Does Money Buy Voters? Campaign Spending and Citizen Participation in State Supreme Court Elections
Melinda Gann Hall
Michigan State University - Department of Political Science; Department of Political Science
Chris W. Bonneau
University of Pittsburgh - Department of Political Science
February 1, 2007
In this paper, we investigate one highly significant aspect of the role of money in judicial elections: whether campaign spending increases citizen participation in the recruitment and retention of judges. Specifically, by using a two-stage modeling strategy that allows us to separate the mobilizing effects of challengers from the effects of money, we assess systematically whether relatively expensive campaigns improve the chances that citizens will vote in the 260 supreme court elections held from 1990 through 2004 in eighteen states using partisan or nonpartisan elections to staff the high court bench. We find that increased spending significantly improves citizen participation in these races. Whether measured as the overall spending in each election or in per capita terms, greater spending facilitates voting. We conclude, contrary to conventional wisdom about the deleterious effects of money in judicial elections, that campaign spending should serve as a means to enhance perceptions of courts by involving greater proportions of voters in the electoral process - perhaps the most powerful legitimacy conferring institution in democracy. Rather than alienating voters, expensive campaigns should strengthen the critical linkage between citizens and the bench by giving voters greater ownership in the outcomes of these races.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 35
Keywords: state politics, elections and campaigns, judicial elections, judicial politics
Date posted: August 26, 2007
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