Political Behavior

, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 495–520 | Cite as

Judging the “Vapid and Hollow Charade”: Citizen Evaluations and the Candor of U.S. Supreme Court Nominees

  • Philip G. Chen
  • Amanda C. BryanEmail author
Original Paper


Supreme Court confirmation hearings have been famously called a “vapid and hollow charade” by Elena Kagan. Indeed, perceptions of nominees’ refusal to answer questions about pending cases, prominent political issues, or give any hint of their ideological leanings have become a cornerstone of the modern confirmation process. We investigate the extent to which this reticence to speak of their ideological views, or candor, influences how individuals evaluate the nominee. To this end, we present the results of a survey experiment which examines how support for a hypothetical Supreme Court nominee is affected by information, especially when a nominee is presented to be very forthright or very reticent in answering ideological questions during the confirmation hearings. We find that while partisan compatibility with the president is the main determinant of support for a nominee, nominees who refuse to answer ideological questions can bolster support from respondents who would not support them on partisan grounds. We supplement these findings with observational state-level support data from real nominees over the last 40 years.


Supreme Court nominations Public opinion Survey experiments Political attitudes 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of CalgaryCalgaryCanada
  2. 2.Loyola UniversityChicagoUSA

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