[gov3009-l] Lauderdale: “There Are Many Median Justices on the Supreme Court”

Matt Blackwell mblackwell at iq.harvard.edu
Mon Apr 25 09:28:38 EDT 2011

Hi all,

We hope that you can join us for the final Applied Statistics Workshop
of the year this Wednesday, April 27th when we will be happy to have
Benjamin Lauderdale, currently a College Fellow in the Department of
Government, Harvard University and soon to be at the London School of
Economics. You will find an abstract below. As always, we will serve a
light lunch and the talk will begin around 12:15p.

“There Are Many Median Justices on the Supreme Court”
Benjamin Lauderdale
Department of Government, Harvard University
CGIS K354 (1737 Cambridge St.)
Wednesday, April 27th, 2011 12 noon

While unidimensional preference estimates for the U.S. Supreme Court
exist in both constant and time-varying forms, estimating variation in
preferences across areas of the law has been difficult because
multidimensional scaling models perform poorly with only nine voters.
We introduce a new approach to recovering estimates of judicial
preferences that are localized to particular legal issues as well as
periods of time.  Using expert issue area codes and majority opinion
citations to identify the strength of substantive relationships
between cases, we apply a kernel-weighted optimal classification
estimator to analyze how justices' preference vary across both areas
of the law and time.  Allowing for issue-variation in preferences
improves the predictive power of estimated preference orderings more
than allowing for time-variation.  We find substantial variation in
the identity of the median justice across areas of the law during most
periods of the modern court, suggesting a need to reconsider empirical
and theoretical research that hinges on the existence of a unitary and
well-identified median justice.


Matthew Blackwell
PhD Candidate
Institute for Quantitative Social Science
Department of Government
Harvard University
url: http://people.fas.harvard.edu/~blackwel/

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