Free Speech is Great if I Agree With You
A new study looks at Supreme Court votes in free speech cases from 1953 to 2011 to see if and how the political beliefs of justices affects their rule on constitutional law (PDF).
The verdict, as summarized by The New York Times, is that justices tend to vote in favor of free speech if the case reflects their ideological preferences.
While the study goes back to the fifties, take a look at the current court:
In cases raising First Amendment claims, a new study found, Justice Scalia voted to uphold the free speech rights of conservative speakers at more than triple the rate of liberal ones. In 161 cases from 1986, when he joined the court, to 2011, he voted in favor of conservative speakers 65 percent of the time and liberal ones 21 percent.
He is not alone. “While liberal justices are over all more supportive of free speech claims than conservative justices,” the study found, “the votes of both liberal and conservative justices tend to reflect their preferences toward the ideological groupings of the speaker.”
For those with a social science bent, what’s at play here is “in group bias.”
For idealists among the rest of us we paraphrase former justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who wrote, free speech isn’t to protect that which we agree with but to provide “freedom for the thought that we hate.”
That he wrote this in a dissenting opinion isn’t lost on us.
Related: Supreme Court Allows Prays at Town Meetings.
Image: in Supreme Court rulings, justices are more likely to vote in favor of those whose ideology they share, via The New York Times. Select to embiggen.