University of Kentucky

Poster Title

The Role of Media Coverage on Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings

Presenter Information

Cody Hollan, University of Kentucky

Institution

University of Kentucky

Abstract

The Supreme Court is a pivotal element of our government. Once a person is nominated to the Supreme Court, they are dissected in a confirmation hearing. This is true because of the life appointment of each nominee. During these hearings a plethora of questions are asked to investigate the details of every nominee. Through recent research we have seen the importance of each nominee’s candor in the past. What has changed? Why does the evasiveness of nominees no longer matter? This research project took an in-depth look at the relationship between television media coverage and the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. In 1981, many tuned in to watch the hearings of Sandra Day O’Connor. This marked the beginning of gavel-to-gavel television coverage of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. From this point, we observed the implication that candor no longer has an effect on the way senators vote. Before 1981, the constituents were versed on each nominee through print. We examined that the implementation of television coverage has created an increase of interest in the confirmation hearings. This caused a demand for new information to be printed about the cases. We researched this phenomenon by sifting through New York Times articles, starting with John Harlan in 1955 through Elena Kagan in 2010. With the commencement of the television coverage, we see that senators have been influenced by partisanship and ideology. We hypothesized that this occurs because the constituents can now see how their senators adhere to the voting standards of their constituents. Elena Kagan stated that the modern day confirmation hearings have become a “vapid and hollow charade”. This implies that she believes that candor no longer is the issue and that ideology now governs the senator’s decision.

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The Role of Media Coverage on Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings

The Supreme Court is a pivotal element of our government. Once a person is nominated to the Supreme Court, they are dissected in a confirmation hearing. This is true because of the life appointment of each nominee. During these hearings a plethora of questions are asked to investigate the details of every nominee. Through recent research we have seen the importance of each nominee’s candor in the past. What has changed? Why does the evasiveness of nominees no longer matter? This research project took an in-depth look at the relationship between television media coverage and the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. In 1981, many tuned in to watch the hearings of Sandra Day O’Connor. This marked the beginning of gavel-to-gavel television coverage of the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. From this point, we observed the implication that candor no longer has an effect on the way senators vote. Before 1981, the constituents were versed on each nominee through print. We examined that the implementation of television coverage has created an increase of interest in the confirmation hearings. This caused a demand for new information to be printed about the cases. We researched this phenomenon by sifting through New York Times articles, starting with John Harlan in 1955 through Elena Kagan in 2010. With the commencement of the television coverage, we see that senators have been influenced by partisanship and ideology. We hypothesized that this occurs because the constituents can now see how their senators adhere to the voting standards of their constituents. Elena Kagan stated that the modern day confirmation hearings have become a “vapid and hollow charade”. This implies that she believes that candor no longer is the issue and that ideology now governs the senator’s decision.