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Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy$
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Nathaniel Persily, Jack Citrin, and Patrick J. Egan

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780195329414

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195329414.001.0001

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(p.209) 9 Federalism
Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy

Megan Mullin

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines public attitudes about the allocation of powers within the American federalist system. Previous research has shown that public perceptions of the responsibilities and performance of specific levels of government are weakly held and often inconsistent. To the extent that people have an opinion about federalism, the literature suggests that it influenced by persistent attitudes about race and political trust. This analysis focuses on beliefs about the strength of the federal government in order to disentangle the influence of these long-term, generalized attitudes from more immediate responses to political institutions. In sum, Americans' perceptions of federal power are largely determined by their orientation toward government itself. Short-term assessments of political leaders also help to shape opinion about the scope of federal authority, and assessments of the Supreme Court have as much influence as opinion about the president and Congress.

Keywords:   federalism, Supreme Court, Congress, government performance, trust

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