The Constitution as an Institution: Experimental Evidence

For many citizens around the world, their national constitution is more than just a set of legal rules: it is a venerated institution. The constitution’s venerated status may ensure that its provisions will be upheld.
This straightforward claim is central to modern constitutional theory; there just is not much direct evidence that it is true. We conducted a series of survey experiments in the first weeks of the COVID-19 pandemic to nationally representative samples in the U.S., Israel, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China. At this uncertain time, we asked respondents if they supported nine potential liberty-restricting COVID-19 policy responses. We then randomly told some respondents that these policies were unconstitutional.
We find that a large majority of respondents supported all nine policies. But being prompted to consider the constitution reduced support for only a few of the most extreme policies in just three countries.