Politics, Polarization, and the U.S. Supreme Court

Book Section (Chapter)

In recent decades, the American political system has become increasingly polarized. Has this trend affected the U.S. Supreme Court? In this chapter, we approach the question empirically through seven decades’ worth of data on the nomination, confirmation, law clerk hires, and voting behaviors of the justices. We find strong evidence of increased polarization in the perceived ideology of nominees and in the Senate’s confirmation process. However, polarization’s impact is less clear-cut where the behavior of the justices themselves is concerned. While new patterns such as ideological homophily in the clerk hiring process and partisan sorting in voting behaviors point toward greater polarization, network analysis of the voting coalitions reveals that moderate levels of polarization are not new to the Court.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Todd, JD; Cho, M; Vanberg, G

Cited Editors

  • Kaiser, A-B; Petersen, N; Saurer, J

Published Date

  • 2018

Book Title

  • The U.S. Supreme Court and Contemporary Constitutional Law: The Obama Era and Its Legacy


  • 3

Start / End Page

  • 41 - 66

Published By

Place of Publication

  • Baden Baden, Germany

International Standard Book Number 13 (ISBN-13)

  • 9780367182311

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.5771/9783845289496-41