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Black and BlueHow African Americans Judge the U.S. Legal System$
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James L. Gibson and Michael Nelson

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780190865214

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780190865214.001.0001

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Change in the Legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court

Change in the Legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court

(p.129) 6 Change in the Legitimacy of the U.S. Supreme Court
Black and Blue

James L. Gibson

Michael J. Nelson

Oxford University Press

Positivity Theory suggests that increased exposure to the symbols of judicial authority stimulates positive associations within individuals that help courts build and maintain their legitimacy. Indeed, recent research suggests that exposure to the symbols of judicial authority negates the linkage between decisional disappointment and changes in judgments of institutional legitimacy. However, this research has been conducted on predominantly white samples and fails to account for the possibility that individuals’ group attachments and experiences with legal authorities might affect the extent to which they update their diffuse support for a court in response to a displeasing decision. We therefore examine changes in legitimacy, relying on a nationally-representative survey experiment. The results indicate that respondents are particularly likely to withdraw support from the Court under the condition of seeing the symbols of judicial authority if they have negative personal experiences with the police, and if they are both particularly disappointed in the decision and do not have any strong group attachments.

Keywords:   legitimacy, diffuse support, Positivity Theory, U.S. Supreme Court, symbols, linked fate, Social Identity Theory, group attachment, vicarious experience, information processing

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