This study aims to explain why the Supreme Court responds to public mood by analyzing individual justice liberalism and comparing it to public liberalism between the years of 1953 and 2005. Three theories suggesting why the Court may respond to public opinion are discussed, including the replacement, political adjustment, and the attitude change hypotheses. The argument of using Court reversals to determine the ideology of the Court is presented and implemented. Public reaction to Court decisions is analyzed along with the Court’s institutional legitimacy as means to determine the Court’s strategic behavior. Ideology, public mood, the parties controlling the House, Senate, and Presidency, and the overall Court mood are used as independent variables to explain the driving force behind changes in individual justices’ voting behavior. The study concludes that Court mood is the strongest and most significant factor in changes in judicial voting behavior, while public opinion, ideology, and the parties controlling the other institutions of government explain little to none of the variance. In addition to justice replacement, the aggregate attitude change of justices is determined to be the most likely explanation for the Court’s adherence to public opinion.
American Politics | Political Science
Browning, Michael, "Supreme Court Responsiveness: An Analysis of Individual Justice Voting Behavior and the Role of Public Opinion" (2011). Honors Projects. Paper 44.
Appendix A: Individual Justice Results - Real-time
Appendix B Individual Justice Results - T+1.docx (47 kB)
Appendix B: Individual Justice Results - T+1
Appendix C Individual Justice Results - T+2.docx (52 kB)
Appendix C: Individual Justice Results - T+2