Thank you for visiting the website of the Judicial Legitimacy Around the World Project. We seek to systematically investigate the public's support for norms that have long buttressed the democratic architecture of majority rule in countries around the world.
This research is funded by the National Science Foundation, and this website is under construction.
AMANDA DRISCOLL AND MICHAEL J. NELSON, 2023. THE COSTS OF COURT CURBING: EVIDENCE FROM THE UNITED STATES. THE JOURNAL OF POLITICS. 85(2):609-624. DOI.
Winner of the 2021 APSA Law & Courts Section Best Conference Paper Award
Canonical models of interbranch relations assume that incumbents undermine well-respected courts at their own peril. Although court curbing proposals are frequent in diverse political and institutional contexts, there have been few efforts to examine the electoral cost of interbranch aggression. Drawing upon vignette and conjoint experiments, we find some evidence that the public will punish incumbents for attacks on courts. However, the size of the effect varies: it is largest among individuals who hold the court in high esteem and can be mitigated by copartisanship with the proposer. Moreover, once information about partisanship and issue positions is available to respondents, the effect of supporting court curbing is smaller than those other considerations. These results have implications for the public's willingness to safeguard the institutional separation of powers via the electoral connection and suggest that politicians may engage in activities that erode democracy without a broad loss of public support.
NELSON, MICHAEL J. AND AMANDA DRISCOLL, 2023. ACCOUNTABILITY FOR COURT PACKING. THE JOURNAL OF LAW & COURTS. 1-22. DOI.
How does the public respond to court packing attempts? Longstanding accounts of public support for courts suggest voters retaliate against incumbents who seek to manipulate well-respected courts. Yet incumbents might strategically frame their efforts in bureaucratic terms to minimize the public's outcry or use court packing proposals to activate a partisan base of support. Drawing on a series of survey experiments, we demonstrate that strategic politicians can minimize electoral backlash by couching court reform proposals in apolitical language, and institutional legitimacy's shielding effect dissolves in the face of shared partisanship. These results shed new light on how ambitious politicians might avoid electoral consequences for efforts to bend the judiciary to their will.
AMANDA DRISCOLL AND MICHAEL J. NELSON, 2018. THERE IS NO LEGITIMACY CRISIS: PUBLIC SUPPORT FOR JUDICIAL INSTITUTIONS IN MODERN LATIN AMERICA, REVISTA SAAP, 12(2):366-371.
Obdurate conventional wisdom suggests that the public support the U.S. Supreme Court enjoys is unique while widespread pessimism colors extant assessments of high courts' legitimacy throughout the Americas. Using data from the AmericasBarometer, we show that not only is the U.S. Supreme Court not an anomaly, but the widespread assumption that Latin American courts are lacking in legitimacy is fundamentally wrong.
JLAW data will be available here, as well as ICPSR and DataVerse repositories.
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Below are students who are or have been affiliated with this project.
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Professor Driscoll is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Florida State University and Associate Professor Law (by Courtesy) at the Florida State College of Law. Her personal website can be found at amandadriscoll.xyz.
MICHAEL J. NELSON
Professor Nelson is a Professor of Political Science and Social Data Analytics at The Pennsylvania State University, and Affiliate Faculty at Penn State Law. His personal website can be found at mjnelson.org.