Supreme Court and Public Opinion Thesis

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Drafts of the opinions, as well as concurring or dissenting opinions, circulate among the Justices until all voices are heard and the Court is prepared to release its official opinion (Tushnet, 2008, p. 256). In cases that are high profile or that have divergent state opinions, the Court's decisions tend to not only make the national news, but to also become part of the public debate.

For the public, life is a series of divergent choices -- fiscal, political, social, moral, etc. These choices are not made in a vaccum, but in relation to the way society's morals and choices change. For example, in 2003, the Supreme Court decided that state laws that prohibited private and consensual sex between adults were unconstitutional. That case, Lawrence v. Texas, influenced public opinion regarding sexual activity in relation to the 14th Amendment. In this particular case, for instance, a large number of amici curiae (friends of the court) briefs were filed, media attention given, and indeed, since this time the public's view and attitudes towards private behavior seem to have liberalized (Tribe, 2003; Haider-Markel, D., et al., 2006).Buy full Download Microsoft Word File paper
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Thesis on Supreme Court and Public Opinion Assignment

In essence, there is a wide circle when it comes to public influence -- both toward the Court and from the Court. We must realize, Justices are human and individuals. They are also the product of an evolving political and educational system in which they tend to interpret views and evolve their own moral and ethical considerations based on their own experiences within society. As society liberalizes its views on social and moral attitudes (movies, advertisements, clothing, acceptance of diversity, etc.) and the process of globalization, the Court tends to reflect those views in a mirror-like fashion based on the content of the Court. Since the Court is a lifetime appointment, however, sometimes these views are mitigated based on age -- Justices that came of age during the turbulence of the 1960s, for instance, may view societal trends differenty than those brought up during the 1970s. In any case, using empircal models, there are influences moving back and forth between the public and the Court (McGuire & Stimson, 2004)

Research shows that the Supreme Court can and does influence public opinion toward a number of influential and controversial issues. The public reacts when issues are brought to the forfront of the media through Court deisions, but at others, the public seems to ignore decisions if they perceive the decisions have little or no impact on their own lives or belief systems. In fact, the more controversial the model (gay rights, abortion, moral issues, etc.) the more the Court seems to influence public opinion. One study found that a conditional response hypothesis was the best way to explain the general way the Court affected public opinion -- certain highlight issues like Roe v Wade, for instance, even have decade long affects that influence ancillary topics and even institutions (Johnson & Martin, 1998).

Works Cited

United States Constitution - Article III. (2011, June). Retrieved from FindLaw:

Goldstein, T. (2010, June 30). Evertyhting you read about the supreme Court is Wrong. Retrieved from

Haider-Markel, D., et al. (2006, April 11 (2)). Understanding Variations in Media Coverage of U.S. Supreme Court Decisions. Retrieved from The International Journal of Press/Politics:

Johnson, T., & Martin, A. (1998, June 92 (2)). The Public's Conditional Response to Supreme Court Decisions. Retrieved from American Political Science Review:

Liptak, A. (2010, September 6). A Sign of the Court's Polarization: Choice of Clerks. Retrieved from The New York Times:

McGuire, K., & Stimson, J. (2004, November 66 (4)). The Least Dangerous Branch Revisted: New Evidence on Supreme Court Responsiveness to Public Preferences. Retrieved from The Journal of Politics:

Mishler, W., & Sheehan, R. (1993, March 87 (1)). The Supreme Court as a Countermajoritarian Institution. Retrieved from The American Political Science Review:

Nelson, W., et al. (2009, 62 6). The Liberal Tradition of the Supreme Court Clerkship: Its Rise, Fall and Reincarnation. Retrieved from

Tribe, L. (2003). Lawrence v. Texas: The Fundamental Right That Dare Not Speak Its Name. Havard Law Review, 117(6), 1893-1955.

Tushnet, M. (Ed.). (2008). Dissent: Great Opposing Opinions in Landmark Supreme Court Cases. New York: Beacon Press. [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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How to Cite "Supreme Court and Public Opinion" Thesis in a Bibliography:

APA Style

Supreme Court and Public Opinion.  (2012, May 19).  Retrieved April 5, 2020, from

MLA Format

"Supreme Court and Public Opinion."  19 May 2012.  Web.  5 April 2020. <>.

Chicago Style

"Supreme Court and Public Opinion."  May 19, 2012.  Accessed April 5, 2020.