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Keywords:

  • procedural justice;
  • Supreme Court;
  • public opinion;
  • political support

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Media Framing, Procedural Perceptions, and Support
  4. Research Design
  5. Results
  6. Path Analysis
  7. Substantive Interpretations
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  11. REFERENCES

This paper examines public support toward the U.S. Supreme Court. Although previous scholars have rightly focused on policy outcomes in explaining public attitudes toward the Court, outcome-based theories are unable to explain why support for the Court remains high despite public disagreement with Court decisions. Some scholars argue the low visibility of the Court shields it from public scrutiny. The exposure explanation, however, is inconsistent with the empirical finding that to know the Court is to love it. This paper reconciles these differences by showing how media coverage of the Court can influence procedural perceptions and subsequent support for the Court. Expanding on recent studies examining media coverage of the Court and perceptions of fairness, this study examines how procedural perceptions mediate support for the Court. An experimental design shows that the media's portrayal of procedural information as either fair or unfair influences public evaluations of procedural fairness and subsequently support for the Court as an institution and the individual justices serving on the Court's bench.

Democratic government relies on the support of the public. Although all political institutions need some public support, public approval of the judiciary, particularly the U.S. Supreme Court, is especially important. As frequently noted, the Supreme Court does not possess the budgetary power of Congress or the enforcement power of the President. Instead, low levels of support may reduce compliance with court decisions (Murphy & Tanenhaus, 1968; Tyler & Rasinski, 1991). Despite the importance of maintaining high levels of public esteem, the U.S. Supreme Court is not immune from controversy. The Court makes controversial rulings on important public policy issues ranging from abortion to affirmative action to school prayer. The nominations of its members are also highly visible and politicized and controversial events surrounding the Court. Nevertheless, the Supreme Court is able to maintain the support of the American public in the face of controversy (e.g., Caldeira & Gibson, 1992; Hibbing & Theiss-Morse, 1995; Mondak & Smithey, 1997).

An extensive literature examines public support for the Supreme Court. Scholars have offered numerous theories explaining public esteem for the Court, including a commitment to basic democratic values (Caldeira & Gibson, 1992) and a mystique of legality surrounding the Court that predisposes citizens to view controversies surrounding the Court in a matter that does not threaten the legitimacy of the institution (Casey, 1974; Gibson, Caldeira, & Spence, 2003; Scheb & Lyons, 2000).

Other scholarship shows the immediate actions of the Court can weaken its contemporaneous levels of public support (e.g., Caldeira, 1986; Franklin & Kosaki, 1989; Hoekstra, 2003). Grosskopf and Mondak (1998) found individuals disagreeing with two highly visible Supreme Court decisions (Webster v. Reproductive Health Services and Texas v. Johnson) were less likely to have confidence in the Court relative to individuals agreeing with both of the decisions. Agreement with the decisions, however, failed to increase levels of individual confidence in the Supreme Court. Although the Court may lose support with unfavorable decisions, it appears unable to generate support with favorable decisions. If unpopular decisions only hurt public support for the Supreme Court, how does the Court maintain high levels of public approval? What keeps support for the Court from taking a downward spiral upon successive unpopular decisions?

One explanation is that media coverage of the Court is devoid of political conflict and bargaining that permeates coverage of other institutions (Hibbing & Theiss-Morse, 1995). This implies the Supreme Court's secret deliberations, infrequent media coverage, and low levels of visible conflict sustain the high levels of support for the Court because citizens remain unaware of the debate and politicizing within the Court. Therefore, exposure to Court proceedings should decrease support for the Court. This explanation, however, contrasts with well-known scholarship that citizens who are more attentive to the activities of the Supreme Court hold the Court in higher regard in comparison to their inattentive peers (Adamany & Grossman, 1983; Casey, 1974; Kessel, 1966; Scheb & Lyons, 2000).

This paper argues public support for the Court is not simply a function of the visibility of Court proceedings, but a function of how information about the Court is portrayed in the media. In other words, it is the type of information rather than the volume of information that is important in how the public perceives the Court. Information that reinforces the legal image of the Court should sustain favorable attitudes, while information that portrays the Court's decision-making process as unfair should lead to less favorable opinions. Specifically, media framing of Court proceedings as fair or unfair should influence perceptions of procedural justice, which should mediate support or opposition towards decision-making organizations such as the Supreme Court.

Media Framing, Procedural Perceptions, and Support

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Media Framing, Procedural Perceptions, and Support
  4. Research Design
  5. Results
  6. Path Analysis
  7. Substantive Interpretations
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  11. REFERENCES

The extent and limitations of media framing are becoming widely known in political science and are being applied to various political domains (e.g., Druckman, 2004; Iyengar & Kinder, 1987; Nelson, Clawson, & Oxley, 1997). How the media portrays political debates and government proceedings affects public opinion by making some considerations more important than others (Nelson, Clawson, & Oxley, 1997).

Several important pieces of research show a connection between media coverage of the Court and perceptions of the Court. Nicholson and Howard (2003) expand the framing literature to show that framing of political institutions and actors can shape public support toward those attitude objects. They find that framing the Court's Bush v. Gore decision as a partisan decision reduces the confidence in justices by activating individuals' partisanship and disagreement with the decision, while framing the decision as an electoral concern decreases the Court's diffuse or long-term support. Media coverage of the Court has also been shown to alter perceptions of procedural fairness regarding the Court (Baird & Gangl, 2006). These authors show experimental subjects had higher perceptions of procedural fairness when presented with a media story portraying the Court in a legalistic rather than political frame.

Although this previous work is important, it is still unclear if procedural perceptions mediate support for the Supreme Court. Why should procedural perceptions be important in how citizens think about political institutions such as the Supreme Court? Procedural justice theory shows that the procedural components citizens use in evaluating decision-making organizations are perceptions of citizen representation, neutrality of the process, and belief in the trustworthiness of the individual decision makers within an organization (e.g., Gangl, 2003; Tyler, 1988). Although Tyler's research is focused on actual litigants' experiences, there is no reason why the theory should not apply to third-party observers of the Court.

Citizens want to believe they have a voice in the decision-making process of organizations that can potentially shape their personal affairs. Although individuals do not have the opportunity to communicate their opinion directly to the Supreme Court, it is important they are able to identify with individuals involved in the decision-making process who symbolize their interests. Furthermore, the process is expected to be neutral. It is important that the institutional structure, norms, and rules ensure no single point of view dominates the decision-making process. Finally, citizens need to trust the individual members serving on the Court. People expect Court justices to derive their decisions from legal precedent instead of political or personal interests. Individuals presume the Court justices to be neutral interpreters of the law and Constitution. They should not be influenced by political or special interest group pressure or decide cases according to their personal political values. Together, these procedural attributes comprise perceptions of procedural justice. As long as these perceptions are not frequentlychallenged, the Supreme Court should be able to sustain high levels of public support. If citizens receive information portraying the Supreme Court as procedurally unfair, however, support for the Court should decline.

Procedural justice theory provides a solution to the puzzle between exposure and support for the Supreme Court. Hibbing and Theiss-Morse (1995) assume greater exposure to the Court's decision-making process will increase perceptions of procedural conflict and inherent biases within the Court. Although citizens dislike the conflict associated with political bargaining (Hibbing & Theiss-Morse, 2002), perceptions of procedural fairness of the Court are related to perceptions of legality rather than mere bargaining and deliberation (Baird & Gangl, 2006). Media coverage of the Court tends to focus on legitimizing symbols (Gibson, Caldeira, & Spence, 2003) and legal jargon (Slotnick & Segal, 1998). One recent theory accounting for the stability of support for the Court is that the Court experiences a “positivity bias” where the most prevalent information about the Court is framed in symbols and language that promote the legality and procedural fairness of the Court (Gibson, Caldeira, & Spence, 2003). These legal symbols perpetuate the perception of objectivity and neutrality surrounding the Court, sustaining positive procedural perceptions among the public and subsequently the institution's support. In addition to the public's support for democratic principles, these positive procedural frames should contribute in sustaining the public's positive perceptions of the Court. Conversely, when citizens receive information about the Congress or executive branch, it typically concerns partisan debate and procedural conflict. Therefore, it is not exposure per se that influences evaluations toward the Court, but how the portrayal of the Court's decision-making process influences procedural perceptions that shapes how citizens evaluate the Court. When the media portrays the Court as procedurally fair, support for the Court should be higher relative to when the media portrays the Court as procedurally unfair because media frames alter perceptions of procedural justice.

Research Design

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Media Framing, Procedural Perceptions, and Support
  4. Research Design
  5. Results
  6. Path Analysis
  7. Substantive Interpretations
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  11. REFERENCES

A 2 × 2 between groups experimental design is employed to test the preceding hypotheses. The experimental factors are the portrayal of procedural justice as either fair or unfair and issue domain (criminal justice or economic policy). The design also includes a nonexperimental factor—whether or not a subject's policy predisposition is congruent with the policy outcome of the Court's decision.

The study was conducted in the Spring of 2005 at a large research university in Texas. Two hundred and sixty-one undergraduate students participated in the study.1 The students were recruited from two sections of a university required American Government course. Most of the sample consists of nonpolitical science majors.

Procedure. An instructor notified students that their regularly scheduled class would be cancelled, but students wishing to earn three extra-credit points could show up and participate in a brief survey. The principal investigator and a colleague administered the experiment on a single day. Participants were given verbal instructions concerning the confidentiality and anonymity of the survey and were told their participation was voluntary.

Participants were asked to answer a brief survey about their political attitudes, read a newspaper article, and then respond to a few follow-up questions. The same instructions were indicated in print on the survey packet. Two administrators randomly distributed experimental packets to the participants. These packets contained a consent form, a pre-stimulus questionnaire, the fictitious newspaper article, and a poststimulus questionnaire. The study lasted approximately 10 minutes.

Experimental context. Participants were introduced to one of the two Supreme Court cases via a newspaper article characterizing the procedural justice dimensions of representation, objectivity, and trustworthiness as either fair or unfair. The experimental task simulates receiving information about a Supreme Court proceeding and decision via a newspaper article reporting events concerning either a California law that gives judges the discretion to sentence three-time felony offenders to life imprisonment or a case settling a dispute regarding government export subsidies. These issues were chosen because they represent different policy types allowing generalization across issues domains (e.g., a pragmatic economic issue versus a “law and order” value-based issue), are similar to other cases on the Supreme Court's docket, and vary in their level of importance.2 Survey research also suggests a reasonable distribution of participants should agree and disagree with the policy outcomes of the cases.

Ewing v. California (2003) is a case that appeared before the Supreme Court challenging California's “three-strikes and you are out” law. The legislation gives judges the discretion to sentence three-time felony offenders to life imprisonment. A California court sentenced Mr. Ewing to life imprisonment for his third felony offense of stealing three golf clubs. The Supreme Court upheld California's law and Mr. Ewing's conviction.

Boeing Company and Consolidated Subsidiaries v. United States (2003) is a Supreme Court case where Boeing Airlines attempted to obtain export subsidies for research and development costs from the U.S. government. The Court decided against Boeing, making headlines primarily in business and trade publications. Neither of the Court rulings are misrepresented in the vignettes nor are the outcomes manipulated within experimental conditions.

Opinion-policy congruence. Prior to their exposure to the experimental stimulus, participants answered a series of questions concerning their policy preferences on several political issues in addition to basic political questions ranging from partisanship to political interest. Subjects were asked: “Some say a law called “three strikes and you're out,” which requires that anyone convicted of three felonies to be automatically sentenced to life in prison without parole, targets career criminals. Others claim the law is too severe for minor felonies like petty theft. In general, do you favor or oppose this law, or haven't you thought about it much?” and “Some people believe the U.S. government should provide private U.S. companies with export subsidies to help them support private competition. Other people believe the U.S. government should not support private companies with tax revenue. In general, do you favor or oppose export subsidies, or haven't you thought about it much?” The questions attempt to match the specific cases in the vignettes; however, there is some discrepancy between the deterministic three-strikes law in the opinion measure and the discretion of the justices of upholding the sentence presented in the vignettes.3

I assume the Court's decision in the case is congruent with each subject's predisposition if the subject's prestimulus response to the relevant policy preference measure is in the same direction as the Court's decision. A policy predisposition in the opposite direction of the policy outcome in the vignette is assumed to be incongruent with the Court's decision. This measurement scheme is consistent with the opinion-policy congruence measures in the representation literature (Miller & Stokes, 1963; Monroe, 1983; Weissberg, 1976), but also subject to the same limitations as these measures (Achen, 1977; Stone, 1979).

Support for a specific policy position does not automatically mean the subject agrees or disagrees with the Court's decision. The Court may be able to persuade the public into changing their views (Dahl, 1957; Hoekstra, 1995), although Caldeira (1991) notes, “[W]e have relatively few well-documented instances when the Supreme Court has shaped the aggregate distribution of public support for this or that policy” (p. 312). Alternatively, scholarship suggests Court decisions crystalize existing attitudes (Brickman & Peterson, 2006; Franklin & Kosaki, 1989; Johnson & Martin, 1998), suggesting participants would become even more supportive of their policy positions after reading the experimental vignettes. However, measurement of posttreatment policy preferences or agreement with the Court's decision were not included in the survey instrument, limiting the ability to make any firm conclusions about participant's postexperiment policy attitudes.

Posttreatment agreement with the Court's decision was not utilized in this experiment since the content of the manipulation might bias responses to the policy preference measures. The prestimulus measure also prevents opinions from being influenced by the legitimizing function of the Court. The purpose of this study is not to determine the Court's power to persuade the public to accept unfavorable decisions, but to determine the relationship between perceptions of procedural justice and support toward the Court, independent of policy preferences.

Furthermore, the outcomes of the cases are not experimentally manipulated. For instance, the Court upheld the three-strikes law in all of the crime vignettes and opposed Boeing's claim that the company was entitled to export subsidies from the government in all of the economic subsidies vignettes. Therefore, all participants supporting the three-strikes law prior to reading the Court's decision are assumed to have a predisposition congruent with the Court's ruling. All participants opposing the three-strikes law are coded as having a predisposition incongruent with the Court's decision. The congruence or incongruence of each participant's predisposition with the outcome of the export subsidies case are determined in the same manner.

The response options to the policy questions are on a 4-point ordinal scale ranging from “favor” to “oppose” with a “don't know” response option.4 Within the three-strikes vignette 45% of the participants have a policy predisposition in the same direction as the Court's ruling, and 54% of participants have a policy predisposition incongruent with the Court's decision. Within the economic subsidies vignette 44% of participants have a policy predisposition congruent with the Court's decision, and 55% of participants have a policy predisposition incongruent with the Court's decision.

Procedural justice treatment. The procedural justice variable is manipulated by altering how the Court proceedings are depicted in the fictitious newspaper article. Half of the participants read an article where the vignette portrays the Supreme Court's procedures as being fair. The other half read articles where the vignette portrays the Supreme Court's procedures as unfair.

In the fair or baseline condition, the vignette describes the Supreme Court's processes as objective, trustworthy, and inclusive. Comments from spokespersons on each side of the debate are provided indicating each had an equal and influential voice prior to the Supreme Court's decision. Unidentified “eyewitnesses report the justices listened carefully to arguments on both sides of the debate before retiring to their chambers to deliberate on the pros and cons of each argument.” Court commentators emphasize their satisfaction with procedural aspects of the decision. Finally, the vignettes highlight the Supreme Court's objectivity and ability to use legal precedent and principles instead of being politically motivated in formulating their decision.

Participants in the unfair condition read vignettes describing the Court as untrustworthy, unrepresentative, and biased. These are the three procedural dimensions indicated by Tyler (1988) to be important in how individuals evaluate decision-making organizations. The lack of representation of the Court is manipulated by mentioning that the Supreme Court “makes its decisions without jury deliberations” and its justices are “not elected by the public.” The trustworthiness of the Court justices is called into question when the article mentions one justice's interaction with special interest groups associated with the case and vote switching by another justice. Finally, the objectivity or legal image of the Court is challenged by Court commentators “tired of seeing the U.S. Supreme Court becoming politically involved in this issue.”5

The contents from the unfair vignettes are an adaptation and amalgamation of actual published accounts of the procedural activities of the Court (Biskupic, 1997; Lazarus, 1998; Lane, 2004), but are not associated with the cases described above. Although actual reporting of Court procedures is not as “extreme” as depicted in the vignettes (but see Cannon, 2004; Lane, 2006a; Lane, 2006b), the purpose of the experimental design is to provide a counterfactual of what if citizens were exposed to “heavy-handed” procedural information about the Court. The ability of experimental designs to test counterfactuals or unrealistic occurrences should be viewed as a virtue instead of a vice (Lavine, Lodge, Polichak, & Taber, 2002; Mook, 1983).6

In the posttreatment questionnaire, respondents were asked three questions regarding their perceptions of procedural justice in the Court's decision-making process. The three indicators attempt to capture the aforementioned dimensions of procedural justice (representation, objectivity, and trustworthiness). Measures of participant perceptions of representation in the Supreme Court's decision are measured by asking participants, “To what extent or amount do you think people who share your views were given a say in the decision-making process in the Supreme Court case mentioned above?” Responses range on a 5-point scale from a “Great Amount” to “None at All.” Perceptions of the objectivity of the Supreme Court are measured by asking participants, “On the whole, how accurate do you think it is to say that no one interest or point of view seemed to have more input and consideration than others in producing the Court's decision?” with responses ranging on a 5-point scale from “Very Accurate” to “Very Inaccurate.” Participant perceptions of the honesty of the individual justices are measured by asking participants, “On the whole, how trustworthy do you think the Supreme Court Justices' intentions were in coming to their decision?” with responses ranging on a 5-point scale from “Very Trustworthy” to “Very Untrustworthy.”

A confirmatory factor analysis demonstrates these individual measures load on a single dimension of procedural justice.7 These indicators are combined into a procedural justice variable ranging from one to five with higher values indicating greater perceptions of procedural justice. Cronbach's alpha (.6) shows the procedural justice index is moderately reliable.

Dependent variable. Traditionally, scholars of the Court have differentiated between specific and diffuse support (e.g., Easton, 1965; Caldeira & Gibson, 1992). Research also indicates individuals are able to distinguish between political institutions and the individual members within those institutions (Hibbing & Theiss-Morse, 1995). Specific support involves attitudes toward the immediate justices and policy outcomes of the Court and diffuse support involves attitudes toward the Court as an institution. Previous research shows specific actions or outcomes of the Court do not influence diffuse support (Caldeira & Gibson, 1992), but rather influence specific support (Caldeira, 1986). The latter distinction is important because it means having a policy preference incongruent with a specific Court ruling might create discontent toward individual justices, but citizens will nevertheless continue to adhere to the Court's legitimacy. It is possible perceptions of procedural justice affect attitudes toward the justices and not the Court as an institution, the reverse, or both.

The dependent variable consists of two indicators of support toward the U.S. Supreme Court. The first indicator asks participants to rate the Supreme Court as an institution reading, “thinking of the Supreme Court as an institution, do you approve strongly, approve somewhat, neither approve nor disapprove, disapprove somewhat, or disapprove strongly of the Supreme Court, no matter who the Justices are?” The second question asks participants their attitude toward the individual justices currently serving on the Supreme Court. “Thinking about the people on the Supreme Court, please tell me if you approve strongly, approve somewhat, neither approve nor disapprove, disapprove somewhat, or disapprove strongly of the way the nine justices on the Supreme Court are handling their job?” These measures are adapted from previous research on public support for political institutions (Hibbing & Theiss-Morse, 1995; Hoekstra, 2003). Each 5-point scale is reflected in the analysis where higher scores indicate greater levels of support toward the political object being analyzed. The ordering of these questions is randomly reversed to prevent any systematic biases in the responses. A difference of means test shows participants differentiate between evaluations toward the Supreme Court as an institution and the Supreme Court justices. Support for the institution, M = 3.9, is higher than support for the members of the Supreme Court, M = 3.4, (t = 8.1, p < .001). The correlation between the two measures is .3, providing some support for the assertion that these indicators measure distinct concepts.

Manipulation check. The procedural justice index provides a means to observe whether participants in the fair procedural condition perceived the Supreme Court as being more procedurally representative, objective, and trustworthy than participants in the procedurally unfair condition. The results indicate clear differences between groups receiving procedurally fair versus procedurally unfair treatments.

Perceptions of procedural justice are higher for participants receiving a procedurally fair three-strikes vignette, M = 3.80 ± .06, than participants receiving the procedurally unfair three-strikes vignette, M = 3.08 ± .07 (t = 6.87, p < .001). Perceptions of procedural justice are also higher for participants receiving a procedurally fair export subsidies vignette, M = 3.72 ± .06, than participants receiving the procedurally unfair export subsidies vignette, M = 2.90 ± .08 (t = 7.64, p < .001). In addition, the issue domain does not make a difference in procedural justice evaluations. Perceptions of procedural justice are not statistically different for participants receiving the crime vignette, M = 3.4 ± .06, relative to participants receiving the economic subsidies vignette, M = 3.3 ± .06 (t = 1.2, p < .2). These data support the internal validity of the experimental design.

Additional analysis shows there is no difference between Republicans and Democrats in their perceptions of procedural justice within the procedurally fair and unfair conditions. Democrats in the three-strikes condition do have higher levels of procedural justice perceptions, M = 3.6, than Republicans in the crime condition, M = 3.4, t(1, 102) = 1.50, p < .07. Although we might expect Democrats to view this issue as more important than Republicans, subsequent testing did not show perceptions of issue importance influencing procedural justice perceptions among Democrats in the three-strikes condition. More important, analysis not reported here shows this difference did not lead to any substantial differences in the main variable of interest—support for the Court.

Results

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Media Framing, Procedural Perceptions, and Support
  4. Research Design
  5. Results
  6. Path Analysis
  7. Substantive Interpretations
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  11. REFERENCES

There are several estimators available for analyzing the data. First, I use an ANOVA to show differences in levels of support for groups assigned to different conditions. The results demonstrate participants receiving an unfair portrayal of the Court have less support than participants receiving a fair portrayal of the Court. Next, a path analysis shows levels of support for the Court differ because the fair and unfair conditions lead to differences in perceptions of procedural justice. Finally, an ordered probit analysis shows differences in levels of support for individuals, while also generating predicted probabilities for substantively interesting interpretations. For the analysis reported here, participants from the three-strikes and economic subsidy vignettes were combined into a single sample to increase the clarity of the presentation. When the results do differ between issue domains, these differences are shown.8

A 2 × 2 between groups ANOVA yielded a significant main effect for both the procedural condition and opinion-policy congruence with the Court's decision. Participants in the fair condition have more support for the institution of the Supreme Court, M = 4.07, than participants in the unfair condition, M = 3.78, F(1, 225) = 7.85, p < .001, while participants with a predisposition congruent with the Court's decision have higher levels of support for the institution, M = 4.02, than participants whose predisposition is incongruent with the Court's decision, M = 3.83, F(1, 225) = 3.40, p < .06. There are no differences in support for the Court as an institution when the three-strikes and economic conditions are analyzed separately. The interaction between participants in the procedural condition and opinion-policy congruence is also statistically insignificant.

I also compared the level of support for the Court as an institution among participants that chose the “don't know” response option to the policy preference question. The mean level of support for the Court as an institution between subjects choosing the “don't know” response opinion, M = 3.89, and subjects with a policy predisposition incongruent with the Court's decision is statistically indistinguishable, M = 3.83, t(1, 154) = 0.36, p < 0.35. The mean level of support for the Court as an institution between subjects that “don't know” their policy preference, M = 3.89, is also statistically equivalent to subjects with a policy predisposition congruent with the Court's decision, M = 4.02, t(1, 131) = 0.94, p < 0.82.

A separate 2 × 2 between groups ANOVA also shows a significant main effect for each factor on support for the Court justices. Participants in the procedurally fair condition are more supportive of the Court justices, M = 3.67, than participants in the procedurally unfair condition, M = 3.18, F(1, 225) = 14.88, p < .001. Having a policy predisposition congruent with the Court's decision also leads to higher levels of support for the Court justices, M = 3.51, relative to participants with a policy predisposition incongruent with the Court's decision, M = 3.28, F(1, 225) = 4.82, p < .001. Participants in the procedurally fair condition who have a policy predisposition congruent with the Court's decision exhibit marginally higher levels of support for the Court justices, M = 3.7, than participants in the procedurally unfair condition with with a policy preference congruent with the Court's decision, M = 3.5, F = (1, 229) = 3.33, p < .06. Among participants with policy preferences incongruent with the Court's decision, portraying the Court as procedurally fair results in substantially higher levels of support, M = 3.6, than when the Court is portrayed as procedurally unfair, M = 3.0, F = (1, 229) = 3.33, p < .06. These results suggest exposure to an unfair Court process shapes support for the Court justices more when the participant's policy predisposition is out-of-step with the Court's decision, rather than congruent with the decision. The latter results suggest that even when the public's preferences are incongruent with the immediate actions of the Court, positive information regarding the Court (i.e., fair portrayal) can sustain the Court's support.

Support for the justices among participants choosing the “don't know” option to the relevant policy preference question show participants choosing “don't know,” M = 3.6, have higher levels of support for the justices currently serving on the Court than subjects with a policy predisposition incongruent with the Court's decision, M = 3.2, t(1, 154) = 2.17, p < 0.01. None of the other comparisons with “don't know” participants are statistically significant. Analysis of support for the justices within each issue condition indicates participants in the crime condition with policy preferences incongruent with the Court's decision have lower levels of support for the justices, M = 3.0, compared to subjects in the economic condition with policy preferences incongruent with the Court's decision, M = 3.5, t(1, 126) = 3.08, p < .01. It seems support for the Justices is more sensitive to the issue domain than evaluations of the institution, but no other important difference across issue domains are observed in these data.

Path Analysis

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Media Framing, Procedural Perceptions, and Support
  4. Research Design
  5. Results
  6. Path Analysis
  7. Substantive Interpretations
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  11. REFERENCES

The previous results demonstrate support for the Court is higher when participants receive procedural fair rather than unfair information regarding the Court's decision-making process. Furthermore, this relationship holds when controlling for the congruence of the participant's policy predisposition with the Court's ruling. The results, however, fail to demonstrate the precise mechanism that mediates support for the Court. If the procedural theory is correct, support for the Court is not a function of simply being exposed to a procedural fair or unfair account of a Court case (e.g., media framing effects). Instead, the theory argues it is how those portrayals alter perceptions of procedural justice regarding the Court's decision-making process that influences Court approval. Therefore, perceptions of procedural justice should have a positive and significant relationship with support for the Court independent of the procedural condition and opinion-policy congruence.

Estimating the influence of procedural justice perceptions while controlling for the procedural justice condition also controls for the length of the vignettes and potential confounds within the vignettes. The unfair condition contains more information than the fair condition. To ensure it is not the amount of information but the type of information that influences Court approval, the following models estimate the influence on procedural justice perceptions on support for the Court while controlling for the procedural condition.

A path analysis can also help control for other potential confounds in the vignettes such as the use of factual information, vote splitting, and other conflicts. The question becomes does support differ among participants because of procedural justice or because of potential confounds in the vignettes. If something about the issue portrayed in the vignettes is shaping support, then opinion-policy congruence should measure some of this effect. Even more important, controlling for procedural condition (fair vs. unfair) should account for any other systematic factor within the vignettes that are influencing support for the Court, independent of procedural justice. The path analysis shows subjects in the fair or unfair conditions have different levels of support because of differences in their perceptions of procedural justice and not because of anything else inherent in the conditions since there is no main or direct effect of procedural condition on support.

For ease of presentation, a single path analysis is estimated for support for the Supreme Court as an institution and for the members on the Court's bench.9 Perceptions of procedural justice are measured using the procedural justice index where higher values indicate a greater perception of procedural justice. In addition, a new opinion-policy congruence variable is created that uses the complete responses to each participant's policy predisposition question where 1 = “oppose,” 2 = “somewhat oppose,” 3 = “somewhat favor,” and 4 = “favor.” The variable is coded where higher values indicate a predisposition more consistent with the Supreme Court's ruling.

Figure 1 shows standardized regression coefficients for the path analysis for support for the Supreme Court. Solid lines indicate statistically significant coefficients. A standardized regression coefficient of .80 between the procedural condition and perceptions of procedural justice confirms that exposure to a procedurally fair vignette increases positive perceptions of procedural justice. Further, the results fail to show a relationship between opinion-policy congruence and perceptions of procedural justice. This suggests that perceptions of procedural justice were not influenced by participants' policy predisposition. Other studies do find agreement with the Court's decision does influence perceptions of procedural fairness (Baird & Gangl, 2006; Gibson, Caldeira, & Spence, 2003). However, these studies dealt with a case on civil liberties and the 2000 presidential election, respectively, that should be more important to respondents than the cases selected here. It is possible that cases more important to the public may result in policy preferences having a larger influence on how they perceive procedural aspects of the Court.

image

Figure 1. Procedural justice perceptions as a mediator of experimental condition and support of the Supreme Court. Note: Path coefficients are equivalent to standardized regression coefficients. Experimental condition is a dummy coded such that participants in the procedurally fair condition = 1 and participants in the procedurally unfair condition = 0. Procedural justice is a three item index coded so higher values indicate greater perceptions of procedural justice. Agreement with the decision is coded where higher values indicate greater agreement with the Supreme Court's decision. Residual variance is indicated by R. Solid lines indicate statistically significant coefficients, p < .01 (n = 233).

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However, there is evidence that more visible cases might not alter the effect of the Court's policy decisions on support for the Court. Gibson, Caldeira, and Spence (2003) find “views of the outcome of the election [Bush v. Gore] influence judgements of decisional fairness, but have little impact on institutional loyalty” (p. 549). These authors also add that support is “insulated” from “contemporary events.” Given the high profile of this Supreme Court case in their study, their research provides stronger evidence that the relationship between policy and support would be similar to the findings in these data even if the cases were of higher importance. When scholars have found Court decisions influencing support for the Court, it has been among subgroups who we might believe are more affected by the outcomes of the case (Hoekstra, 2003).

The standardized regression coefficient between perceptions of procedural justice and support for the Court is .22, demonstrating support for the Court increases as perceptions of procedural justice increase. Furthermore, the procedural condition variable does not have a direct effect on support when controlling for perceptions of procedural justice, providing evidence the amount of information or any potential confounds within the vignettes are not shaping support for the Court. Differences in support for the Supreme Court among individuals are not because the participant was simply included in the procedurally unfair or fair condition. Inclusion in the procedurally fair or unfair condition shapes support for the Supreme Court because it creates differences in perceptions of procedural justice. Finally, the standardized coefficient of .12 between opinion-policy congruence and support indicates policies do matter, but fail to exert a stronger effect than procedural justice perceptions in these results.

The path analysis shows subjects in the fair or unfair conditions have different levels of support because of differences in their perceptions of procedural justice and not because of anything else inherent in the conditions. There is no direct effect of procedural condition on support. Instead, the effect is mediated through procedural justice perceptions. If there was something else within the vignettes not accounted for by procedural justice perceptions that was systematically influencing the Court, we would expect the procedural condition variable to influence support directly. It does not.

Substantive Interpretations

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Media Framing, Procedural Perceptions, and Support
  4. Research Design
  5. Results
  6. Path Analysis
  7. Substantive Interpretations
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  11. REFERENCES

The predicted probabilities of the different levels of support for the Court is estimated using Clarify (King, Tomz, & Wittenberg, 2001). Table 1 shows the results of an ordered probit analysis with the same specification as the path analysis models for support for both the Court as an institution and the Court justices. Wald tests for parameter equivalency suggest no difference between models of support within participants in the crime and economic conditions. Both perceptions of procedural justice and opinion-policy congruence are statistically significant in both models. The ordered probit analysis is used to simulate predicted probabilities of support for the Court. Of particular interest is the relationship between procedural justice and support when the participant agrees with the Court's ruling. A policy predisposition congruent with the Court's ruling should sustain positive support for the Court. The theory suggests, however, support for the Court will decrease when perceptions of procedural justice decrease, despite a participant having a predisposition congruent with the Court's substantive decision. Holding the opinion-policy congruence variable constant at its maximum value, the procedural justice variable is changed from its maximum to its minimum value. Additionally, the procedural condition variable is held at 0 to simulate what happens when people receive an unfavorable account of a Supreme Court case.

Table 1.  Ordered probit estimates of support for the Supreme Court as an institution and the Court justices
VariableInstitutions.e.Justicess.e.
  1. Note: n = 233, *p < .05. No participants “Strongly disapprove” of the Supreme Court as an institution. The procedural justice condition is a dummy variable indicating if the vignette received by the subject depicts the Court's process as fair = 1 or unfair = 0. The procedural justice index consists of indicators of representation, objectivity, and trustworthiness and ranges from procedurally unfair = 1 to procedurally fair = 5. Opinion-policy congruence is a four-point scale ranging from favor to oppose.

Procedural condition.19(.17).34(.17)
Procedural justice index.26*(.12).46*(.10)
Opinion-policy congruence.15*(.07).19*(.07)
cut 1−.64(.42)−.59(.43)
cut 2.67(.41).63(.40)
cut 32.1(.42)1.7(.41)
cut 43.2(.44)
Log Likelihood−250.59−279.78

The results in Table 2 show that the predicted probability of “strongly approving” of the Supreme Court as an institution decreases by .28 when procedural justice perceptions shift from their maximum to minimum values. It appears participants were unwilling to completely disapprove of the Court as an institution, but negative perceptions of procedural justice do lead individuals to gravitate toward a more moderate position on the scale by .22 rather than the typical high levels of support awarded to the Court. Additionally, these changes occur when the participant's policy predisposition is congruent with the Court's decision. When the procedural justice index is moved from its maximum to minimum value when the participant's attitude is incongruent with the Court's decision, the predicted probability of “strongly approving” of the Court as an institution decreases by .19 and the predicted probability of “approving” of the Court decreases by .14. Participants become more likely to disapprove of the Court (.11) when their predisposition is incongruent with the outcome of the case and their perception of procedural justice decreases. Finally, the predicted probability of “strongly approving” of the Court decreases by .13 when opinion-policy congruence is moved from its maximum congruence to incongruence with the Court's decision, while perceptions of procedural justice are held at their mean value (3.36).

Table 2.  Predicted probabilities of support for the Supreme Court as an institution
VariableChangeSDDNASA
  1. Note: n = 233. Standard errors are in parenthesis. The ordered categories are “Strongly disapprove,”“Disapprove,”“Neither approve nor disapprove,”“Approve,” and “Strongly approve.”†The procedural justice index is moved from its maximum value (5) to its minimum value (1.3), while the procedural justice condition is set at unfair (0), and the opinion-policy congruence is set at 4 indicating a policy predisposition in the same direction as the Court's decision. ‡The procedural justice index is moved from its maximum value (5) to its minimum value (1.3), while the procedural justice condition is set at unfair (0), but the congruence variable is set at 1 indicating a policy predisposition in the opposite direction as the Court's decision. *The procedural justice index is set at its mean value (3.36), the procedural condition is set at fair (1), while opinion-policy congruence is moved from congruent (4) to incongruence (1).

Procedural indexmax [RIGHTWARDS ARROW] min−.05.22.01−.28
(.03)(.09)(.06)(.13)
Procedural indexmax [RIGHTWARDS ARROW] min.11.22−.14−.19
(.06)(.22)(.07)(.10)
*Opinion-policy congruencemax [RIGHTWARDS ARROW] min.02.10.01−.13
(.01)(.05)(.02)(.06)

Table 3 reports similar predicted probabilities for support toward the Supreme Court justices. Despite having a predisposition consistent with the Supreme Court's decision, as procedural perceptions move from their maximum to their minimum the predicted probability of “strongly approving” of the Supreme Court justices decreases by .25 and the predicted probability of “approving” of the justices decreases by .15. The most substantively interesting change comes when perceptions of procedural justice are moved from their maximum to minimum value and participant's policy predisposition is inconsistent with the Court's decision. In this simulation, “approval” of the Court justices decreases by .32 and “disapproval” of the justices increases by .26. Perceptions of procedural justice do influence support for the Supreme Court justices. Negative perceptions of procedural justice decrease the predicted probability of approving of the Supreme Court justices even when participants were simulated to favor the policy direction of the Supreme Court's ruling. These results suggest policy matters, but so does how the public perceives the Supreme Court goes about conducting its business.

Table 3.  Predicted probabilities of support for the Supreme Court justices
VariableChangeSDDNASA
  1. Note: n = 233. Standard errors are in parentheses. The ordered categories are “Strongly disapprove,”“Disapprove,”“Neither approve nor disapprove,”“Approve,” and “Strongly approve.”†The procedural justice index is moved from its maximum value (5) to its minimum value (1.3), while the procedural justice condition is set at unfair (0), and the opinion-policy congruence is set at 4 indicating a policy predisposition in the same direction as the Court's decision. ‡The procedural justice index is moved from its maximum value (5) to its minimum value (1.3), while the procedural justice condition is set at unfair (0), but the congruence variable is set at 1 indicating a policy predisposition in the opposite direction as the Court's decision. *The procedural justice index is set at its mean value (3.36), the procedural condition is set at fair (1), while opinion-policy congruence is moved from congruent (4) to incongruence (1).

Procedural indexmax [RIGHTWARDS ARROW] min.02.15.23−.15−.25
(.02)(.07)(.06)(.08)(.08)
Procedural indexmax [RIGHTWARDS ARROW] min.10.26.02−.32−.08
(.05)(.09)(.05)(.10)(.04)
*Opinion-policy congruencemax [RIGHTWARDS ARROW] min.01.08.11−.11−.09
(.01)(.03)(.04)(.04)(.04)

Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Media Framing, Procedural Perceptions, and Support
  4. Research Design
  5. Results
  6. Path Analysis
  7. Substantive Interpretations
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  11. REFERENCES

This research sought to uncover the psychological mechanism that mediates media coverage of the Court and subsequent support for the Court. Previous research has shown that the depiction of Court motives (i.e., legalistic, political, practical) shaped public support for the Court in its decision in the 2000 presidential election (Nicholson & Howard, 2003) and that media coverage of the Court as legalistic rather than political influences perceptions of the procedural fairness of the Court (Baird & Gangl, 2006). The findings here expand this research agenda by showing that differences in support for the Court can be attributed to how media coverage alters perceptions of procedural justice. Respondents in the procedurally fair condition have more support for the Court than respondents in the procedurally unfair condition. Moreover, the differences in levels of support can be attributed to how the media conditions affected perceptions of procedural justice.

In addition, the results show procedural perceptions influence both support for the justices and support for the Court as an institution. Although diffuse support for the Court is relatively high and stable because it is grounded in core democratic values, the Court's legitimacy appears to be reinforced by a bias in information that focuses on the legality and fairness in the Court's decison-making process. Media frames provide one conduit of that information, but surely others exist. For instance, Gibson, Caldeira, and Spence (2003) find that there are multiple pathways in which perceptions of the Court's “rule by law” can influence support. The results also indicate specific support—or at least support for the justices—is more malleable than support for the institution. To the extent the latter measure captures diffuse or long-term support for the Court, it would suggest that frequent exposure to negative procedural information over an extended period of time would erode the Court's legitimacy. Since the research design provides participants with a single exposure, it can only provide limited or suggestive evidence on the question of diffuse support for the Court. Cross-sectional and experimental data of the type in this study are also inadequate in addressing how people update their long-term attitudes about the Court. I leave questions associated with the latter to future research.

A shortcoming of the research design is the empirical findings are attributed to all three dimensions of procedural justice equally. Although this is consistent with Tyler's (1988) conceptualization of procedural justice, the dimensions of procedural justice should be independent of each other. It is conceivable some people can view the justices as untrustworthy or biased, while at the same time viewing the Court as representative. One dimension might play a stronger role in both perceptions of procedural justice and support for the Court.

Additional research should also examine how expectations of the Court and perceptions of the Court's ability to meet those expectations shape support for the Court. Functional theories of communication show that information that directly addresses the psychological motivation(s) of the targeted attitude are perceived as higher in quality and containing more relevant information (Lavine and Snyder 1996). Information about the procedural justice should be effective at shaping citizens' judgments about the Court because people perceive procedural justice as an important function of the judicial branch. The Court is suppose to function as an objective body making decisions based on the law rather than political or personal considerations. To the extent that perception is perpetuated by the media, the Court should continue to maintain a positive image in the public's eye.

Appendix

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Media Framing, Procedural Perceptions, and Support
  4. Research Design
  5. Results
  6. Path Analysis
  7. Substantive Interpretations
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  11. REFERENCES

Crime/Fair condition

Below is an article discussing a Supreme Court case concerning an issue that might appear in a newspaper. Please read the article carefully and, then, respond to the questions in Survey B that begin on the next page.

U.S. Supreme Court News

Washington D.C.—The Supreme Court recently ruled to uphold a California law allowing judges to sentence three time felony offenders to life imprisonment in the case Ewing v. California. Eyewitnesses report the justices listened carefully to arguments on both sides of the debate before retiring to their chambers to deliberate on the pros and cons of each argument. A spokesman for Mr. Ewing released a statement prior to the Court's announcement today saying “Mr. Ewing felt confident the U.S. Supreme Court would deliver a fair and neutral decision.” The case originated after Mr. Ewing was sentenced to life in prison under California's “three strikes and you're out” law for stealing three golf clubs. Attorneys for Mr. Ewing argue the penalty is too severe for the crime, but California's attorney general argued the law targets career criminals. The District Court and Court of Appeals agreed to uphold the law, but Mr. Ewing appealed to the Supreme Court. Ed Lazarus, a law clerk for Justice Kennedy, reported the justices discussed all the merits of the case before favoring to uphold California's “three strikes and you're out” law. As they announced their decision, justices from both sides of the political spectrum commented that it was clear the California law is clearly within the bounds of previous legal precedent. “Although I do not agree with the law,” one justice commented, “it is not the Court's duty to compose legislation, but interpret and uphold the existing law.” Donald Fagan, a supporter of Mr. Ewing, said that although he did not agree with the Supreme Court's decision, he applauded the Court's willingness to hear the case and will continue to fight against the California law. Walter Becker, a spokesperson for the California legislature, commented on his satisfaction with the Court's decision, “I'm thankful that we finally had our day in court and I think the justices were able to place principles over politics in coming to their decision.”

Crime/Unfair condition

Below is an article discussing a Supreme Court case concerning an issue that might appear in a newspaper. Please read the article carefully and, then, respond to the questions in Survey B that begin on the next page.

U.S. Supreme Court News

Washington D.C.—The Supreme Court recently ruled by a 5-4 split to uphold a California law allowing judges to sentence three time felony offenders to life imprisonment in the case Ewing v. California. Eyewitness reports of the debate describe the oral arguments among the lawyers and justices as fierce. At one point, one justice appeared ready to argue the case himself for an attorney who could not answer his questions. A spokesman for Mr. Ewing released a statement prior to the Court's announcement today criticizing the Court, “Mr. Ewing and the citizens of this country are tired of seeing the U.S. Supreme Court becoming politically involved in this issue.” The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press have recently been reporting accounts of Supreme Court Justices accepting vacations from special interest groups associated with the case. One justice declined requests to voluntarily excuse himself from the case due to a conflict of interest. The case originated after Mr. Ewing was sentenced to life in prison under California's “three strikes” law for stealing three golf clubs. California's attorney general argued the law was created to target career criminals. The District Court and Court of Appeals agreed to uphold the law, but Mr. Ewing appealed to the Supreme Court. Oral arguments lasted about an hour before the justices retired to their closed chambers to discuss the case. The Supreme Court makes its decisions without witness testimony or jury deliberations. After several hours of debate, the nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices who are not elected by the public announced their decision on this politically charged topic. Ed Lazarus, a law clerk for Justice Kennedy, reported the debate in the justice's closed chamber was intense. Kennedy served as the swing vote, agreeing to uphold California's “three strikes and you're out” law after defecting from a previous alliance within the Court. Lazarus remarked, “The switched vote became so sensitive Kennedy told me to hide his work from other law clerks to avoid pressure from other justices to change his decision.” Donald Fagan, a supporter of Mr. Ewing, said he did not agree with the Supreme Court's decision and will continue to fight against the California law. “I'm appalled to see the Court succumb to extremist pressure groups,” Fagan told reporters. Walter Becker, a spokesperson for the California legislature, commented on his satisfaction with the Court's decision, but expressed disappointment that the state's attorney general was only allowed to present oral arguments before the Court for 30 minutes.

Economic/Fair condition

Below is an article discussing a Supreme Court case concerning an issue that might appear in a newspaper. Please read the article carefully and, then, respond to the questions in Survey B that begin on the next page.

U.S. Supreme Court News

Washington D.C.—The Supreme Court recently ruled to uphold the U.S. government's claim that it does not have to compensate Boeing Airlines for past export subsidies in the case Boeing v. the United States. Eyewitnesses report the justices listened carefully to arguments on both sides of the debate before retiring to their chambers to deliberate on the pros and cons of each argument. A spokesperson for Boeing released a statement prior to the Court's announcement today saying “the company felt confident the U.S. Supreme Court would deliver a fair and neutral decision.” The case originated after Boeing sought to collect government subsidies for past research and development costs. The U.S. District Court and the Court of Appeals disagreed with Boeing's claim, but Boeing appealed to the Supreme Court. Ed Lazarus, a law clerk for Justice Kennedy, reported the justices discussed all the merits of the case before opposing Boeing's attempt to obtain past export subsidies. As they announced their decision, justices from both sides of the political spectrum commented that its decision is clearly within the bounds of previous legal precedent. “Although I do not agree with the law,” one justice commented, “it is not the Court's duty to compose legislation, but interpret and uphold the existing law.” Donald Fagan, an advocate for Boeing, said that although he did not agree with the Court's decision, he applauded the Court's willingness to hear the case and will continue to advocate for corporate export subsidies. Walter Becker, a spokesperson for the U.S. government, commented on his satisfaction with the Court's decision, “I'm thankful that we finally had our day in court and I think the justices were able to place principles over politics in coming to their decision.”

Economic/Unfair condition

Below is an article discussing a Supreme Court case concerning an issue that might appear in a newspaper. Please read the article carefully and, then, respond to the questions in Survey B that begin on the next page.

U.S. Supreme Court News

Washington D.C.—The Supreme Court recently ruled by a 5-4 split to uphold the U.S. government's claim that it does not have to compensate Boeing Airlines for past export subsides in the case Boeing v. the United States. Eyewitness reports of the debate describe the oral arguments among the lawyers and justices as fierce. At one point, one justice appeared ready to argue the case himself for an attorney who could not answer his questions. A spokesperson for Boeing released a statement prior to the Court's announcement today criticizing the Court, “the company and the citizens of this country are tired of seeing the U.S. Supreme Court becoming politically involved in this issue.” The Los Angeles Times and the Associated Press have recently been reporting accounts of Supreme Court Justices accepting vacations from special interest groups associated with the case. One justice declined requests to voluntarily excuse himself from the case due to a conflict of interest. The case originated after Boeing sought to collect government subsidies for past research and development costs. The U.S. District Court and the Court of Appeals disagreed with Boeing's claim, but Boeing appealed to the Supreme Court. Oral arguments lasted about an hour before the justices retired to their closed chambers to discuss the case. The Supreme Court makes its decisions without witness testimony or jury deliberations. After several hours of debate, the nine U.S. Supreme Court Justices who are not elected by the public announced their decision on this politically charged topic. Ed Lazarus, a law clerk for Justice Kennedy, reported the debate in the justices' closed chamber was intense. Kennedy served as the swing vote, ruling against Boeing Airlines after defecting from a previous alliance within the Court. Lazarus remarked, “The switched vote became so sensitive Kennedy told me to hide his work from other law clerks to avoid pressure from other justices to change his decision.” Donald Fagan, an advocate for Boeing, said he did not agree with the Court's decision and will continue to fight for corporate export subsidies. “I'm appalled to see the Court succumb to extremist pressure groups,” Fagan told reporters. Walter Becker, a spokesperson for the U.S. government, commented on his satisfaction with the Court's decision, but expressed disappointment that the U.S. Solicitor General was only allowed to present oral arguments before the Court for 30 minutes.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Media Framing, Procedural Perceptions, and Support
  4. Research Design
  5. Results
  6. Path Analysis
  7. Substantive Interpretations
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  11. REFERENCES

An earlier version of this paper was presented at the 2005 annual meeting of the Midwest Political Science Association, Chicago. Thanks to David A.M.Peterson, Roy Flemming, Nehemia Geva, Paul Goren, Kim Q. Hill, Mark Peffley, and B. Dan Wood for comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript. Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Mark D. Ramirez, Department of Political Science, Texas A&M University, 4348 TAMU, College Station, TX 77843-4348, Email: mdramir@politics.tamu.edu

REFERENCES

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Media Framing, Procedural Perceptions, and Support
  4. Research Design
  5. Results
  6. Path Analysis
  7. Substantive Interpretations
  8. Conclusion
  9. Appendix
  10. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
  11. REFERENCES
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Footnotes
  • 1

    Approximately 75% of the students in the class chose to participate in the study. The sample is consistent with the university population. 56% of the sample were females, 82% were Caucasians, 1% African American, 4% Asian, and 11% Latino. The sample consists of 66% self-identified Republicans, 20% self-identified independents, and 12% self-identified Democrats. The distribution of the sample across gender, race, partisanship, and political interest is randomized across experimental conditions.

  • 2

    Following each policy predisposition measure on the prestimulus survey each participant was asked: “Compared to other issues you might think about, how important do you think this issue is to you personally?” Responses are coded in the analysis on a 0 to 1 scale with values of 1 indicating a very important issue and 0 indicating an issue that is not at all important to participants. A t-test reveals participants rated the three-strikes issue, M = .64 (n = 130), as more important to them personally than the economic subsidy issue, M = .52 (n = 131), (t = 3.43, p < .001).

  • 3

    Thanks to an anonymous reviewer for pointing this out.

  • 4

    Nine participants chose this option in the “three-strikes” vignette, and 19 participants chose this option in the economic subsidies vignette.

  • 5

    The unfair vignettes also make reference to the procedural conflict around the votes of the justices presenting a potential confound to this design—an issue taken up in the anlaysis below.

  • 6

    The manipulations might lead some to correctly argue the results are not generalizable, however, generalizability is an issue for future research to demonstrate. It is not something that can be achieved in any single study, but is an empirical question that requires comparison over different studies (Bass & Firestone, 1980; Campbell & Stanley, 1966).

  • 7

    A single factor is extracted using the method of principal-components with factor loadings of .74 for the representation measure, .77 for the objectivity measure, and .71 for the trustworthiness measure. The eigenvalue for the factor is 1.6.

  • 8

    It was originally believed opinion-policy congruence would matter more on the “law and order” issue relative to the pragmatic economic issue, but a series of tests for parameter equivalency confirm both the coefficients and the models are the same across issue domains. In addition, participants' ratings of the importance of each issue failed to have a direct or moderating effect on support for the Court.

  • 9

    Although it is shown above support for the justices and institution are distinct concepts, separate path analyses do not differ significantly from the single path analysis presented here.