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Monday
May032010

Cultural Cognition and the Supreme Court

The NYT has an interesting op ed by Charles M. Blow today.  What I find most interesting isn't the notion that opposition to abortion is waxing, but the way this appears to be tied to attitudes about the Supreme Court.  Here's a little clip from the side graph to the article.  

Basically public perception appears to have reversed course after Obama was elected, with more Americans thinking that the Court is more liberal now that Obama has been elected and Sotomayor appointed.  While there are some interesting theories about justices trending liberal over their tenures, I suspect that more obsessive SCOTUS watchers would, whether they are happy or upset by it, say that the Court has either maintained its ideological balance or trended conservative in recent years.  

Why does public perception data seems to trend the other way?  It's a small change, to be sure, but I wonder if perceptions about the Court aren't the product cultural cognition.  If so, then it would make sense that people who think of the country as a whole as becoming more liberal under Obama as thinking that the Court, too, has become more liberal.  As a cultural touchpoint, it would be disconcerting to people at both ends of the ideological spectrum to think that Obama has had no impact on the ideology of the Court or -- even more disconcerting for ideologues on both sides -- that the Court may trend conservative in his administration.  Just a theory for now -- we'd need more data to test it. 

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