The shepherding of local public opinion: The Supreme Court and Lamb's Chapel

Valerie J. Hoekstra, Jeffrey A. Segal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

73 Scopus citations


We argue that the standard methodology for assessing the impact of Supreme Court decisions on public opinion, which relies on national surveys to measure public attitudes before and after relevant Court decisions, fails, among other grounds, to account for the fact that the overwhelming majority of Court decisions speak to particular constituencies only. We assess the impact of the Supreme Court's decision in Lamb's Chapel v. Center Moriches on the geographic constituencies involved in the case. We interviewed a random sample of residents in the town of Center Moriches and in the surrounding county of Suffolk, New York, before and after the decision. Consistent with the elaboration likelihood model of persuasion (Petty and Cacioppo 1986), we find that high levels of information about the decision increases support for the Court's decision among those for whom the decision is relatively less salient.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1079-1102
Number of pages24
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science


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