Is the U.S. Supreme Court's Legitimacy Grounded in Performance Satisfaction and Ideology?
James L. Gibson
Washington University in Saint Louis - Department of Political Science
Pennsylvania State University - Department of Political Science
APSA 2013 Annual Meeting Paper
American Political Science Association 2013 Annual Meeting
Bartels and Johnston have recently presented evidence suggesting that the legitimacy of the Supreme Court is grounded in the ideological preferences and perceptions of the American people. In addition, they offer experimental data purporting to show that dissatisfaction with a single Court decision substantially diminishes the institution’s legitimacy. These findings strongly break with earlier research on the Court’s institutional support, as the authors recognize. The theoretical implications of their findings are profound. If the authors are correct that legitimacy is strongly dependent upon satisfying the policy preferences and ideological predilections of the American people, the essence of legitimacy is fundamentally altered. Consequently, we re-investigate the relationships among ideology, performance satisfaction, and Court legitimacy, unearthing empirical findings that diverge markedly from theirs. We conclude with some thoughts about how the Court’s “countermajoritarian dilemma” can be reconceptualized and recalculated, once more drawing conclusions sharply at odds with those of Bartels and Johnston.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 50
Keywords: U.S. Supreme Court legitimacy, countermajoritarianism, public opinion, diffuse support
JEL Classification: 026
Date posted: August 12, 2013