Abandoning All Pretense
Christensen PDF


United States Supreme Court
game theory
critical nominations
institutional politics
Senate confirmation process


            Supreme Court nominations are often seen as a way for a president to exercise some measure of control on policy beyond the bounds of his term. In late October 2020, many factors, including the close proximity of the new appointment to the next presidential election and the shadow cast by the symmetry of the situation with President Obama’s failed 2016 nomination of Merrick Garland made the appointment of Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett particularly contentious. In the heavy media attention this appointment received, fairly little focus was paid to Mr. Trump’s decision-making, while the decision-making process of the senators was highly scrutinized.  This paper will analyze, through a game-theoretic lens, the strategic voting process of the Senators of the 116th Congress in the roll call vote on the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court. In keeping with factors affecting senator decision-making determined in previous research on Supreme Court nomination politics, such as ideology, public opinion, and the nature of the nomination, this paper shows how each senator made a rational decision in saying ‘yea’ or ‘nay’ to the appointment of Justice Barrett.

Christensen PDF
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