Are Supreme Court Nominations a Move-the-Median Game?

86 Pages Posted: 17 Apr 2015 Last revised: 26 Oct 2016

See all articles by Charles M. Cameron

Charles M. Cameron

Princeton University - Department of Political Science; Princeton University - Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

Jonathan P. Kastellec

Princeton University - Department of Political Science

Date Written: October 24, 2016

Abstract

We conduct a theoretical and empirical re-evaluation of move-the-median (MTM) models of Supreme Court nominations. We develop a generalized MTM framework that encompasses the major models in the literature, which allow us to generate robust predictions that hold across all model variants. We then use advances in measurement and scaling to place presidents, senators, justices and nominees on the same scale, allowing us to conduct direct tests of the theory's predictions. We find weak support for MTM-theory. In particular, we find that senators have been much more accommodating of the president's nominees than MTM-theory would suggest -- as a result, many nominees have been confirmed when the theory predicted they should have been rejected. These errors have often been consequential, as presidents have selected many nominees who are much more extreme than MTM-theory would predict. These results raise serious questions about the adequacy of MTM-theory for explaining Supreme Court confirmation politics.

Suggested Citation

Cameron, Charles M. and Kastellec, Jonathan P., Are Supreme Court Nominations a Move-the-Median Game? (October 24, 2016). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2594947 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2594947

Charles M. Cameron

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Corwin Hall
Princeton, NJ 08544-1013
United States

Princeton University - Princeton School of Public and International Affairs

Princeton University
Princeton, NJ 08544-1021
United States

Jonathan P. Kastellec (Contact Author)

Princeton University - Department of Political Science ( email )

Fisher Hall
Department of Politics
Princeton, NJ 08544-1012
United States

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