Profiling Originalism

63 Pages Posted: 14 May 2011

See all articles by Jamal Greene

Jamal Greene

Columbia University - Law School

Stephen Ansolabehere

Harvard University - Department of Government

Nathaniel Persily

Stanford Law School

Date Written: February 3, 2011


Originalism is a subject of both legal and political discourse, invoked not just in law review scholarship but also in popular media and public discussion. This Essay presents the first empirical study of public attitudes about originalism. The study analyzes original and existing survey data in order to better understand the demographic characteristics, legal views, political orientation, and cultural profile of those who self-identify as originalists. We conclude that rule of law concerns, support for politically conservative issue positions, and a cultural orientation toward moral traditionalism and libertarianism are all significant predictors of an individual preference for originalism. Our analysis suggests that originalism has currency not only as a legal proposition about constitutional interpretation, but also as a political commodity and as a culturally expressive idiom.

Keywords: originalism, popular constitutionalism, abortion, Roe, living constitutionalism, public opinion, original intent, original meaning

Suggested Citation

Greene, Jamal and Ansolabehere, Stephen and Persily, Nathaniel, Profiling Originalism (February 3, 2011). Columbia Law Review, Vol. 111, No. 2, p. 356, 2011, Columbia Public Law Research Paper No. 10-232, Available at SSRN:

Jamal Greene (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

Stephen Ansolabehere

Harvard University - Department of Government ( email )

1737 Cambridge Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

Nathaniel Persily

Stanford Law School ( email )

559 Nathan Abbott Way
Stanford, CA 94305
United States
9175703223 (Phone)

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