Public opinion and senate confirmation of Supreme Court nominees

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

71 Scopus citations


Does public opinion influence Supreme Court confirmation politics? We present the first direct evidence that state-level public opinion on whether a particular Supreme Court nominee should be confirmed affects the roll-call votes of senators. Using national polls and applying recent advances in opinion estimation, we produce state-of-the-art estimates of public support for the confirmation of 10 recent Supreme Court nominees in all 50 states. We find that greater home-state public support does significantly and strikingly increase the probability that a senator will vote to approve a nominee, even controlling for other predictors of roll-call voting. These results establish a systematic and powerful link between constituency opinion and voting on Supreme Court nominees. We connect this finding to larger debates on the role of majoritarianism and representation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)767-784
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Politics
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2010

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Sociology and Political Science


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