Select Ongoing Projects

"Evaluating Supreme Court Legitimacy in an Era of Court Reform." 

"Sentencing Decisions and Judicial Legitimacy"

"Use of the Shadow Docket Does Not Affect Supreme Court Legitimacy" (Coauthored with Logan Strother)

Research Interests

My research lies primarily within American judicial politics and political psychology. Within judicial politics, I focus on public perceptions of courts and how these perceptions are influenced by factors from the information environment and at group and individual levels. I am especially interested in the measurement of Supreme Court legitimacy and how calls for Court reform relate to the Court's legitimacy. Additionally, I have several projects investigating free speech and have worked with Professor Thomas Keck on the Global Free Speech Repository assisting with data collection on free expression decisions issued by a variety of courts around the globe. In political psychology, I am interested in political behavior and psychology, with projects investigating the political partisanship of minority groups and the role of empathy in politics.

This page will show you my published work as well as a selection of current, ongoing projects.  Projects that are currently under review have been removed from this website during the review process, though they are still available on my C.V. and I would be happy to share them in an email.  Many of these projects are with incredible coauthors, and I would encourage you to check them out, too!  If you have any questions or concerns, please feel free to contact me.

Journal Articles

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. [Download the paper] [Replication materials]

We begin by extending our thanks to Krewson and Schroedel (2022) for their thoughtful engagement with our recent article (Carrington and French 2021) and to the editors of Social Science Quarterly for inviting this response. We use this opportunity to briefly highlight some points of disagreement between us but, mostly, to underscore what we believe to be a few key takeaways from our exchange. We do this in the hope that it emphasizes important areas and considerations for future research as scholars continue to investigate the precise effects of overtly partisan confirmation hearings, not only on the institutional sup- port for the Supreme Court itself but also for the legitimacy of the political system more broadly. We also hope that our dialog will influence scholars focusing on the contours and robustness of Supreme Court legitimacy elsewhere.

In what follows, we first discuss the relationship between confirmation hearings and institutional support for the Supreme Court. In doing so, we are particularly interested in whether linking such overt partisanship as might manifest within a hearing to the Court is likely to harm the Court’s support among the public. After briefly discussing potential mechanisms through which such hearings might influence broader attitudes toward the Court, we then turn our attention to the measurement of institutional support and the conceptualization of legitimacy in the field more broadly. We argue that scholars should deploy a variety of different measures of institutional support for the Court when trying to evaluate how robust its legitimacy is, as this is a primary reason our findings differ from those of Krewson and Schroedel (2020). The final section questions whether institutional support is even the most preferred indicator of legitimacy for the Court. Instead, we posit that other downstream consequences of legitimacy beyond institutional support (viz., obligation felt toward the institution) might better inform ongoing debates. [Download the paper]

Carrington, Nathan T., Thomas M. Keck, and Claire Sigsworth. Forthcoming. "Minority Rights, Governing Regimes, or Secular Elites: Who Benefits from the Protection of Religious and Anti-Religious Speech by the U.S. Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights?" Journal of Law and Courts.

This paper draws on new data regarding judicial decisions involving religious and anti-religious expression to map the political beneficiaries of judicial empowerment. In particular, the paper assesses the extent to which free expression decisions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court and European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) have favored claimants who are religious majorities, religious minorities, or secular elites. We find the U.S. doctrine relatively more libertarian and the ECtHR doctrine relatively more secularist, but that both bodies of case law extend regular and substantial rights protection to religious minorities. [Replication material]  [Download the paper] 

Increasingly salient in democratic politics are the divides among political parties regarding how they mobilize support between ethnic majorities and minorities. Why, then, do some members of a minority group support political parties seemingly antithetical to the interests of minority groups? We draw on group conflict theory to suggest that a partial explanation rests on perceived competition within minority groups. We test this theory by focusing on Republican Party support among Asian Americans in the United States. Based on two representative surveys and an original survey experiment of Asian Americans, we demonstrate that perceived competition among racial minority groups has a significant effect on the partisanship of Asian Americans, pushing them toward the Republican Party. Our findings provide critical implications on how race affects politics in democracies with increasingly diversified ethnic minority groups. [Download the paper]

Although legitimacy is crucial for courts’ efficacy, the sources identified as legitimizing domestic institutions are weaker or absent altogether for international institutions. We use an original, preregistered, nationally representative survey experiment to show that perceived home-state interest strongly affects the legitimacy afforded by UK citizens to the International Criminal Court. Importantly, this relationship is moderated by nationalism. Our findings have implications for state actors in a position to act vis-á-vis international courts, elites seeking to alter opinions towards courts, and courts themselves weighing possible institutional costs of acting against noncompliant states. [Download the paper]

Objective. We analyze the extent to which, if any, institutional support of the U.S. Supreme Court was influenced by the confirmation hearings of Brett Kavanaugh. Methods. We use a nationally representative survey supplemented with an online survey experiment using a hypothetical nominee both conducted shortly after the Senate confirmed Kavanaugh to the bench. Results. We find a strong relationship between negative feelings toward Kavanaugh and support for reform of the Court and confirm the direction of this relationship in the subsequent experiment. Conclusion. In contrast to Krewson and Schroedel (2020), our findings show that appointing a nominee who behaves in an overtly political manner during their confirmation hearings can significantly and meaningfully affect the institutional support afforded to the nation’s highest court.

[Replication Material] [Download the paper]

The belief that removing Confederate icons from public spaces violates free expression rights occasionally makes its way into the national discourse. Because rights-based claims represent ostensibly race-neutral justification for supporting Confederate symbols, we field an original, nationally representative survey to ascertain how pervasive this belief is among the general public, as well as what motivates it. We find that while this is a decidedly minority position, this view is strongly correlated with racial attitudes. Our findings highlight an important form of popular constitutionalism and have implications for policymakers and others who might view rights-based claims as inherently race neutral.

[Replication Material] [Download the paper]