Assessing Preference Change on the Us Supreme Court

Posted: 23 Jun 2008

See all articles by Andrew D. Martin

Andrew D. Martin

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - College of Literature, Science & the Arts

Kevin M. Quinn

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science

Date Written: June 2007

Abstract

The foundation upon which accounts of policy-motivated behavior of Supreme Court justices are built consists of assumptions about the policy preferences of the justices. To date, most scholars have assumed that the policy positions of Supreme Court justices remain consistent throughout the course of their careers and most measures of judicial ideology-such as Segal and Cover scores-are time invariant. On its face, this assumption is reasonable; Supreme Court justices serve with life tenure and are typically appointed after serving in other political or judicial roles. However, it is also possible that the worldviews, and thus the policy positions, of justices evolve through the course of their careers. In this article we use a Bayesian dynamic ideal point model to investigate preference change on the US Supreme Court. The model allows for justices' ideal points to change over time in a smooth fashion. We focus our attention on the 16 justices who served for 10 or more terms and completed their service between the 1937 and 2003 terms. The results are striking-14 of these 16 justices exhibit significant preference change. This has profound implications for the use of time-invariant preference measures in applied work.

Suggested Citation

Martin, Andrew D. and Quinn, Kevin M., Assessing Preference Change on the Us Supreme Court (June 2007). The Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, Vol. 23, Issue 2, pp. 365-385, 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1150033 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/jleo/ewm028

Andrew D. Martin (Contact Author)

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - College of Literature, Science & the Arts ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI
United States

HOME PAGE: http://sites.lsa.umich.edu/admart

Kevin M. Quinn

University of Michigan at Ann Arbor - Department of Political Science ( email )

Ann Arbor, MI 48109
United States

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