Recent aggregate-level research on the United States Supreme Court suggests that shifting tides of public opinion can have important effects on Supreme Court decisions. Moreover, these effects can be both direct (i.e., unmediated by other institutions) and indirect (i.e., mediated through presidential elections and subsequent judicial appointments). This research extends this inquiry by examining the influence of public opinion on individual members of the Supreme Court during the period 1953-1992. Although the majority of justices during this period show little or no evidence of public opinion effects, a significant minority of justices show substantial effects. As predicted by social psychological theories, the impact of public opinion is greatest among moderate justices who are likely to hold critical swing positions on the Court. The effects of public opinion are in addition to significant agenda effects and suggest important refinements in the standard attitudinal model of judicial decision making.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Sociology and Political Science