Constitutional courts and citizens’ perceptions of judicial systems in Europe

  • Rosa M. Navarrete
  • Pablo Castillo-OrtizEmail author
Original Article


In recent decades, constitutional courts have become essential institutions in the political systems of many European countries. At the legal level, constitutional courts are designed as organs intended to protect and enforce the normative constitution. At the political level, they are also expected to play a role in the protection of democratic systems of government and human rights. However, the stability of a democracy does not only depend on efficient institutional designs, but also on acceptable levels of public support for democratic institutions. Using data from the European Social Survey, this article shows that constitutional courts have negative effects on public views of the court system in at least two dimensions: perceptions of judicial independence and perceptions of judicial fairness. These effects, however, decrease with the age of the democratic system. Given the core role that diffuse support for the judiciary plays in the stability of the rule of law in a country, our findings suggest that, paradoxically, constitutional courts might have detrimental effects to the very goal that justifies their existence: the protection of democratic systems of government.


Constitutional courts Constitutional review Judicial politics Trust in institutions 



We want to thank Graham Gee and Martin Gross for valuable comments on a previous version of this manuscript. All mistakes and omissions remain the sole responsibility of the authors.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Social ScienceUniversität MannheimMannheimGermany
  2. 2.The School of LawUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK

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