Negative Media Coverage of the Supreme Court: The Interactive Role of Opinion Language, Coalition Size, and Ideological Signals

35 Pages Posted: 2 Aug 2016  

Alex Denison

University of Kentucky - Department of Political Science

Justin Wedeking

University of Kentucky - Department of Political Science

Michael Zilis

University of Kentucky - Department of Political Science

Date Written: July 30, 2016

Abstract

When does the media use negative language to cover the Supreme Court, and what are the political consequences of this portrayal? We offer a novel consideration of how judicial behavior influences coverage of the Court. Examining over 1,000 news articles from 29 diverse outlets covering rulings from the 2014 term, and using text-based measures of both the Court and media’s negative rhetoric, we find that the Court sends an important signal of conflict through use of negative language in its decisions, leading to an increase in negativity in subsequent news coverage. We also show that this effect is conditional upon both the degree of consensus among the justices and ideological signals the Court sends when it rules. Because our findings may have important implications regarding public opinion about the Court, we propose an experiment to test how the media’s use of negative rhetoric shapes policy approval, specific support, and legitimacy.

Keywords: Supreme Court, negativity, rhetoric, media coverage

Suggested Citation

Denison, Alex and Wedeking, Justin and Zilis, Michael, Negative Media Coverage of the Supreme Court: The Interactive Role of Opinion Language, Coalition Size, and Ideological Signals (July 30, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2816431

Alex Denison

University of Kentucky - Department of Political Science ( email )

1615 Patterson Office Tower
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506-0027
United States

Justin Wedeking

University of Kentucky - Department of Political Science ( email )

1615 Patterson Office Tower
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY 40506-0027
United States

Michael Zilis (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky - Department of Political Science ( email )

Lexington, KY 40506
United States

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