The United States’ Supreme Court is responsible for making some of the toughest and most influential decisions in the country each and every day. Very often, their decisions affect the many citizens of the nation, whether they are minor, or major. The Supreme Court makes many rulings each year, and many people do not even pay attention to the Court’s decisions. The majority of the population does not even think to question why the Justices vote the way they do, or how they arrive at the decisions they make.
Many political scientists have tried to explain the voting behavior of the Justices in order to determine how they will vote. In my paper, I will take a look into theories behind why the Supreme Court Justices vote the way they do, and the many variables that factor into their decisions. My research question that I will investigate throughout this paper is: What factors play a role in how Supreme Court Justices vote, and does the political party that the Justice affiliates with alter their vote? This research is important because it can help the everyday citizen begin to understand how the highest court in their country votes, ultimately dictating their lives. Understanding the background and voting behaviors of the Justices will also help political scientists be able to make predictions on how certain decisions will come out.
Researchers before me have posed questions regarding the factors that play a part in the decision making of the United States’ Supreme Court Justices. One of the first factors that prior researchers looked at was the background, or upbringing of the Justices. Researcher C. Neal Tate from North Texas State University acknowledged that, “Goldman and Sarat state that this consensus well (1978, p. 374): In general, the background-behavior studies of aggregates of judges have not satisfactorily established clear-cut linkages between most background variables and decision-making” (Tate C. Neal 1981, p. 355). Tate suggested that a Justices background and upbringing does not directly affect the way they vote, but that it may be a minor variable. Political scientists Schubert (1964, p. 446), Grossman (1966, p. 1562), Becker (1970, p.79), and Murphy and Tanenhaus (1972, pp.107-109), “agree that personal attributes have limited explanatory potential because they are only indirect causes of judicial decision making” (Tate C. Neal 1981, p. 355).
Another researcher, “Ulmer (1973b, p. 627) called the “risk of premature closure” in rejecting attempts to explain the voting behavior of Supreme Court justices through the use of judges’ background characteristics or personal attributes” (Tate C. Neal 1981, p. 355). Neal Tate and Roger Handberg found, “The use of what has been called "social background" (Ulmer 1973, 1986) or, more broadly, "personal attribute" (Tate 1981) explanations was in part a matter of necessity or convenience and in part a socialization theory of judicial decision making. Data limitations made it...