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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.18) 1 Desegregation
Public Opinion and Constitutional Controversy

Michael Murakami

Oxford University Press

American public opinion on matters of race has been liberalizing dramatically since the 1940s. Many argue that this increasing tolerance was as much a cause of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, as a consequence. Yet, the fact that public support for the Supreme Court's ban on segregation in public schools did not steadily increase or sharply decline during the 1950s is telling. The Supreme Court is effective in rallying public opinion to its cause only if it garners widespread cooperation of the two other branches of federal government, local and state officials, and decision makers in the mass media. However, the Supreme Court is in a unique position to affect the nation's agenda: it cannot make politicians or publics agree, but it can try to make them pay attention.

Keywords:   public opinion, segregation, integration, tolerance, Supreme Court

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