Are courts “different?” Experimental evidence on the unique costs of attacking courts

Amanda Driscoll, Michael J. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


U.S. courts have long been thought to be held in special regard by the American public, and public support is theorized to protect institutions from interbranch aggression. At the same time, recent research underscores that institutional fealty and public reaction to court curbing is shaped by partisan concerns. Drawing on a survey experiment fielded in the U.S., we evaluate whether (1) the public is uniquely punitive toward incumbents who seek to undermine a court rather than an agency and (2) the extent to which these penalties are dependent upon shared partisanship with the proposer. We demonstrate that the public is less supportive of efforts to strip judicial power than analogous efforts to strip power from an executive agency, but that this penalty for court curbing dissipates in the face of copartisanship. This substantiates previous claims regarding the role of partisanship on shaping public attitudes about high courts but underscores that the American public may still hold the courts in unique regard.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalResearch and Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Public Administration
  • Political Science and International Relations

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