Shattering the Myth of Legality: The Impact of the Media's Framing of Supreme Court Procedures on Perceptions of Fairness



The tendency of the media to depict the Supreme Court as inherently apolitical, some scholars argue, is part of the reason that many believe in the “myth of legality” in which the Court is perceived to operate above the ideological skirmishes of everyday politics. Our experimental analyses show that citizens react more negatively to press reports of a politically motivated Court than they do to coverage portraying a Court that strictly follows legal guidelines. Interestingly, our results also suggest that it is not so much the perceived absence of political wrangling among justices but rather it is the presence of legal guidelines driving the outcome that is the source of the perception of fairness.