Compensation and Compliance: Sources of Public Acceptance of the U.K. Supreme Court's Brexit Decision

Ezequiel González Ocantos, Associate Professor in the Qualitative Study of Comparative Political Institutions, has written a new article with Dr Elias Dinas on the UK public's reaction to Supreme Court Brexit decisions. 


The perception that a high court's decision is binding and final is a crucial prerequisite for its ability to settle political conflicts. Under what conditions are citizens more likely to accept controversial judicial rulings? Mass acceptance is determined, in part, by how rulings are framed during public debate. This article takes a broad view of the strategies and actors that influence the discursive environment surrounding judgments, calling attention to hitherto unexamined determinants of mass acceptance. We theorize that third parties can boost acceptance by pledging compliance, and that courts can moderate opposition by compensating losers. It also looks at how populist attacks on judiciaries, common in contemporary democracies, affect acceptance. Drs González Ocantos and Dinas test these propositions using a survey experiment conducted in the aftermath of the UK Supreme Court's Brexit decision, the most salient judgment handed down by this court to date. The article moves the literature on courts and public opinion beyond the United States, and presents evidence backing largely untested assumptions at the heart of models of judicial behavior regarding the benefits of crafting rulings with an eye on the preferences of key audiences.

Dr Ezequiel González Ocantos is Associate Professor in the Qualitative Study of Comparative Political Institutions; Professorial Fellow, Nuffield College