Can 'So Few So Quickly Change So Much?'

40 Pages Posted: 7 May 2010

Date Written: May 1, 2010


Many claim that George W. Bush sharply shifted the Court to the right and that it is exceptionally conservative after several decades of Republican appointments. My analysis provides only modest support. Nonetheless, it is clear that presidents can substantially affect Court ideology and decision making. Additional empirical testing shows that such influence depends on two factors: party unity between the White House and Senate and critical vacancies in which the president and departing justice are located on opposite sides of the Court median. Whether presidents enjoy unified government is determined by voters. Critical vacancies, on the other hand, occur more erratically and enable unfair and illegitimate advantage. The Republican Party is the most recent beneficiary, allowing it to dominate the Court without dominating national elections and enabling ideological continuity on the Court where there has been none electorally.

Keywords: Supreme Court, Ideology, Judicial Selection, Judicial Behavior, Presidency

Suggested Citation

Peretti, Terri, Can 'So Few So Quickly Change So Much?' (May 1, 2010). Available at SSRN: or

Terri Peretti (Contact Author)

Santa Clara University ( email )

500 El Camino Real
Santa Clara, CA 95053
United States
408-554-4919 (Phone)

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