Mavericks, Moderates, or Drifters? Supreme Court Voting Alignments, 1838-2009
46 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2011 Last revised: 28 Feb 2012
Date Written: March 21, 2011
We introduce a new data set recording the vote of every Justice in 18,812 Supreme Court cases decided between 1838 and 1949. When combined with existing data sets, our new data allow us to examine votes in all cases through 2009. We use this data to address previously unanswerable questions about the president's ability to appoint Supreme Court Justices of similar ideology. Surprisingly, history shows that the president’s odds of appointing a Justice who sides with appointees of his party have been no better than a coin flip. We find no evidence that divided government at the time of nomination increased the percentage of appointees who voted across party lines. These findings cast doubt on the hypothesis that appointments bring the Court in line with majoritarian views. Indeed, many failed appointments occurred when a majority of the Senate and the president were of the same party. These mavericks are not outliers, but part of a larger pattern of appointees whose votes departed or drifted away from executive expectations at remarkable frequency throughout our nation's history.
Keywords: Empirical, Supreme Court, Appointments, Divided Government, Federal Courts
JEL Classification: K30, K40, K41
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation