Confirmation Bias in the United States Supreme Court Judicial Database

The Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, Forthcoming

47 Pages Posted: 23 Apr 2009 Last revised: 6 Apr 2011

See all articles by Anna Harvey

Anna Harvey

New York University Department of Politics

Michael J. Woodruff

New York University Department of Politics

Date Written: March 16, 2011

Abstract

We ask whether the widely used direction of decision and direction of vote variables in the United States Supreme Court Judicial Database (USSCJD) are contaminated by confirmation bias, or have been affected by expectations about the likely effects of judicial preferences on case outcomes. Using a sample of generally comparable cases, we find evidence that the assignment of issue codes to these cases, codes that govern the subsequent assignment of “direction” to the Court's judgments, is conditional on both case disposition and the known preferences of the deciding court, in the direction predicted by the hypothesis of confirmation bias. We also find that the USSCJD direction variables overstate the effect of judicial preferences and understate the effect of congressional preferences on case outcomes, relative to objectively coded measures of the Court's judgments.

Keywords: judicial politics, Supreme Court, USSCJD, database, confirmation bias, measurement error, coding, issue, judgement, separation of powers, constraint, Congress

JEL Classification: K40, C81

Suggested Citation

Harvey, Anna and Woodruff, Michael J., Confirmation Bias in the United States Supreme Court Judicial Database (March 16, 2011). The Journal of Law, Economics, & Organization, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1393613

Anna Harvey (Contact Author)

New York University Department of Politics ( email )

19 W. 4th St.
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States

Michael J. Woodruff

New York University Department of Politics ( email )

19 West 4th Street
New York, NY 10012
United States

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