Measuring policy content on the U.S. Supreme court


Journal Article

Political scientists have developed increasingly sophisticated understandings of the influences on Supreme Court decision making. Yet, much less attention has been paid to empirical measures of the Court's ideological output. We develop a theory of the interactions between rational litigants, lower court judges, and Supreme Court justices. We argue that the most common measure of the Supreme Court's ideological outputwhether the Court's decision is liberal or conservativesuffers from systematic bias. We trace this bias empirically and explain the undesirable consequences it has for empirical analyses of judicial behavior. Specifically, we show that, although the Court's preferences are positively correlated with the ideological direction of the justices decision to reverse a lower court, the attitudes of the justices are negatively relatedand significantly soto the ideological direction of outcomes that affirm lower court decisions. We also offer a solution that allows scholars to work around this affirmance bias. © 2009 Copyright Southern Political Science Association.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • McGuire, KT; Vanberg, G; Smith, CE; Caldeira, GA

Published Date

  • October 1, 2009

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 71 / 4

Start / End Page

  • 1305 - 1321

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1468-2508

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0022-3816

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1017/S0022381609990107

Citation Source

  • Scopus