SAGE Journal Articles

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Journal Article 1: Lewis, D. C., Wood, F. S., and Jacobsmeier, M. L. (2014). Public Opinion and Judicial Behavior in Direct Democracy Systems: Gay Rights in the American States. State Politics and Police Quarterly, 14(4), 1–22.

Abstract: Although the U.S. judiciary is designed to be an independent and counter-majoritarian arbiter of the law, many states feature electoral institutions that may expose judges to public pressure. Scholars have demonstrated that judicial elections provide a clear link between public opinion and judicial decision making that may undermine the ability of courts to act in counter-majoritarian ways to protect minority rights. We extend this line of inquiry by examining whether direct democracy institutions have a similar effect of enhancing the impact of public opinion on judicial behavior and reducing the likelihood of judges voting in favor of minority rights. Empirical results from an analysis of gay rights cases in the American states from 1981 to 2004 provide evidence that direct democracy, in conjunction with electoral retention methods, significantly increases the effect of public opinion on judicial decisions.

Journal Article 2: Rothschild, D., & Malhotra, N. (2014). Are public opinion polls self-fulfilling prophecies? Research and Politics.

Abstract: Psychologists have long observed that people conform to majority opinion, a phenomenon sometimes referred to as the ‘bandwagon effect’. In the political domain people learn about prevailing public opinion via ubiquitous polls, which may produce a bandwagon effect. Newer types of information – published probabilities derived from prediction market contract prices and aggregated polling summaries – may have similar effects. Consequently, polls can become self-fulfilling prophecies whereby majorities, whether in support of candidates or policies, grow in a cascading manner. Despite increased attention to whether the measurement of public opinion can itself affect public opinion, the existing empirical literature is surprisingly limited on the bandwagon effects of polls. To address this gap, we conducted an experiment on a diverse national sample in which we randomly assigned people to receive information about different levels of support for three public policies. We find that public opinion as expressed through polls affects individual-level attitudes, although the size of the effect depends on issue characteristics.