On the Ideological Foundations of Supreme Court Legitimacy in the American Public

Published

Journal Article

Conventional wisdom says that individuals' ideological preferences do not influence Supreme Court legitimacy orientations. Most work is based on the assumption that the contemporary Court is objectively conservative in its policymaking, meaning that ideological disagreement should come from liberals and agreement from conservatives. Our nuanced look at the Court's policymaking suggests rational bases for perceiving the Court's contemporary policymaking as conservative, moderate, and even liberal. We argue that subjective ideological disagreement-incongruence between one's ideological preferences and one's perception of the Court's ideological tenor-must be accounted for when explaining legitimacy. Analysis of a national survey shows that subjective ideological disagreement exhibits a potent, deleterious impact on legitimacy. Ideology exhibits sensible connections to legitimacy depending on how people perceive the Court's ideological tenor. Results from a survey experiment support our posited mechanism. Our work has implications for the public's view of the Court as a "political" institution. © 2012, Midwest Political Science Association.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bartels, BL; Johnston, CD

Published Date

  • January 1, 2013

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 57 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 184 - 199

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1540-5907

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0092-5853

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/j.1540-5907.2012.00616.x

Citation Source

  • Scopus