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American Review of Politics


We examine the criterion validity of using internet searches as a measure of public attention to United States Supreme Court (USSC) cases. First, we construct a measure of public attention to three cases by comparing relevant search terms in Google Trends to one top search terms of the year, then sum the measure week by week during the period of the research design. To test the measure’s criterion validity, we replicate Scott and Saunders’ (2006) models using their dataset (created by conducting phone interviews of a national sample using random digit dialing) that was designed to assess awareness of USSC decisions. We fnd that public attention as measured by Google Trends data is predictive of public awareness of USSC decisions for two of their three models. We conclude that using free, publicly available big data to measure public attention to USSC cases has criterion validity, and is a valuable tool for researchers studying public policy and process. Our fndings contribute to the body of research by demonstrating the validity of internet searches as a measure of public attention beyond its validity in elections and public policy, as Swearingen and Ripberger (2014) and Ripberger (2011) have done.