The Supreme Court recently has heard a number of high-profile cases that have drawn significant public attention. For example, recent Gallup polls have shown significant awareness of the Court’s decision on the National Federation of Independent Business v. Sebelius (2012) – commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act case – and, in fact, that people changed their views specifically toward Chief Justice John Roberts. Moreover, recent research has also dispelled the notion that the public is “woefully ignorant” about the Supreme Court (Gibson and Caldeira 2009). Instead, they find widespread knowledge about the Court. This finding is consistent with other work that found significantly high levels of knowledge in the local communities that generated the court cases (Hoekstra 2000, 2003) as well as knowledge of some national cases (Franklin and Kosaki 1995; Franklin, Kosaki, and Kritzer 1995). Obviously, but importantly, it is the mass media that contribute to this knowledge since the Court remains one of the most reclusive of political institutions. Therefore, understanding the nature of mass media coverage of the Supreme Court is essential to understanding how the public perceives the Court and the decisions it announces. As important as this link is, the overwhelming majority of research on the impact of Court decisions on public opinion and support for the institution itself overlooks the important role of the news media. In the research that does address some aspect of the media, they still get short shrift in one of two ways. First, much of the research is more interested in understanding the causal links between the Supreme Court and public opinion by comparisons with other institutions or across issues (Hoekstra 1995; Mondak 1991). The ways that media actually cover decisions is not usually central to the analysis. Second, although some research examines the quantity and quality of media coverage of the Supreme Court, it often fails to connect that to public opinion (e.g., Slotnick and Segal 1998; Davis 1987). The research we present in this chapter attempts to look directly at how media coverage influences how the public responds to Court opinions.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Social Sciences(all)