Losing Legitimacy: The Challenges of the Dobbs Ruling to Conventional Legitimacy Theory
72 Pages Posted: 23 Sep 2022 Last revised: 8 Jul 2023
Date Written: May 28, 2023
Extant research has established that displeasure with a Supreme Court ruling typically has negligible consequences for institutional support, largely because, as Legitimacy Theory’s Positivity Bias explains, judicial decisions are invariability delivered with the accoutrements of legitimizing symbols. The Court’s ruling in Dobbs, abrogating a federal constitutional right to abortion services, may provide a challenge to Legitimacy Theory because displeasure with the ruling seems to be so widespread and intense. My purpose in this research is to determine whether the ruling in fact lessened the Court’s legitimacy. Generally, I conclude that Dobbs produced a sizable dent in institutional support, perhaps an unprecedented dent, in part because abortion attitudes for many are infused with moral content and in part owing to the Court’s substantial tilt to the right since 2020. Indeed, the Court’s legitimacy may be at greater risk today than at any time since FDR’s 1930s attack on the institution.
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