Benjamin G. Engst, Thomas Gschwend
Attitudes on Judicial Independence: A Discrete Choice Experiment in Four EU Member States

10th Annual Conference of the European Political Science Association, (virtual conference), 18. bis 20. Juni 2020

To what extent are voters willing to sacrifice democratic principles of an indepen- dent judiciary in favor of supporting a preferred government? Democratic values are under pressure nowadays. The playbook of democratic backsliding often shows judicial reform aimed at limiting the judicial independence. We distinguish principled from partisan-based democratic attitudes. Citizens with principled democratic attitudes should not accept undemocratic reforms while citizens whose democratic attitudes are partisan-based might support such reform proposals if the team they are cheering for is proposing it. In contrast to previous research that relies on correlational analysis we disentangle this trade-off using a discrete-choice experiment in France and Germany as established democracies and Hungary and Poland as backsliding democracies. This design allows us to isolate the causal effect for each actor proposing such reform, the content of each reform and the court’s reaction on these reforms on a respondent’s willingness to oppose threats to judicial independence. We find generally evidence that citizens reject threats to judicial independence and most of the time even when such undemocratic reforms are proposed by the own team.