Public Reaction to Supreme Court Decisions

By Valerie J. Hoekstra | Go to book overview

2
From the Marble Temple to Main Street
Placing the Cases in Political andLegal Context

The previous chapter introduced the research questions and the specific hypotheses investigated in this book along with the research strategy used to answer these questions and hypotheses. However, the four cases that serve as the quasi-experimental manipulations have been referred to simply as ordinary cases–ones that represent the bulk of the Court's day-to-day, term-to-term work. The hypotheses have also been presented to suggest that these cases are similar, or at least that the expectations are similar. While this is all true–these are ordinary cases, and the hypotheses should provide a general explanation of the impact of Court decisions on local public opinion–it should be equally clear that in the world of politics, nothing is ever quite equal. Each case is unique. These attributesthe issues, communities, and history–may ultimately affect the individual local communities in distinctive ways.

Although social science research strives to provide general theories and common explanations, it should also note the features of individual cases. These attributes, which often account for deviations from the predicted and general patterns, may be useful for modifying existing theories and developing new hypotheses. The following pages provide a detailed description of the individual cases, the background of the controversies, the communities where they evolved, and the actual Court decisions; this information should prove useful in anticipating and explaining the empirical results presented in the subsequent chapters.

Although this chapter focuses on the differences of these cases, there are also many things in common. In fact, these four cases are truly representative of the Court's docket. While they may not have national political

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