Over at the New York Times Adam Liptak has just posted a news item entitled “In Justices’ Votes, Free Speech Often Means ‘Speech I Agree With.” Liptak’s story is based on a new empirical study entitled “Do Justices Defend the Speech They Hate? In-Group Bias, Opportunism, and the First Amendment.” The study was done by Professors Lee Epstein, Christopher M. Parker, & Jeffrey A. Segal. Here is the abstract:
In contrast to the traditional political science view, which holds that justices on the left are more supportive of free speech claims than justices on the right, and in contrast to a newer view among legal academics that justices on the right are more supportive of free speech claims than justices on the left, we use in-group bias theory to argue that Supreme Court justices are opportunistic supporters of free speech. That is, liberal (conservative) justices are supportive of free speech when the speaker is liberal (conservative).
A two-level hierarchical model of 4,519 votes in 516 cases confirms the in-group bias hypothesis. Although liberal justices are (overall) more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices, the votes of both liberal and conservative justices tend to reflect their preferences toward the speakers’ ideological grouping, and not solely an underlying taste for (or against) the First Amendment.
Below is a revealing chart summary of the study (sans the notes to the asterisks). Given the importance of this study, I plan to post more on this work after I have had more time to review it. Meanwhile, here is a link with additional information concerning the study.