Perceptions of procedural fairness influence the legitimacy of the law and because procedures are mutable, reforming them can buttress support for the rule of law. Yet legal authorities have recently faced a distinct challenge: accusations of impropriety based on their ascriptive characteristics (e.g., gender, ethnicity). We study the effect of these traits in the context of the U.S. legal system, focusing on the conditions under which citizens perceive female and minority judges as exhibiting impropriety and how this compares with perceptions of their white and male counterparts. We find that Americans use a judge's race and gender to make inferences about which groups the judge favors, whether she is inherently biased, and whether she should recuse. Notably, we find drastically different evaluations of female and Hispanic judges among the political right and left.
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For financial support, Yoshikuni Ono thanks the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (Grants-in-Aid for Scientific Research: 16H03564, 17K03523, 18H00813, 19H01449, 19H00584, and 20H00059) and t he Frontier Research Institute for Interdisciplinary Sciences at Tohoku University.
The data and materials required to verify the computational reproducibility of the results, procedures, and analyses in this article are available on the American Journal of Political Science Dataverse within the Harvard Dataverse Network, at: https://doi.org/10.7910/DVN/ZHOL6Y
This study is part of the project “Research on Political Behavior and Decision Making: Searching for Evidence-based Solutions to Political Challenges in the Economy and Industry” at the Research Institute of Economy, Trade and Industry (RIETI).
Ono, Yoshikuni and Zilis, Michael A., "Ascriptive Characteristics and Perceptions of Impropriety in the Rule of Law: Race, Gender, and Public Assessments of Whether Judges Can Be Impartial" (2021). Political Science Faculty Publications. 14.