The Costs of Court Curbing: Evidence from the United States

Amanda Driscoll, Michael J. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


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 costs 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 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.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)609-624
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science

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