Constitutional Design And the Perceived Legitimacy Of Court Systems: Evidence From Cross-National Time Series Data

12 September 2022, Version 1
This content is an early or alternative research output and has not been peer-reviewed at the time of posting.


Studies of judicial legitimacy have largely focused on courts in the United States. We lack a cross-national measure of judicial legitimacy and little is known about the sources of legitimacy of court systems in different countries. In this paper, I combine cross-national surveys, expert data and government statistics, to build a new cross-national measure of judicial legitimacy for over 120 countries from 1990 till 2020. Drawing on this new measure, I test whether the constitutional structure of the legal system can affect the future legitimacy of courts. I find no evidence that courts in countries that have constitutional provisions such as guarantees of judicial independence and fair trial are more likely to be perceived as legitimate by the public. Instead, I find that variation in judicial legitimacy can be explained by the levels of democracy, gross domestic product and de-facto independence of courts.


comparative law
cross-national time series


Comments are not moderated before they are posted, but they can be removed by the site moderators if they are found to be in contravention of our Commenting Policy [opens in a new tab] - please read this policy before you post. Comments should be used for scholarly discussion of the content in question. You can find more information about how to use the commenting feature here [opens in a new tab] .
This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy [opens in a new tab] and Terms of Service [opens in a new tab] apply.