Public Opinion and Senate Confirmation of Supreme Court Nominees
39 Pages Posted: 22 Aug 2008 Last revised: 6 Aug 2009
Date Written: September 30, 2008
Does public opinion influence Supreme Court confirmation politics? We present the first direct evidence that state-level public opinion on whether a particular Supreme Court nominee should be confirmed affects the roll call votes of senators. Using national polls and applying recent advances in opinion estimation, we produce state-of-the-art estimates of public support for the confirmation of nine recent Supreme Court nominees in all 50 states. We find that greater home-state public support does significantly and strikingly increase the probability that a senator will vote to approve a nominee, even controlling for other predictors of roll call voting. These results establish a systematic and powerful link between constituency opinion and voting on Supreme Court nominees. We connect this finding to larger debates on the role of majoritarianism and representation.
Keywords: Supreme Court, responsiveness, nominations, public opinion, multilevel models, poststratification
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