the need for tort reform. The ILR, you may not be surprised to learn, is the advocacy group run by the U.. Chamber of Congress. The latest report is claimed to be a fair analysis of “state lawsuit climates” for business.
Many media outlets went on to tout the study as important and proof of the need to make legal changes. However, experts have repeatedly noted that the study “lacks elementary social scientific objectivity [that is]…substantively inaccurate and methodologically flawed.”
Local community member might have heard about this latest effort, because Illinois was mentioned as one of the “worst” state for “legal fairness.” Of course lawyers working on med mal cases, patient advocates, and others know that this “legal fairness” only refer to immunities for businesses whose negligence harms others. The “fairness” in this effort represents vast unfairness for actual community members
But it doesn’t take much investigations to realize how the report is a bit skewed. Perhaps most glaringly the actual data from the study itself is based on surveys from those connected to corporations with annual revenues over $100 million. In other words, those at the largest companies were asked about whether they liked to be held responsible for their negligence by the legal system, and they said that they prefered states where they had more legal immunities. This is obviously far from shocking and not very helpful.
Flawed & Skewed
Unfortunately, many readers across the country–including those in Chicago–may have read stories about this study without any context to understand where the data might have come from. But, this study, which is released annually, has long been attacked as an intellectually dishonest effort that does nothing more than unfairly cloud the debate with misinformation.
One scathing critique of the survey, for example, previously appeared in the Huffington Post. For example, less than 10% of the data in the survey is not quantifiably verifiable. That means that some of the survey respondents misstated the law, skewed the reality, and otherwise made false statements which cannot be checked.
The story goes on to note the obvious that talking only with one side of the debate and making a “report’ out of it is less than helpful. Making things even worse, survey respondents are provided monetary incentives to participate. In addition, they are told of last years results before completing the survey, priming them for what they are likely supposed to respond. All of this violates basic fairness principles and runs completely counter to basic academic tenants.
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