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What is the Public Understanding of Law Survey (PULS)?

The PULS is a Victoria-wide survey exploring how people experience, understand and navigate law and everyday life problems .

What is the Public Understanding of Law Survey (PULS)?

The PULS is a Victoria-wide survey exploring how people experience, understand and navigate law and everyday life problems  

The PULS is the VLF’s flagship research project. It’s not just a survey about lawyers, courts and judges – it’s a large-scale state-wide survey of how people understand, experience and engage with law in Victoria and experience of everyday legal problems in the Victorian community. The survey will explore -   

We will speak to 6,000 people across Victoria in their own homes. The high number of respondents means we can look at the data in many different ways.  

To make the results as strong and reliable as possible, we’re talking to Victorians face-to-face for around 40 minutes, using probability sampling. (see - Why do a face-to-face survey? and What is a probability sample and why is it important?)   

How is the PULS questionnaire structured?
Flow chart

Introduction to the survey – explains what the survey is about, why respondents’ views are important, confidentiality, and that participation is entirely voluntary.  

Initial demographics – some detailed information about respondents, like personal characteristics, family, housing, employment and education.  

Hypothetical-based understanding of rights and legal capability – talking through a series of scenarios about everyday legal matters like rental housing, neighbours, consumer, family and employment issues. Through the scenarios we find out what Victorians think the law is, places they might turn for help and how confident they would feel dealing with these kinds of problems.  

Legal need survey – explores whether people have had legal problems and what they did about them. This covers things like problems with goods and services, housing and neighbours, family, injury or illness, employment, government payments, fines, government services and money or debt. 

Scale-based legal capability – explores a number of aspects of capability, including problem solving and digital skills, recognition of the relevance of law, and attitudes to the law, courts and lawyers.  

Sensitive demographics – some further questions about characteristics and circumstances, including about illness or disability, income bands, financial stress and resilience.  

Concluding remarks/recontact – thanks! Where to go for further information about the project or the issues it raised and asks respondents if they would be happy to be re-contacted for further related research.  

Why is the PULS important?

The PULS is important because it will support policy that reflects the experience and need of Victorians 

Projects like the PULS are crucial if we want to make policy and offer services that make a real difference to people. The PULS will give us clear insights on how the public see the world, rather than how legal professions or institutions think they do. This approach is often referred to as ‘bottom up’, and is increasingly common around the world.  

Through the PULS, we will have a much clearer understanding of what people know about their law, what kinds of problems they encounter and how they have navigated the system.  

The survey will reveal strengths and weaknesses in public legal capability, and offer insights into which people have everyday legal problems and what other factors might contribute – like income, gender, location, family circumstances.  We’re also looking at the impact of  COVID-19 and the 2019/20 bushfires.  

It will play an important role in -  

  • determining the kinds of legal information and services that are needed and likely to be most effective for the community;  
  • identifying areas for improvement and innovation in service delivery; and 
  • developing a baseline for evaluating programs and tools for monitoring change. 

Fundamentally the PULS provides essential evidence to support better justice for all Victorians.  

How is the PULS funded?

The PULS is made possible by the Victoria Legal Service Board’s (VLSB) Public Purpose Fund and Victoria Legal Aid (VLA). 

The VLF is funded by the VLSB Public Purpose Fund. The PULS is funded through those funds and a generous contribution from VLA.