How Identity Politics Polarizes Rule of Law Opinions

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Popular support for the rule of law supplies political systems a basic ingredient required to function effectively, yet increasing tribalization and polarization in American politics may undermine this fundamental concept. Harkening back to Aristotelean concerns about influences that corrupt the rule of law, I argue that support for the concept stems in part from the intersection of legal policy and group identity in the political system. Using original survey experiments administered to representative and convenience samples, I find that the institutional legitimacy of the Supreme Court depends upon the groups that benefit from a ruling. I also find that the public’s acceptance of decisions is conditioned on group considerations. These findings raise basic questions about the health of the rule of law in the U.S. today.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)179-199
Number of pages21
JournalPolitical Behavior
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
I am very grateful for many helpful comments on the manuscript from Justin Wedeking, Brandon Bartels, Mark Peffley, Lawrence Baum, and Hyeonho Hahm. The data and code necessary to replicate the analyses contained herein are available in the Political Behavior Dataverse at

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Identity politics
  • Legitimacy
  • Social groups
  • Supreme court

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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