Politics From the Bench?: Ideology and Strategic Voting in the U.S. Supreme Court

62 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2018 Last revised: 4 Sep 2019

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: September 2019


In the United States, Supreme Court justices often vote along ideological lines. Why this is the case remains incompletely understood. To learn more about the nature of decision-making in the Court, we differentiate between votes that were pivotal and those that were not. When a justice's own vote decides the outcome of a case, her ideology plays an even greater role in determining her choice than usual. We develop and empirically assess a model of voting in which justices trade off expressive and instrumental concerns. The evidence suggests that justices behave strategically, at least in part, to affect precedent. We also consider, but ultimately dismiss, a class of alternative explanations related to legalistic uncertainty.

Keywords: Judicial Politics, Supreme Court, Strategic Voting, Ideology

JEL Classification: D72, K00, K40

Suggested Citation

Clark, Tom and Montagnes, Pablo and Spenkuch, Jörg L., Politics From the Bench?: Ideology and Strategic Voting in the U.S. Supreme Court (September 2019). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3250082 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3250082

Tom Clark

Emory University ( email )

201 Dowman Drive
Atlanta, GA 30322
United States

Pablo Montagnes

University of Chicago - Harris School of Public Policy ( email )

1155 East 60th Street
Chicago, IL 60637
United States

Jörg L. Spenkuch (Contact Author)

Northwestern University - Department of Managerial Economics and Decision Sciences (MEDS) ( email )

2001 Sheridan Road
Evanston, IL 60208
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jspenkuch.github.io

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