SAGE Journal Articles
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Abstract: We assess the importance of the public’s policy agreement with the Supreme Court on public approval of the court. Using survey data on a range of recent court cases, we measure respondents’ perceived ideological closeness to the court. Then, we test various theories of court approval (doctrinal, functional, attitudinal). People who believe the court has decided recent cases as they themselves would have done, or that judges share their partisanship, report higher court approval than those who perceive the court as ideologically distant from them. We compare these findings with similar effects of policy agreement on Congressional and Presidential approval.
Journal Article 9.2: Stoutenborough, J. W., Haider-Markel, D. P., & Allen, M. D. (2006). Reassessing the impact of Supreme Court decisions on public opinion: Gay civil rights cases. Political Research Quarterly, 59(3), 419–433.
Abstract: The theoretical and empirical debate over the ability of the U.S. Supreme Court to influence public opinion through its decisions is far from settled. Scholars have examined the question using a variety of theoretical perspectives and empirical evidence, but there is no theoretical consensus, nor are the empirical studies without methodological weaknesses. We enter this debate in an attempt to bring some clarity to the theoretical approaches, overcome some of the methodological shortcomings, and bring a yet unstudied issue area, Court decisions on gay civil rights, under scrutiny. We argue that the ability of Court decisions to influence public opinion is a function of the salience of the issue, the political context, and case specific factors at the aggregate level. At the individual level these factors are also relevant, but citizen characteristics must also be taken into consideration. Our analysis of aggregate level and individual level opinion does indeed suggest that Court decisions can influence public opinion. However, the ability of Court decisions to influence public opinion is conditional. Our findings lend support to the legitimation hypothesis and the structural effects model. We conclude with a discussion of the implications of our findings and suggestions for future research.
Abstract: The U.S. Supreme Court is traditionally thought to hold little influence over social or political change; however, recent evidence suggests the Court may wield significant power, especially with regard to criminal justice. Most studies evaluate judicial power by examining the effects of individual rulings on the implementation of specific policies, but this approach may overlook the broader impact of courts on society. Instead, I adopt an aggregate approach to test U.S. Supreme Court power. I find that aggregate conservative decision making by the Court is positively associated with long-term shifts in new admissions to U.S. federal prisons. These results suggest the Court possesses significant power to influence important social outcomes, at least in the context of the criminal justice system.
Abstract: Because the Supreme Court can decide only so many cases per term, justices carefully target which cases they hear and which parties they supervise. We focus on their decisions to hear cases involving states as parties. We believe justices use the agenda power to target states with whom they disagree ideologically. Granting review allows justices to keep an eye on wayward states and to remind them of the ever-present threat of Supreme Court review. The results support our theory. Justices are significantly more likely to grant review to cases involving ideologically unfriendly states—and these results are exacerbated in salient cases. These findings suggest justices are more aggressive agenda setters than commonly believed. In addition, the findings suggest that even the so-called federalism revolution of the Rehnquist Court was driven by policy goals.