U.S. Supreme Court Decision Making, Case Salience, and the Attitudinal Model

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Does case salience condition the role of ideological preferences in the decisions of U.S. Supreme Court justices? Does the attitudinal model of judicial behavior hold equally true in high salience and low salience cases? In this article, we analyze the role of case salience as a moderating influence on the explanatory capacity of the attitudinal model and test the strength of the model in high salience versus low salience contexts. Using civil rights votes during forty-seven Supreme Court terms, from 1953 through 2000, we find that the attitudinal model is sensitive to case salience and that justices rely significantly more on ideological preferences when deciding high salience cases than low salience ones. Our findings represent an important qualification to the attitudinal model.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1467-9930.2006.00228.x

Affiliations: 1: University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill 2: Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut

Publication date: July 1, 2006

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