Predicting Challengers in State Supreme Court Elections: Context and the Politics of Institutional Design

By Bonneau, Chris W.; Hall, Melinda Gann | Political Research Quarterly, September 2003 | Go to article overview

Predicting Challengers in State Supreme Court Elections: Context and the Politics of Institutional Design


Bonneau, Chris W., Hall, Melinda Gann, Political Research Quarterly


In this article, we answer two important questions about the role of challengers in elections to the states' highest courts: (1) under what conditions do incumbents draw challengers, and (2) do these same conditions influence whether the challengers entering these races have sufficient experience to pose a threat to the officeholders (i.e., are they quality challengers). While the factors related to each electoral contest and the forces characterizing the overall political climate of the state should affect the type of challenge, if any, we also expect institutions to matter. Specifically, factors governing the attractiveness of supreme court seats, as well as the formal means by which judicial elections are organized, all should serve to enhance or inhibit competition. In an analysis of all 146 partisan and nonpartisan elections to state supreme courts from 1988 through 1995, we find that competition from both inexperienced and experienced challengers is predictable from some basic information about the incumbents, the states, and the institutional context. Like legislators, judges can influence their chances of being challenged only to a limited degree. However, the states can increase or decrease competition to some extent by manipulating electoral system characteristics and a variety of factors that make supreme court seats more or less valuable. In fact, under certain scenarios, state supreme courts may be more democratic in character and function than is generally recognized or perhaps preferred.

With this research, we answer two important questions about the role of challengers in elections to the states' highest courts: (1) under what conditions do incumbents draw challengers, and (2) do these same conditions influence whether the challengers entering these races have sufficient experience to pose a serious threat to the current officeholders (i.e., are they quality challengers). These intriguing though straightforward questions have significant theoretical import for illuminating the complex relationship between democratic processes and political institutions. As studies of elections to many different types of offices have established, electoral competition forges observable linkages between citizens and government, enhancing the representative function (e.g., Canes-Wrone, Brady, and Cogan 2002; Erikson 1978; Hall 1987, 1995; Miller and Stokes 1963). Among other things, incumbents chosen in competitive races are more likely to defer to their constituencies when casting votes on controversial issues rather than choosing policy alternatives that better reflect their personal preferences. Therefore, understanding electoral competition, and specifically how competition emerges in the first place, is directly relevant for delineating the precise mechanisms by which democratic processes induce accountability and generate public policies consistent with citizen preferences.

Moreover, studies of the United States House of Representatives, the United States Senate, and state legislatures all have established that quality challengers fare substantially better with voters than do their weaker counterparts (e.g., Abramowitz 1991; Jacobson 1989, 1999; Jacobson and Kernell 1983; Lublin 1994; Mann and Wolfinger 1980; Nicholson and Segura 1999; Squire 1989b). Quality challengers reduce the vote margins of incumbents and are substantially more likely than other types of challengers to win. Interestingly, this influence is present even when the effects of a host of other variables related to national and local politics, including campaign spending (Squire 1989b), are controlled. Also, these substantive results are robust across studies that use alternative measures of challenger quality. When measured as a dichotomy of whether the challenger has held elective office (e.g., Abramowitz 1988; Jacobson 1989), as separate dichotomies or ordinal scales based on challengers' personal characteristics and political experience (e. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Predicting Challengers in State Supreme Court Elections: Context and the Politics of Institutional Design
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.