Who Can Impact the US Supreme Court’s Legitimacy?

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Abstract

Individuals make judgments about the US Supreme Court via an uncommon preexisting positivity toward the institution. But they are also influenced by elite cues. Under scrutiny here is whether figures who are not as notorious as, say, presidents can influence attitudes toward the Supreme Court. I argue that lesser-salience figures can influence public support for the judiciary, but that some limit of influence surely exists. Using two original survey experiments, I demonstrate both of these propositions to be true. Altogether, of the 12 political figures purported to criticize the Court, 8 are able to compel respondents to change how legitimate they believe the judiciary is in a manner consistent with feelings toward the figure. Figures whom many individuals cannot associate with a particular partisan group do not wield this influence. The support on which the Court relies may be more malleable than previously believed, but is not entirely unresisting.

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Armaly, M. T. (2020). Who Can Impact the US Supreme Court’s Legitimacy? Justice System Journal, 41(1), 22–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/0098261X.2019.1687371

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