Does Quality Matter? Challengers in State Supreme Court Elections

American Journal of Political Science Vol.50, pp. 20-33, January 2006

38 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2007

See all articles by Melinda Gann Hall

Melinda Gann Hall

Michigan State University - Department of Political Science

Chris W. Bonneau

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Political Science

Abstract

We assess whether quality challengers in state supreme court elections have a significant impact on the electoral successes of incumbents and whether the electorate seemingly makes candidate-based evaluations in these races. To address these questions, we examine 208 elections to the states' highest courts from 1990 through 2000 in the twenty-one states using partisan or nonpartisan elections to staff their benches. From a Heckman two-stage estimation procedure that takes into account factors influencing challengers' decisions to run as well as factors affecting the electorate's choices among candidates, we find that quality does matter. Experienced challengers significantly lessen the electoral security of incumbents, and the electorate appears to evaluate challengers' qualifications. These findings stand in stark relief to traditional notions that the electorate is incapable of responding to candidate stimuli beyond incumbency and that judicial elections inherently are an ineffective means for securing popular control over the bench.

Keywords: judicial selection, state supreme courts, elections

Suggested Citation

Hall, Melinda Gann and Bonneau, Chris W., Does Quality Matter? Challengers in State Supreme Court Elections. American Journal of Political Science Vol.50, pp. 20-33, January 2006. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1012707

Melinda Gann Hall (Contact Author)

Michigan State University - Department of Political Science ( email )

East Lansing, MI 48824
United States
517-432-2380 (Phone)

Chris W. Bonneau

University of Pittsburgh - Department of Political Science ( email )

4600 Posvar Hall
Pittsburgh, PA 15260
United States

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

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