Minority Groups and Judicial Legitimacy: Group Affect and the Incentives for Judicial Responsiveness

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20 Scopus citations


This paper introduces a new perspective into the literature on judicial legitimacy by examining the incentives for courts to cater to a popular majority and offering a novel model of legitimacy that has consequences for judicial responsiveness. The account integrates into the literature classic research on how strategic social groups shape public opinion. I theorize that citizens use their perceptions of the judiciary’s support for various social groups as a means to assess the institution overall. From this insight, I derive specific expectations about the conditions under which the Supreme Court’s protection of minority groups like gays and immigrants can damage its legitimacy. Using national survey data, I demonstrate that dislike for the beneficiaries of recent Court rulings systematically diminishes the institution’s legitimacy. The influence of these group-based considerations shapes individual-level attitude change and can be observed at various points in time.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)270-283
Number of pages14
JournalPolitical Research Quarterly
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jun 1 2018

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017, © 2017 University of Utah.


  • Supreme Court
  • legitimacy
  • public opinion
  • social groups

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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