Testing Williams-Yulee: A Survey Experiment on Judicial Elections, Institutional Trust, and Tenuous Empirical Claims in the Supreme Court

54 Pages Posted: 29 Jun 2017 Last revised: 11 Sep 2019

See all articles by Dane Thorley

Dane Thorley

Columbia University Political Science; Columbia Law School

Date Written: June 29, 2008

Abstract

In Williams-Yulee v. The Florida Bar (2015), the supreme court ruled that a Florida law banning direct campaign solicitation by judicial candidates was not a violation of the First Amendment. In doing so, the majority relied on a number of untested empirical claims, including the proposition that direct solicitation has a distinctly stronger impact on the public’s confidence in the judiciary than indirect solicitation. This paper tests these empirical claims using a nationally representative survey experiment that presents subjects with a hypothetical vignette in which a state trial-level judge runs for election and utilizes one of a number of campaign fundraising tactics. The survey then present subjects with questions relating to the trust and legitimacy that they associate with both the judicial system presented in the vignette and their actual state- and federal-level government institutions. I find that the public does not discern any significant difference between direct and indirect judicial solicitation but does see other campaign features (promises of recusal and the amount of the donations) as salient in regard to trust and legitimacy. These findings are at odds with the empirical assumptions that the majority relied upon in the Williams-Yulee decision.

Keywords: Survey experiment, constitutional law, courts, campaign finance, elections, trust, legitimacy

Suggested Citation

Thorley, Dane, Testing Williams-Yulee: A Survey Experiment on Judicial Elections, Institutional Trust, and Tenuous Empirical Claims in the Supreme Court (June 29, 2008). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2994267 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2994267

Dane Thorley (Contact Author)

Columbia University Political Science ( email )

7th Floor, IAB, 420 West 118th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
801-602-1444 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://danethorley.com

Columbia Law School

Do you have negative results from your research you’d like to share?

Paper statistics

Downloads
52
Abstract Views
512
Rank
680,048
PlumX Metrics