The Dead Hand of the Past? Toward an Understanding of “Constitutional Veneration”

James R. Zink, Christopher T. Dawes

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Some observers argue that excessive veneration of the U.S. Constitution has blinded Americans to its flaws and made them reluctant to consider necessary reforms. In this paper, we test the assumptions that underlie these claims. We report the results of two survey experiments that examine the existence and effects of constitutional status quo bias at both the state and federal levels. Our findings support the notion that a proposed policy involving constitutional change imbues the constitutional status quo with normative value and, in turn, disposes individuals to resist the proposal. These results hold even at the state level. In addition to the institutional obstacles to constitutional amendment, therefore, we find evidence of another, psychological barrier to constitutional change that is based specifically in a sense of constitutional attachment.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)535-560
    Number of pages26
    JournalPolitical Behavior
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - Sep 1 2016


    • Ballot measures
    • Constitutional amendment
    • Constitutional change
    • Constitutional veneration
    • Constitutionalism
    • Existence bias
    • Status quo bias

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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