Do Policy Messengers Matter? Majority Opinion Writers as Policy Cues in Public 'Buy In' of Supreme Court Decisions
35 Pages Posted: 22 Dec 2013 Last revised: 23 Dec 2013
Date Written: December 21, 2013
To what degree does the identity of the majority opinion writer affect a citizen’s level of agreement with a U.S. Supreme Court decision? Using a survey experiment, we manipulate the majority opinion authors of two Supreme Court cases between two randomly populated groups. By investigating ideological incongruence between a case’s policy output and the majority opinion author we are able to empirically test the extent to which individuals are willing to agree with a Court opinion that is authored by an ideologically similar justice even though the decision cuts against their self-identified ideological policy preferences. Our study provides insight on the extent to which policy “buy in” by citizens is affected by policy cues represented by the policy messenger of a political institution. We find that, although individuals generally give deference to the Supreme Court’s decisions, a messenger effect indeed augments the specific level of support a given case receives.
Keywords: Supreme Court, judicial politics, public opinion, specific support
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