Exploring the Role of Constitutional Considerations, Public Support and Personal Preferences in Citizen Assessments of Proposed Congressional Action on Immigration and Gun Control

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Principal investigator:

Eileen Braman

Indiana University

Email: ebraman@indiana.edu

Homepage: https://polisci.indiana.edu/about/faculty/braman-eileen.html

Sample size: 801

Field period: 06/24/2016-09/16/2016

A hypothetical article raising the question of national versus state authority varies the (1) issue context (gun control vs. immigration reform), (2) expert assessment of constitutional authority, and (3) level of public support for proposed action (15 vs. 85%). Measures of participants’ issue preferences and feelings about the appropriate distribution of power in our federal system are also included in the analysis. In both administrations, citizens’ policy views strongly influence assessments of the appropriateness of federal congressional action, but constitutional considerations and feelings about federalism are also important. These findings are compared to results of similar studies involving citizen assessments of the action of other branches of government including court outputs and unilateral executive authority.
  1. 1. Rules will influence assessments of legitimacy
  2. 2. Popular support will influence assessments
  3. 3. Participants policy views will influence assessments
  4. 4. View of appropriate national authority will influence assessments
  5. 5. Rules will constrain the role of political factors
Experimental Manipulations
  1. 1. issue (gun control vs immigration)
  2. 2. Constitutional consensus on legislative authority (clear authority, divided, clearly no authority)
  3. 3. public support for measures (15% vs. 85%)
  1. 1. desirability of action
  2. 2. appropriateness of action
  3. 3. assessment of constitutional experts
Summary of Results
Rules and policy views both influenced legitimacy assessments. Public opinion was marginally significant in immigration scenario. Rules did not constrain influence of political factors in assessments
Additional Information
View of constitutional expertise also influenced by demographics as well as consistency of views with opinion experts expressed

Braman, Eileen. “Thinking About Government Authority: Constitutional Considerations and Political Context in Citizens’ Assessments of Judicial, Legislative, and Executive Action,” American Journal of Political Science 65(2): 489-404, 2021.

Braman, Eileen “Assessing the Credibility of Constitutional Experts.” Revise and Resubmit. Journal of Law and Courts.

Braman, Eileen. “Assessing the Credibility of Constitutional Experts.” Presented at the Annual Conference of the Southern Political Science Association. January 6-9, 2021.

Rules and Political Context in Citizens’ Assessments of Judicial, Legislative, and Executive Action.” Presented at the Annual Conference of the Midwest Political Science Association in Chicago. April 4-7, 2019.