Lawyers' Perceptions of the U.S. Supreme Court: Is the Court a "Political" Institution?

Journal Article (Journal Article)

Do legal elites-lawyers admitted to federal appellate bars-perceive the Supreme Court as a "political" institution? Legal elites differentiate themselves from the mass public in the amount and sources of information about the Court. They also hold near-universal perceptions of Court legitimacy, a result we use to derive competing theoretical expectations regarding the impact of ideological disagreement on various Court perceptions. Survey data show that many legal elites perceive the Court as political in its decision making, while a minority perceive the Court as activist and influenced by external political forces. Ideological disagreement with the Court's outputs significantly elevates political perceptions of decision making, while it exhibits a null and moderate impact on perceptions of activism and external political influence, respectively. To justify negative affect derived from ideological disagreement, elites highlight the political aspects of the Court's decision making rather than engage in "global delegitimization" of the institution itself.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bartels, BL; Johnston, CD; Mark, A

Published Date

  • September 1, 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 49 / 3

Start / End Page

  • 761 - 794

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1540-5893

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0023-9216

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/lasr.12154

Citation Source

  • Scopus