Updating Supreme Court Legitimacy: Testing the 'Rule, Learn, Update' Model of Political Communication

48 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2016

See all articles by James L. Gibson

James L. Gibson

Washington University in St. Louis - Department of Political Science

Miguel Pereira

Washington University in Saint Louis, College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Political Science, Students

Jeffrey Ziegler

Emory University - Institute for Quantitative Theory and Methods

Date Written: March 8, 2016

Abstract

One of the more important innovations in the study of how citizens assess the U.S. Supreme Court is the ideological updating model, which assumes that citizens grant legitimacy to the institution according to the perceived distance between themselves and the Court on a unidimensional ideological (liberal-conservative) continuum. Moreover, citizens are thought to update this calculation with every new salient Supreme Court decision. The model’s requirements, however, do not seem to square with the long-established view that Americans are largely innocent of ideology. Here, we conduct an audit of the model’s assumptions using five empirical tests applied to a nationally representative sample. Our general conclusion is that the ideological updating model, especially when supplemented with the requirement that citizens must become aware of Court decisions, simply does not square with the realities of American politics. Students of Supreme Court legitimacy may therefore want to search for other theories of legitimacy updating.

Keywords: judicial legitimacy, public opinion, political communication, ideology, attitude

JEL Classification: K40

Suggested Citation

Gibson, James L. and Pereira, Miguel and Ziegler, Jeffrey, Updating Supreme Court Legitimacy: Testing the 'Rule, Learn, Update' Model of Political Communication (March 8, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2744608 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2744608

James L. Gibson (Contact Author)

Washington University in St. Louis - Department of Political Science ( email )

One Brookings Drive
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

Miguel Pereira

Washington University in Saint Louis, College of Arts & Sciences, Department of Political Science, Students ( email )

One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
United States

Jeffrey Ziegler

Emory University - Institute for Quantitative Theory and Methods ( email )

405A Modern Languages Building
532 Kilgo Circle
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

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