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The Supreme Court, the Media, and Public Opinion: Comparing Experimental and
Observational Methods

49 Pages Posted: 25 Jan 2017  

Katerina Linos

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law

Kimberly Twist

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science

Date Written: June 1, 2016

Abstract

Can Supreme Court rulings change Americans’ policy views? Prior experimental and observational studies come to conflicting conclusions because of methodological limitations. We argue that existing studies overlook the media’s critical role in communicating Court decisions and theorize that major decisions change Americans’ opinions most when the media offer one-sided coverage supportive of the Court majority. We fielded nationally representative surveys shortly before and after two major Supreme Court decisions on health care and immigration and connected our public opinion data with six major television networks’ coverage of each decision. We find that Court decisions can influence national opinion and increase support for policies the Court upholds as constitutional. These effects were largest among people who received one-sided information. To address selection concerns, we combined this observational study with an experiment and find that people who first heard about the Court decisions through the media and through the experiment responded in similar ways.

Keywords: Court, media, poll, biased, Fox, Obamacare

Suggested Citation

Linos, Katerina and Twist, Kimberly, The Supreme Court, the Media, and Public Opinion: Comparing Experimental and Observational Methods (June 1, 2016). Journal of Legal Studies, Vol. 45, No. 2, 2016. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2900526

Katerina Linos (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley - School of Law ( email )

488 Boalt Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720-7200
United States

Kimberly Twist

University of California, Berkeley - Charles and Louise Travers Department of Political Science ( email )

210 Barrows Hall
Berkeley, CA 94720
United States

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