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Public Opinion and The U.S. Supreme Court: FDR's Court-Packing Plan

Gregory A. Caldeira
The American Political Science Review
Vol. 81, No. 4 (Dec., 1987), pp. 1139-1153
DOI: 10.2307/1962582
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1962582
Page Count: 15
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Public Opinion and The U.S. Supreme Court: FDR's Court-Packing Plan
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Abstract

I show the intimate connection between the actions of the justices and support for the Supreme Court during one of the most critical periods of U.S. political history, the four months of 1937 during which Franklin D. Roosevelt sought legislation to @'pack@' the high bench with friendly personnel. Over the period from 3 February through 10 June 1937, the Gallup Poll queried national samples on 18 separate occasions about FDR's plan. These observations constitute the core of my analyses. I demonstrate the crucial influence of judicial behavior and the mass media in shaping public opinion toward the Supreme Court. This research illuminates the dynamics of public support for the justices, contributes to a clearer understanding of an important historical episode, shows the considerable impact of the mass media on public attitudes toward the Court, and adds more evidence on the role of political events in the making of public opinion.

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