Continuing respect for the U.S. Supreme Court

Jim Gibson sent me this paper. Here’s the abstract:

Conventional political science wisdom holds that contemporary American politics is characterized by deep and profound partisan and ideological divisions. Unanswered is the question of whether those divisions have spilled over into threats to the legitimacy of American political institutions, such as the United States Supreme Court. Since the Court is often intimately involved in making policy in many issue areas that divide Americans—including the contested 2000 presidential election—it is reasonable to hypothesize that loyalty toward the institution depends upon policy and/or ideological agreement and partisanship. Using data stretching from 1987 through 2005, the analysis reveals that Court support among the American people has not declined. Nor is it connected to partisan and ideological identifications. Instead, support is embedded within a larger set of relatively stable democratic values. Institutional legitimacy may not be obdurate, but it does not seem to be caught up in the divisiveness that characterizes so much of American politics — at least not at present.

My comments:

1. It’s interesting to see that the court’s support has stayed stable over this 18-year period, especially after Bush v. Gore. I’d be interested to see attitudes before 1987 as well. It’s not easy, though: Jim points out that “most time-series indicators measure short-term satisfaction with institutional outputs, not institutional legitimacy, and the correlates of the former are much different from the correlates of the latter.”

2. I’m confused about the material on pages 17-19. In particular, would the relative views of Dems and Reps be different before and after 2000? It says on page 18 that there are about 1000 cases, which suggests there is only one poll being studied here, but I can’t figure out which year is being used. If data from many years are pooled, I’d be interested in seeing how these coefficients and correlations vary over time (plotting using the secret weapon).

3. Given that African Americans have shifted a lot in their views, if Democrats as a whole have not shifted, what does this mean?

4. If there is a chance for revision, all numbers should be rounded off to the nearest percentage. The last digits of numbers like 65.4% have no meaning.