Polarizing the electoral connection: Partisan representation in Supreme Court confirmation politics

Jonathan P. Kastellec, Jeffrey R. Lax, Michael Malecki, Justin H. Phillips

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

49 Scopus citations


Do senators respond to the preferences of their state's median voter or only to the preferences of their copartisans? We develop a method for estimating state-level public opinion broken down by partisanship so that scholars can distinguish between general and partisan responsiveness. We use this to study responsiveness in the context of Senate confirmation votes on Supreme Court nominees. We find that senators weight their partisan base far more heavily when casting such roll call votes. Indeed, when their state median voter and party median voter disagree, senators strongly favor the latter. This has significant implications for the study of legislative responsiveness and the role of public opinion in shaping the members of the nation's highest court. The methodological approach we develop enables more nuanced analyses of public opinion and its effects, as well as more finely grained studies of legislative behavior and policy making.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)787-804
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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