English Title
On the Influence of Public Opinion on decisions of the Federal Constitutional Court.
An Analysis of Abstract Judicial Reviews and Federal State Disputes 1974 – 2010

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Is the Federal Constitutional Court, as often depicted, a mostly independent actor in the German political system? The present analysis shows for the first time to what extent public opinion has a systematic influence on the decisions of the Constitutional Court. Our evidence is based on the analysis of abstract judicial reviews and federal state disputes from 1974 to 2010. We show that the Federal Constitutional Court is the more likely to rule in favor of the opposition, the stronger the public supports the specific substantive position of the opposition. Two mechanisms that could bring about this correlation are finally discussed. While the court does not blindly follow public opinion it will nevertheless consider the acceptance of its decisions as an important source of legitimacy.

Together with
Sebastian Sternberg
Thomas Gschwend
Caroline E. Wittig

Replication Data

Discussion of this article by Martin Rath. 2016. “Vox populi und das Verfassungsgericht: Empirie zur Beeinflussbarkeit von BVerfG-Richtern.” Legal Tribune Online.