A Wideneing Divide: An Examination of Constitutional Polarization in Supreme Court Nomination Hearings

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Publication Type honors there
School or College College of Humanities
Department Communication
Faculty Mentor Shannon McGregor
Creator Johnson, Bennett
Title A Wideneing Divide: An Examination of Constitutional Polarization in Supreme Court Nomination Hearings
Date 2020
Description At its core, this paper seeks to explore polarization and partisanship within Supreme Court nomination hearings. The role partisanship plays in contemporary nomination hearings has appeared to increase greatly, leaving many wondering if the Supreme Court has lost its sanctity as a neutral arbiter of the law. Is increased polarization just a perception, or is it a concrete reality? This research paper utilized Computer Aided Textual Analysis to parse the transcripts of 16 previous nomination hearings for phrases which could be considered polarized. In total, this accumulated to nearly 2.2 million words spoken between 127 unique speakers. Because polarization and partisanship are complex concepts to probe in nature, it is difficult to assemble a robust dictionary capturing target "polarized" words or phrases without human coding. Thus, the dictionaries used in this study are limited to constitutional polarization and speaker affect. The conclusions drawn show there has been a net decrease in constitutional polarization over the last 50 years, and neither gender nor party allegiance has significant effect on the use of constitutionally polarized words. However, Senate control does play a role in polarization levels. Of the five most polarized hearings, four were hearings in which the Senate was controlled by a different party than the nominating president. Ultimately, it seems other factors beyond the constitution are what is driving an apparent increase in tension and vitriol during the nomination hearings.
Type Text
Publisher University of Utah
Language eng
Rights Management (c) Bennett Johnson
Format Medium application/pdf
Permissions Reference URL https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6f24j1t
ARK ark:/87278/s6dz5tms
Setname ir_htoa
Date Created 2020-06-22
Date Modified 2020-06-23
ID 1578207
Reference URL https://collections.lib.utah.edu/ark:/87278/s6dz5tms
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