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Agenda Control, the Median Justice, and the Majority Opinion on the U.S. Supreme Court

American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 51, pp. 891-906, October 2007

43 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2007  

Chris W. Bonneau

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Political Science

Thomas H. Hammond

Michigan State University - Department of Political Science

Forrest Maltzman

George Washington University

Paul J. Wahlbeck

George Washington University

Abstract

Some scholars argue that the author of the majority opinion exercises the most influence over the Court's opinion-writing process, and so can determine what becomes Court policy, at least within the limits of what some Court majority finds acceptable. Other students of the Court have suggested that the Court's median justice effectively dictates the content of the majority opinion: whatever policy the median justice most wants, she can get. We test these competing models with data on Supreme Court decision-making during the Burger Court (1969-1986). While we find substantial evidence for both models, the agenda control model gains greater support. This suggests that opinions on the Court on each case are driven, in general, by the interaction of three key variables: the policy preferences of the majority opinion author, the policy preferences of the median justice, and the location of the legal status quo.

Keywords: U.S. Supreme Court, Agenda Control

Suggested Citation

Bonneau, Chris W. and Hammond, Thomas H. and Maltzman, Forrest and Wahlbeck, Paul J., Agenda Control, the Median Justice, and the Majority Opinion on the U.S. Supreme Court. American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 51, pp. 891-906, October 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1012679

Chris W. Bonneau (Contact Author)

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Political Science ( email )

4600 Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

HOME PAGE: http://www.pitt.edu/~cwb7

Thomas H. Hammond

Michigan State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States
517-353-3282 (Phone)

Forrest Maltzman

George Washington University ( email )

Washington, DC 20052
United States
2029945821 (Phone)

HOME PAGE: http://home.gwu.edu/~forrest

Paul J. Wahlbeck

George Washington University ( email )

Department of Political Science
2115 G Street, N.W. Ste 440
Washington, DC 20052
United States
202-994-4872 (Phone)
202-994-7743 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://home.gwu.edu/~wahlbeck

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