Distorting the Electoral Connection? Partisan Representation in Confirmation Politics, with Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips.

Abstract: Do senators respond to the preferences of their state's median voter or only to the preferences of their co-partisans? We develop an approach for distinguishing between general and partisan responsiveness, and we develop a method for estimating state-level public opinion broken down by partisanship. We use these estimates to study responsiveness in the context of Senate confirmation votes on Supreme Court nominees. We find that senators more heavily weight their partisan base 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, the role of public opinion in shaping the personnel of the nation's highest court, and the degree to which we should expect the Supreme Court to be counter-majoritarian. The methodological approach developed in the paper greatly expands the scope of sub-state opinion estimation, and incorporates full uncertainty surrounding our opinion estimates. It can be applied elsewhere to estimate opinion by state and partisan group, or by many other typologies, so as to study other important questions of democratic responsiveness and performance.

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