The United States Supreme Court is commonly thought to be an institution far removed from American public opinion. Yet nearly two-thirds of modern Supreme Court decisions reflect popular attitudes. Comparing over 500 Supreme Court decisions with timely nationwide poll questions since the mid-1930s, Thomas R. Marshall shows that most Supreme Court decisions agree with poll majorities or pluralities across time and across issues and often represent Americans’ views to the same degree as federal policymakers. This book looks beyond the litigants, economic interests, social movements, organized interest groups, or units of governments typically involved and instead examines how well the Court or the justices represent Americans’ views. Using nationwide public opinion, broken down by key subgroups, race, gender, education, and party affiliation, better describes exactly whom Supreme Court decisions and the justices’ individual votes best represent. His book will be of interest to scholars in political science, legal studies, history, and sociology.
Thomas R. Marshall is professor of political science at the University of Texas at Arlington.
Chapter 1: Viewing the Supreme Court as a Representative Institution
Chapter 2: Measuring the Supreme Court’s Representative Role
Chapter 3: The Norm of Representation
Chapter 4: The Justices’ Representative Role
Chapter 5: Representing Group Opinions
Chapter 6: Representation, Public Opinion, and the Modern Court
An extraordinary, one-of-a-kind analysis comparing hundreds of public opinion polls since the 1930s on issues before the Supreme Court to the Court’s decisions. The two are closer than might be expected, one of the findings in a comprehensive study of a critical linkage in democratic representation.
Marshall draws on hundreds of poll questions on specific decisions to demonstrate the modern Supreme Court represents American public opinion. The author traces this patten of representation primarily to a handful of ideologically flexible justices whose votes reflect American attitudes on specific issues. Compiling an invaluable wealth of data on the topic, this book is the most detailed polling-based account of the Supreme Court to date.
American Public Opinion and the Modern Supreme Court, 1930-2020: A Representative Institution is a must-read for those who study Supreme Court decision-making and the dynamic way that the Court interacts with public opinion. Armed with a voluminous data set, Marshall brings a contemporary perspective to the questions of whether, when, why, and how Supreme Court decisions reflect American attitudes, adding important insights to broader—and hotly contested—questions about the role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional democracy.