Do Political Preferences Change? A Longitudinal Study of U.S. Supreme Court Justices

Lee Epstein, Valerie Hoekstra, Jeffrey A. Segal, Harold J. Spaeth

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

52 Scopus citations

Abstract

Do the political preferences of U.S. Supreme Court justices change over time? Judicial specialists are virtually unanimous in their response: The occasional anomaly notwithstanding, most jurists evince consistent voting behavior over the course of their careers. Still, for all the research that presupposes the consistency of preferences, it is startling to find that scholars have yet to explore rigorously the assumption of stability. We fill this gap by describing the behavioral patterns of the 16 justices who sat on the U.S. Supreme Court for 10 or more terms, and began and completed their service sometime between the 1937 and 1993 terms. The data reveal that many experienced significant change over time—a result with important implications for virtually all longitudinal work on the Court.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)801-818
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Politics
Volume60
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 1998
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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