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Can the Supreme Court Convince the American People? — A Survey Experiment on Public Response to the Court’s Opinion Reasoning

Tang, Yiwei

The nine justices of the Supreme Court are traditionally expected to vote out a binding ruling because its compelling legal reasoning convinces a majority of the justices to support it, but can such reasoning convince regular Americans? Existing literature on the Court as a legitimizer of policies focuses on the causality between the Court’s mere endorsement of a policy and greater public support for that policy. I investigate whether the Court’s reasoning, either on its own or along with the Court’s endorsement, could impact public opinion. Using an online survey experiment on a nationally representative sample of 1399 respondents, I find that the Court’s reasoning, regardless of whether the Court’s endorsement is presented, increases public support for its position overall. Specifically, this is because Democrats respond to the Court’s reasoning from conservative decisions and increase their support for those positions accordingly, but Republicans don’t respond to such conservative reasoning. Neither Democrats nor Republicans respond to liberal reasoning.

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More About This Work

Academic Units
Political Science
Thesis Advisors
Green, Donald P.
Degree
B.A., Columbia University
Published Here
April 19, 2021