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Gender Cues and Acceptance of Supreme Court Decisions: An Experimental Study on Source Cues


The issue of gender, politics, and the judiciary has widely been reviewed. Previous research has observed judges craft both gender motivated and other self interested decisions. Rather than conducting an examination into possible gender motivated decision making; an experimental investigation is employed to examine the acceptance rates of perceived gender motivated decisions by the Supreme Court. This study employs the use of cues (information shortcuts) presented to participants as to the gender of the justice in a Supreme Court decision regarding women’s rights in order to measure differences in acceptance rates. It is theorized that a relationship exists between a perceived gender motivated decision and a decline in acceptance rates of specific decision; or in other words when it appears a judge is acting in a self interested manner through this will yield lower rates of publics’ acceptance of the Court’s decision. The previous theory is advanced further to suggest as to when a judge issues an opinion or behaves in a way that goes against general expectations the actions are perceived by the public to be more credible. This is demonstrated in the study below which finds when a female Supreme Court Justice issues a majority opinion that is against women’s rights the decision enjoys a statistically significant greater rate of acceptance; than a male justice issuing the same decision. This finding parallels with previous research across multiple disciplines of political science, psychology, and communications on credibility of a communicator (Supreme Court Justice) and the use of a cue (gender).

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