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Journal Articles

Gibson, James L., Miguel M. Pereira, & Jeffrey Ziegler. (2017). ”Updating Supreme Court Legitimacy: Testing the ’Rule, Learn, Update’ Model of Political Communication”. American Politics Research. 45(6), 980-1002.

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One of the more important innovations in the study of how citizens assess the U.S. Supreme Court is the ideological updating model, which assumes that citizens grant legitimacy to the institution according to the perceived distance between themselves and the Court on a unidimensional ideological (liberal–conservative) continuum. Under this model, citizens are also said to update this calculation with every new salient Supreme Court decision. The model’s requirements, however, do not seem to square with the long-established view that Americans are largely innocent of ideology. Here, we conduct an audit of the model’s mechanisms using a series of empirical tests applied to a nationally representative sample. Our general conclusion is that the ideological updating model, especially when supplemented with the requirement that citizens must become aware of Court decisions, simply does not square with the realities of American politics. Students of Supreme Court legitimacy may therefore want to search for other theories of legitimacy updating.


  title={Updating Supreme Court Legitimacy: Testing the “Rule, Learn, Update” Model of Political Communication},
  author={Gibson, James L. and Pereira, Miguel M. and Ziegler, Jeffrey},
  journal={American Politics Research},

Working Papers

Ziegler, Jeffrey. ”Responsiveness and Unelected Leaders: Lessons from the Catholic Church”.


Are leaders responsive to their members' preferences over time, even when formal accountability mechanisms such as elections are weak or absent? Unelected leaders, especially religious leaders, typically influence their supporters' preferences, yet I suggest they should also have strong incentives to be responsive because they rely on dedicated, core members for legitimacy, volunteerism, and financial support. I test this argument by first analyzing over 10,000 papal messages to confirm the papacy is responsive to Catholic public opinion. I then conduct survey experiments using nationally representative samples of Catholics in Brazil and Mexico to show that members increase their organizational trust and participation as a function of their existing organizational commitment, and the anticipated cost of support. The evidence suggests that leaders have incentives to be responsive besides elections, although there may be limits to the benefits that members provide in return.

Ziegler, Jeffrey. ”The Expansion of the Catholic Church: Serving Members, Eliminating Competition, or Lobbying Allies?”.


Religious organizations that pursue a political agenda must coordinate the demands of existing members, and compete against rival religious groups for supporters and political influence. There is not, however, a precise explanation for how and when religious organizations globally expand given these competing objectives. I theorize that religious organizations, as interest or non-governmental organizations, do protect against competing denominations and service current followers, but they primarily expand their organizational capacity to target legislators when a government is a political ally. I test this prediction using original data of over 2,300 changes within the Catholic Church’s diocese hierarchy from 1900 to 2010. The results show that the Church is more likely to invest resources in a country when the government is a political ally. Importantly, the Church does not divert existing resources from members, or when there are greater numbers of Pentecostal and Evangelical supporters. The findings help illustrate the constraints and priorities that religious groups face in expanding their international political reach.

Ziegler, Jeffrey. ”Pope or Politician? Religious Imagery and Member Support Within the Catholic Church”.

Ziegler, Jeffrey & David Carlson. ”The Role of Credible Elections and Indirect Expropriation in Explaining International Investment Treaty Violations”.

Bechtel, Michael M. & Jeffrey Ziegler. ”How Political Is International Financial Assistance?”.

Gabel, Matthew & Jeffrey Ziegler. ”Automating the Complaw Database: Exploring the Limits and Possibilities of Replacing Human Coders”.

Grants and Awards

  • Graduate Research Seed Grant, Washington University in St. Louis, Department of Political Science (2018)

  • Dissertation Support, Danforth Center on Religion and Politics (2018)

  • Lois Roth Endowment, Fulbright Project Support (2014)

  • Fulbright Research Grant, Umeå University (2013-2014; Adviser: Torbjörn Bergman)

  • Gudrun Gytel Fund Scholarship (2011)

  • Larsen Family Scholarship (2011)

  • ScanDesign Scholarship (2011)