Voter response to salient judicial decisions in retention elections

Allison P. Harris

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Even at their most salient, judicial retention elections do not increase turnout on Election Day. However, those who vote often participate in judicial retention races at higher levels than usual following salient judicial decisions. I use a series of difference-in-differences analyses to estimate the effect of the Iowa Supreme Court’s legalization of same-sex marriage on the subsequent retention races. I find that retention race participation was higher than we would have otherwise expected after the decision. Scholars often cite the infrequence with which justices are removed as evidence of justices’ relative independence from voters in retention elections, but the overwhelming retention of these justices does not mean they are independent from voters. Increases in the number of ballots cast in these races is perhaps more important than increases in negative votes when it comes to judicial independence, because each vote is an evaluation of the justices, whether positive or negative.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-191
Number of pages22
JournalLaw and Social Inquiry
Issue number1
StatePublished - Feb 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences
  • Law


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