TRENDS: The Supreme Court’s (Surprising?) Indifference to Public Opinion

Ben Johnson, Logan Strother

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Does the Supreme Court care what the public thinks? For decades, published articles have consistently reported a significant, positive relationship between public opinion and Supreme Court output. However, these studies posit mutually contradictory theories and report irreconcilable results. We advance this literature in two ways. First, we show that the empirical “fact” driving the search for a workable theory is actually illusory. Second, we defend a theory of judicial independence. To be clear, we do not attempt to prove the Court does not respond to the public’s opinions on policy. We argue that there is little reason the Court should respond and demonstrate that, contrary to twenty-five years of scholarship, there is no good empirical evidence suggesting it does.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-34
Number of pages17
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Volume74
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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