The Limits of Legitimacy: Morality as a Constraint on Deference to Authority
31 Pages Posted: 27 Oct 2009 Last revised: 4 Nov 2009
Date Written: June 15, 2009
Various versions of legitimacy theory predict that a duty and obligation to obey legitimate authorities generally trumps people’s personal moral values. However, most research has assumed rather than measured the degree to which people have a moral stake in the situations studied. This study tested compliance with and reactions to legitimate authorities in the context of a natural experiment that tracked public opinion before and after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in a case that challenged state’s rights to legalize physician-assisted suicide. Results indicated that citizens’ degree of moral conviction about the issue of physician-assisted suicide predicted post-ruling perceptions of outcome fairness, decision acceptance, and changes in perceptions the Court’s legitimacy from pre- to post-ruling. Other results revealed that the effects of religiosity independently predicted outcome fairness and decision acceptance, but not perceptions of post-ruling legitimacy.
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation