Contributions to Judicial Campaigns: Assessing Comprehension in an Environment Without Partisan Signals
36 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 18 Oct 2009
Date Written: 2009
A longstanding controversy in American politics is the use of elections to select state judges (Hall 2001). One primary feature that varies for judicial elections is the degree by which political parties are formally involved and the amount of partisan information directed to voters. With debate historically centered on the consequences of political party involvement (Streb 2007b), alternative nonpartisan elections are thought to reduce informed decisions by voters based on their partisan beliefs (Klein and Baum 2001). Important for the money directed to judicial campaigns, the absence of partisan signals may also affect the capacity of campaign contributors to make informed decisions. In this study, we investigate decisions by partisan contributors in judicial elections with and without partisan information to identify the effects of election formats on campaign contributions. Where partisan information is absent, decisions by contributors may be inconsistent with contributions directed toward the “wrong” candidate, in a partisan sense. Emphasis here, however, is placed on the highly informed nature of most campaign contributors (Rosenstone and Hansen 1993). To investigate the effects of election format on decisions by partisan contributors, we look at a pair of states – one with partisan signals (Alabama) and another without (Georgia), to assess the behavior of contributors. We employ a two-stage Heckman censored probit procedure that takes into account selection bias and the factors influencing participation by contributors, as well as those factors influencing partisan choices by contributors. We find that partisan elections and features of elections that increase information encourage contributors to select candidates that share their partisan affiliation. The findings fit closely with studies of voting in judicial elections and echo the important effects of methods of judicial selection.
Keywords: judicial elections, contributions, state politics, subnational politics, judicial politics
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