Is the U.S. supreme court's legitimacy grounded in performance satisfaction and ideology?

James L. Gibson, Michael J. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Bartels and Johnston have recently presented evidence suggesting that the legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court is grounded in the ideological preferences and perceptions of the American people. In addition, they offer experimental data purporting to show that dissatisfaction with a single Court decision substantially diminishes the institution's legitimacy. These findings strongly break with earlier research on the Court's institutional support, as the authors recognize. The theoretical implications of their findings are profound. If the authors are correct that legitimacy is strongly dependent upon satisfying the policy preferences and ideological predilections of the American people, the essence of legitimacy is fundamentally transformed. Consequently, we reinvestigate the relationships among ideology, performance satisfaction, and Court legitimacy, unearthing empirical findings that diverge markedly from theirs. We conclude with some thoughts about how the Court's "countermajoritarian dilemma" can be reconceptualized and recalculated, once more drawing conclusions sharply at odds with those of Bartels and Johnston.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)162-174
Number of pages13
JournalAmerican Journal of Political Science
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Political Science and International Relations


Dive into the research topics of 'Is the U.S. supreme court's legitimacy grounded in performance satisfaction and ideology?'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this