Salt Lake City, Utah—The public’s trust and confidence in the Utah State Courts remains high, according to results from a survey commissioned by the Utah Judicial Council this past summer. Survey results show that 81 percent of respondents rank Utah’s court system as good to excellent, compared to 78 percent in a 2006 survey.
The Judicial Council commissioned the survey to determine the public’s level of trust and confidence in Utah’s court system and to compare the results to the 2006 survey. The survey measured the public’s knowledge, experience, and expectations of the courts.
When comparing the 2012 survey results to 2006, the most notable changes were in how the public learns about the courts. For example, while TV news programs were listed as a frequent source of information, reliance on the Internet increased dramatically over the past six years from 22 percent to 51 percent. The survey found that 60 percent of citizens—under the age of 45—rely on the Internet for court information, often or sometimes.
Survey results also showed that individuals who were involved with the courts through jury duty were more confident in the system. Fifty percent of jurors reported that they had more confidence in the courts as a result of participating in jury service.
The Judicial Council also learned that economic barriers—including the cost of hiring an attorney, time away from work and court fees—did or would prevent some individuals from going to court.
“The Judicial Council will use the data to look at how the courts can improve services to the public,” said Utah State Court Administrator Dan Becker. “We will concentrate our efforts to improve communication to minority communities and work to minimize the barriers that are keeping the public from accessing their courts.”
KEY SURVEY FINDINGS
Purpose: The Public Trust and Confidence Survey was conducted to determine the level of public trust and confidence the public has in the Utah State Courts. Survey findings showed that nearly 81 percent of the public has a high level of confidence in the Utah State Courts.
Barriers to Access: Those who considered taking a case to court but decided not to, reported attorney cost as the primary reason followed by finding an alternate solution and time away from home/work.
Confidence in the Courts: Court case outcomes had an impact on respondents’ opinion of the court. Individuals whose case resulted in a favorable result where more positive about the courts, while those reporting unfavorable results were less positive.
Experience with the Courts: Nearly half of households had direct experience with the courts. Most reported involvement through jury duty or as a defendant in an adult criminal matter. Respondents who had involvement with the court tended to be more confident in the court system, namely those called to jury duty.
Expectations: Ninety-two percent indicated protecting Constitutional rights as an important function of the court followed by ensuring public safety and reporting on court performance. Respondents gave high marks to the court for ensuring public safety and protecting Constitutional rights, but ranked the court low on regularly reporting on performance.
Sources of Information: Those seeking information about the courts went primarily to the Internet and the Utah State Court’s website. Individuals learned about the Utah State Courts through television news programs, while a significant number of people reported getting information about the courts from television shows and movies. Those who were less familiar with the courts reported getting information from TV dramas, while those who were more familiar with the courts got their information from the Internet.
Methods: Maryland-based OpinionWorks conducted the Public Trust and Confidence Survey statewide via telephone. OpinionWorks surveyed 800 Utah households July 19 through August 6, 2012, and asked 34 questions about the public’s perception, familiarity, experience, confidence, expectations, and performance of the state courts. The demographic make-up of survey respondents is as follows: 48 percent were male and 52 percent were female; most were married and long-time residents of Utah; more than half of respondents were between the age of 18 and 44, were employed full time, with an income ranging between $15,000 to $100,000; most had some college education; and the majority surveyed were Caucasian.
The survey results are available on the Utah State Court’s website http://www.utcourts.gov, under the Utah Courts Performance Measures heading.