Source Cues and Public Support for the Supreme Court

Publication Year


It is well known that the public often relies on cues or heuristics when forming opinions. At the same time, leading theories of opinion formation about the Supreme Court see such support as relatively fixed. This includes the extent to which the public views the Court as a legitimate institution, and thus one that should be granted high levels of judicial independence. Such theories would suggest that the public should not rely on source cues to inform their opinion about the level of independence the Court should hold. Using a series of survey experiments, we find that, conversely, partisan source cues significantly influence the public's support for judicial independence. These results have important implications for understanding the extent to which politicians can shape the public's overall support for judicial independence, as well as for assessing the degree to which the public views the Court as a "political" institution.