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Beyond the myth of legality? Framing effects and public reactions to high court decisions in Europe

Magalhães, Pedro C., Skiple, Jon K., Pereira, Miguel M., Arnesen, Sveinung and Bentsen, Henrik L. (2023) Beyond the myth of legality? Framing effects and public reactions to high court decisions in Europe. Comparative Political Studies, 56 (10). 1537 - 1566. ISSN 0010-4140

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Identification Number: 10.1177/00104140231152769


How do people respond to different decision-making processes in high courts? One long-standing view suggests that citizens expect courts to be neutral arbiters of legal controversies. Although the relevance of such “myth of legality” has been challenged, we know very little about the relationship between the portrayals of the motives of courts and justices and public attitudes in civil law countries. We explore this question in a pair of experiments in Norway and Portugal where we isolate the effects of different institutional frames from outcome favorability. We find that while partisan frames are detrimental to fairness perceptions and acceptance of decisions, depictions of judicial decision-making that emphasize policy goals do not adversely affect citizens’ responses in comparison with legalistic frames. The results suggest that, even in civil law systems, preserving the myth of legality may not be a necessary condition to elicit public support for judicial decisions.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2023 The Author(s)
Divisions: European Institute
Subjects: K Law > K Law (General)
B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BF Psychology
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 14 Feb 2023 16:33
Last Modified: 23 Jun 2024 17:30

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