Do Judicial Sentiments Affect Social Attitudes?
29 Pages Posted: 9 Jul 2019 Last revised: 12 Aug 2019
Date Written: July 5, 2019
This paper provides an empirical analysis of how the sentiments expressed in judicial rulings affect social attitudes. We apply natural language processing tools to the text of U.S. appellate court opinions to extrapolate judges’ sentiments toward a number of specific target groups. Exogenous variation in those sentiments comes from an instrumental variables approach, which exploits the random assignment of judges to cases (and the fact that judge characteristics provide good cross-validated predictors of expressed sentiments). Our estimates are consistent with a backlash effect from judge sentiments to social attitudes. This effect does not persist over time and is heterogeneous depending on the target group considered.
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