Plugging the pipe? Evaluating the (null) effects of leaks on Supreme Court legitimacy

Occasionally, information about the inner workings of the Supreme Court is leaked to the press by insiders—clerks, or even justices themselves. These leaks reliably stoke controversy among commentators and academics alike who pontificate on the negative effect leaks have on the Court’s institutional legitimacy. However, it is not immediately clear from existing theories whether populating the media environment with leaked information will affect public perceptions of the Court, let alone the direction of such effects. In this paper, we use an original survey combined with an original survey experiment to test the extent to which, if any, leaks influence legitimacy ascribed to the Supreme Court. Analysis shows a tightly-estimated null effect of leaks on public views on the Court.

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