The Situationist

Ideology, Psychology, and Free Speech

Posted by The Situationist Staff on May 7, 2014

Supreme_Court_US_2010

From Today’s New York Times, here is a brief excerpt from an article about a revealing new study, co-authored by Lee Epstein.

In cases raising First Amendment claims, a new study found, Justice Scalia voted to uphold the free speech rights of conservative speakers at more than triple the rate of liberal ones. In 161 cases from 1986, when he joined the court, to 2011, he voted in favor of conservative speakers 65 percent of the time and liberal ones 21 percent.

He is not alone. “While liberal justices are over all more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices,” the study found, “the votes of both liberal and conservative justices tend to reflect their preferences toward the ideological groupings of the speaker.”

Social science calls this kind of thing “in-group bias.” The impact of such bias on judicial behavior has not been explored in much detail, though earlier studies have found that female appeals court judges are more likely to vote for plaintiffs in sexual harassment and sex discrimination suits.

Lee Epstein, a political scientist and law professor who conducted the new study with two colleagues, said it showed the justices to be “opportunistic free speech advocates.”

Read the entire article here.

The role that ideology plays in law and legal decision making is the focus of the book, Ideology, Psychology, and Law, which contains numerous chapters by contributors to and friends of this blog including one co-authored by Lee Epstein.  Read more about Ideology, Psychology, and Law here.

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