Bias against Wall Street runs deep, survey finds

LOS ANGELES — Unless you're a college graduate with a six-figure income, you're probably biased against Wall Street.

That's the gist of a new survey in which 57 percent of Americans said that, if they were jurors in a legal dispute, they would be likely to favor an individual investor against a financial firm.

Only 21 percent of respondents said they wouldn't be likely to favor either side, according to the survey by DRI, a defense-attorney trade group.

It probably shouldn't be surprising that many Americans would lean against Wall Street in the continuing aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis. Though most major stock indexes have recovered and achieved new highs, unemployment remains stubbornly high and memories of Wall Street's role in the crisis linger.

Not that Wall Street should be entirely worried by the poll. Financial firms require most investors to agree to submit any disputes to binding arbitration instead of suing in court.

That means relatively few investment-related disputes end up before a jury.

According to the study, views toward Wall Street varied based on age, geography and political affiliation. But almost all leaned against Wall Street in the aggregate.

For example, anti-Wall Street sentiment was clearly pronounced among Democrats, with 68 percent saying they'd tilt toward the individual in a dispute. But 51 percent of Republicans also said they would favor individuals.

Antagonism toward the financial industry was strong in the West, with 64 percent of people there disinclined to support Wall Street. But even in the East, where the financial industry is based, 51 percent shared that emotion.

Even in the group that collectively was not against Wall Street — those in households earning more than $100,000 — 46 percent would support the individual investor.

The survey findings are a cause for concern, John R. Kouris, DRI executive director, said in a statement.

"We have a bit of public education to do on the role of a juror in the administration of justice," Kouris said.

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