Journal of Race, Gender, and Ethnicity




Understanding how the public views the Court and its rulings is crucial to assessing its institutional stability. However, as scholars note, “People are broadly supportive of the court and believe in its ‘legitimacy’—that is, that Supreme Court rulings should be respected and followed. But we don’t know that much about whether people actually agree with the case outcomes themselves.” In this article, we highlight empirical research investigating the factors that affect public agreement with Court decisions, highlighting recent developments from our work. At the onset, it is to note that the public generally hears about the Court’s decisions from media sources, not from the Court itself. Legal rulings are jam-packed with jurisprudential jargon and technical language that can be difficult for a lay audience to understand, which is why the general public is especially likely to rely on heuristics— cognitive shortcuts—as cues to help them decipher the ruling and assess whether they agree or disagree. So, what do we know about the heuristic cues that affect how the public receives Supreme Court rulings? And how is the Court faring after the controversial 2022 ruling in Dobbs and other recent politically volatile case decisions?