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Open Access Publications from the University of California

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 hasobserved judges craft both gender motivated and other self interested decisions. Rather thanconducting an examination into possible gender motivated decision making; an experimentalinvestigation is employed to examine the acceptance rates of perceived gender motivateddecisions 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 regardingwomen’s rights in order to measure differences in acceptance rates. It is theorized that arelationship exists between a perceived gender motivated decision and a decline in acceptancerates of specific decision; or in other words when it appears a judge is acting in a self interestedmanner through this will yield lower rates of publics’ acceptance of the Court’s decision. Theprevious theory is advanced further to suggest as to when a judge issues an opinion or behaves ina way that goes against general expectations the actions are perceived by the public to be morecredible. This is demonstrated in the study below which finds when a female Supreme CourtJustice issues a majority opinion that is against women’s rights the decision enjoys a statisticallysignificant greater rate of acceptance; than a male justice issuing the same decision. This findingparallels with previous research across multiple disciplines of political science, psychology, andcommunications on credibility of a communicator (Supreme Court Justice) and the use of a cue(gender).

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