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TribBlog: Dirty Words

It's still poisonous in Texas politics to be painted with the trial lawyer brush.

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It's still poisonous in Texas politics to be painted with the trial lawyer brush, according to a poll done for Texans Against Lawsuit Abuse, a tort reform group.

By a margin of 62 percent to 23 percent, Texans think the state's medical malpractice limits have been a good thing. Asked generally about tort reform laws in the state, 56 percent called it a good thing, and 28 percent declared it a bad thing. Only 29 percent say those laws have gone too far, hindering access to the courts for injured people.

Lawsuits have a negative impact on the economy, according to 67 percent of those polled (37 percent called it a "very negative impact"). And almost half — 47 percent — say people file lawsuits to "win big money," while 30 percent said suits are filed to "seek compensation for having been injured or wronged," and 11 percent said the reason most people file is to "punish the party believed to be at fault." Not surprisingly, the people who were most supportive of the reforms were also more likely to think most lawsuits are filed by people seeking large awards. Republicans were more likely to be supportive, too, but that appears to be a matter of intensity. Republicans favor the reforms 69 percent to 14 percent, Democrats by a margin of 46 to 40 percent and independents by a margin of 51 to 40 percent. The pollsters didn't find a gender gap on that question; they did find that support for the tort laws grew stronger with the age of the respondents — older people more strongly favor the changes than younger people.

Lawyers would be the biggest beneficiaries of changes that would make it easier to file suits, according to the respondents; less than a third said the beneficiaries would be injured parties. Most — 78 percent — said the Legislature should "protect reforms designed to reduce abusive lawsuits."

Here's the bit that could play into the things you see and read and hear going into the elections: 72 percent said they'd be less likely to vote for a candidate who accepted campaign contributions from personal injury trial lawyers, while 9 percent said they'd be more likely, 14 percent said it didn't make a difference, and 5 percent didn't answer the question for one reason or another. That antipathy crosses all groups, too.

The respondents were evenly split between the parties, with 37 percent saying they tended to vote Republican and 36 percent saying Democrat; 23 percent said they vote without regard to party. The survey was done for the CALA groups by Austin-based Baselice & Associates on Aug. 8-10. They polled 501 registered voters and the margin of error is +/- 4.4 percent.

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