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The Politics of Women's Presence on High Courts: Bias and the Conditional Nature of Cultivating Legitimacy

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 December 2021

Christopher Shortell
Affiliation:
Portland State University
Melody E. Valdini
Affiliation:
Portland State University

Abstract

While we know that women's presence in the legislature positively impacts how citizens view the institution, little is known about the impact of women's presence on the legitimacy of high courts. We argue that despite differences in public expectations for courts, women's presence on the high court does impact citizen perceptions of legitimacy. However, this effect is dependent on both the level and the type of bias held by citizens. That is, when a person feels hostile bias toward women, the bias disrupts the potential legitimacy that the court could gain. On the other hand, we argue that benevolent sexism does not trigger any change in how citizens view the high court in a democracy. Using evidence from an experiment, we find that the presence of women on the high court has a strong positive impact on citizen perceptions of court legitimacy, though not among those with hostile gender bias.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Women, Gender, and Politics Research Section of the American Political Science Association

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Footnotes

The authors are grateful to Jessica Trounstine for her help in the research design of this project, and to Kelsey Henderson for her patient guidance on navigating MTurk. In addition, we are thankful for the funding of research assistants and conference travel contributed by Dean Stephen Percy in the College of Urban and Public Affairs at Portland State University, as well as funding for Christopher Shortell from a Faculty Enhancement Grant from Portland State University.

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