Political justice? Perceptions of politicization and public preferences toward the supreme court appointment process

Journal Article (Journal Article)

To what extent should Supreme Court justices be appointed on the basis of ideology and politics as opposed to qualifications and experience only? We examine how Americans' preferences regarding this question are influenced by their perceptions of the Court as politicized in how it goes about its work. From a "backlash" perspective, such perceptions should diminish preferences for a political appointment process, whereas a "political reinforcement" perspective suggests an enhancement effect. National survey data show that a large segment of the public perceives of the Court in political terms and prefers that justices be chosen on political and ideological bases. Empirical evidence refutes the backlash hypothesis and supports the political reinforcement hypothesis; the more individuals perceive the Court in politicized terms, the greater their preferences for a political appointment process. Those who view the Court as highly politicized do not differentiate the Court from the explicitly political branches and therefore prefer that justices be chosen on political and ideological grounds. The results have implications for the public's perceptions and expectations of the Court as a "political" institution. © The Author 2011.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bartels, BL; Johnston, CD

Published Date

  • March 1, 2012

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 76 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 105 - 116

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1537-5331

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0033-362X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1093/poq/nfr032

Citation Source

  • Scopus