Behind the Mask of Method: Political Orientation and Constitutional Interpretive Preferences

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Debate about how to best interpret the Constitution often revolves around interpretive methodologies (e.g., originalism or expansive interpretation). This article examines whether individuals' political orientation influences the methodologies they prefer to use to interpret the Constitution. We study this proposed relationship using a survey of federal law clerks and an experimental study with college students. The survey results indicate that, compared to conservatives, liberal clerks prefer the current meaning or the most plausible appealing meaning of the constitutional text, while conservatives prefer the original meaning of the text. Liberal clerks also prefer to interpret the Constitution much more expansively. The second study manipulates the policy implications of expansive interpretation and finds this manipulation differentially affects liberals' and conservatives' expansiveness preferences.

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