Voters Support a Right to Counsel for People Facing Eviction

Bilal Baydoun & Sean McElwee

The loss of housing can have devastating social, psychological, and economic consequences on families, leading one scholar to refer to eviction as “the civil equivalent of the death penalty.” While most landlords nationwide have legal representation in eviction proceedings, only about 10% of tenants have a lawyer to help them fight their case. Despite the dire stakes, and only piecemeal protections in the midst of a deadly pandemic, renters have had to navigate a labyrinthine civil legal system where they are far more likely to lose their case without the guidance of counsel. The imbalance in legal representation between landlords and tenants is one of many factors fueling a pandemic eviction crisis that looms larger as a federal moratorium is set to expire in March. 

According to a new poll from Data for Progress and The Lab, a policy vertical of The Appeal, voters overwhelmingly want a fairer process in eviction cases. A strong majority of likely voters across party lines want Congress to increase funds for legal services to prevent evictions, and believe that people should have a right to counsel in evictions proceedings. Results include:

  • 64% of voters—including 78% of Democrats, 61% of independents, and 51% of Republicans—believe Congress should pass a measure to fund legal services to prevent evictions.
  • 68% of voters—including 75% of Democrats, 71% of independents, and 58% of Republicans—support a right to counsel in eviction proceedings, similar to the right that exists for criminal cases. 

Polling & Findings

Polling Methodology

From February 5 to February 7, 2021, Data for Progress conducted a survey of 1213 likely voters nationally using web panel respondents. The sample was weighted to be representative of likely voters by age, gender, education, race, and voting history. The survey was conducted in English. The margin of error is ±2.8 percentage points.

Voters Support a Right to Counsel for People Facing Eviction