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Neither the Purse Nor the Sword: Dynamics of Public Confidence in the Supreme Court

Gregory A. Caldeira
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 80, No. 4 (Dec., 1986), pp. 1209-1226
DOI: 10.2307/1960864
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1960864
Page Count: 18
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Neither the Purse Nor the Sword: Dynamics of Public Confidence in the Supreme Court
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Abstract

Systematic study of changes in support for the U.S. Supreme Court across time has not been undertaken. Armed with a time series of observations from 1966 through 1984, I provide a description of the ebb and flow of public esteem for the Court. Then I outline and test several plausible propositions about the dynamics of support. Statistical analyses compel the conclusion that apart from a relatively constant core of support, increases in judicial activism, inflation, and solicitude for the rights of the accused decreased confidence in the Court; the events surrounding Watergate and increases in presidential popularity and the public salience of the Court brought about increased popular esteem for the high bench. Previous scholars, based on cross-sections of individuals, have emphasized the public's ignorance of and disinterest in the Supreme Court and judicial policy making. The responsiveness of public support for the Court in the aggregate to political events and shifts in the behavior of the justices stands in stark contrast to the conventional image of United States citizenry as singularly out of touch with and unmoved by the Supreme Court.

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