Public Opinion and the Rehnquist Court

By Thomas R. Marshall

Subjects: Political Science
Paperback : 9780791473481, 282 pages, January 2009
Hardcover : 9780791473474, 282 pages, February 2008

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Table of contents

List of Figures
List of Tables

1. Public Opinion and Supreme Court Policy-Making
A Representative Court?
How Pollsters View the Court
How the Justices View Public Opinion
Judicial Theories of Public Opinion
Linking Public Opinion and the Rehnquist Court

2. Public Opinion and the Rehnquist Court
Studying Representation
Data Results
The State of Public Opinion Model
The Federal Policy Model
The State/Local Policy Model
Alternative Linkages

3. Judicial Norms, Representation, and Public Opinion
Ideology and Representation
Poll Correction and the Lower Courts
Judicial Activism, Judicial Restraint, and Representation
Caseload and Representation

4. Interest Groups, Representation,  and Public Opinion
Interest Group Litigation and Public Opinion
Public Opinion and Litigant Success Rates

5. Justices and Representation
The Political Parties and Ideology Model
The Political Socialization Model
The Appointments Process Model
The Judicial Roles Model
The Tenure and Aging Model
The Realignment Model 
Combining the Predictors

6. Symbolic Representation and the Court
The Politics of Symbolic Representation
Symbolic Representation on the Rehnquist Court

7. Did the Rehnquist Court Influence  Public Opinion?
Public Impressions of the Court
The Short-Term Manipulation Model
The Long-Term Manipulation Model

8. Public Opinion and the Test of Time
Surviving the Test of Time
Data Analysis

9. An Empirical Model of Representation
The Majoritarian Court
Reconsidering the Evidence
An Empirical Linkage Model

Appendix One: Poll-to-Ruling Matches
Appendix Two: List of Cases


Examines the complex relationship between American public opinion and the U. S. Supreme Court.


Public Opinion and the Rehnquist Court offers the most thorough evidence yet in favor of the U. S. Supreme Court representing public opinion. Thomas R. Marshall analyzes more than two thousand nationwide public opinion polls during the Rehnquist Court era and argues that a clear majority of Supreme Court decisions agree with public opinion. He explains that the Court represents American attitudes when public opinion is well informed on a dispute and when the U. S. Solicitor General takes a position agreeing with poll majorities. He also finds that certain justices best represent public opinion and that the Court uses its review powers over the state and federal courts to bring judicial decision making back in line with public opinion. Finally, Marshall observes that unpopular Supreme Court decisions simply do not endure as long as do popular decisions.

Thomas R. Marshall is Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas at Arlington. He is the author of Presidential Nominations in a Reform Age and Public Opinion and the Supreme Court.


"…a data-rich piece of research … one cannot help but admire Marshall's efforts to assemble rigorous and systematic data on such an important question of law and politics. " — Public Opinion Quarterly

"This is a book well worth reading by anyone interested in the linkage between public opinion and political institutions. Thomas Marshall has assiduously mined the archive of public opinion data. The strength of his analysis is in the breadth of what he undertakes. " — Judicature

"The book is full of interesting facts about the Court … [and] would be a welcome addition to any undergraduate political science course on public opinion, the judicial process, or a specialized course examining linkages between institutions and the public. " — Law and Politics Book Review

"…Marshall concludes that the Rehnquist Court, like its recent predecessors, was a majoritarian institution. Marshall examines an exhaustive list of variables to account for this alignment. " — CHOICE

"This is an excellent, well-written, and important book. Not only is it comprehensive in its examination of opinions rendered by the Supreme Court, but it is also comprehensive with respect to the relevant literature produced by Supreme Court scholars and with a clear understanding of said literature. " — Charles D. Hadley, coauthor of Women's PACs: Abortion and Elections

"Marshall constructs a well-developed set of models, which are effectively used for organizing previous studies and as the framework for his own research. This is an important addition to the fields of 'law and courts' and public opinion. " — Stephen L. Wasby, author of The Supreme Court in the Federal Judicial System