90 Judicature 208 (2006-2007)
Judicial Retention Election Trends 1964-2006

handle is hein.journals/judica90 and id is 208 raw text is: he Judicial Retention Project database1 now con-    spiked upward 10 points for a single election cycle.' This
tains results from 1964, when several states first  momentary surge in trust did not benefit judges; the affir-
adopted the merit-retention system, to 2006.  mative vote remained constant in the 2000, 2002, and 2004
Through the years the proj-                                                  elections.
ect has published several  Updating and expanding information                 In addition to the yearly
detailed analyses of reten-   previously reported in Trends in             variation, the affirmative
tion election issues and then                                               vote continues to vary from
summarized and updated    judicial retention elections, 1964-1998,         state to state and from dis-
some of the findings in a   Judicature, September-October 1999.             trict to district within states.
series of reports.' This article                                            This variation is yet to be

provides a further update
and reports developments on four elements of widespread
interest: the affirmative vote, defeated judges, voter differ-
entiation, and rolloff.
Affirmative vote
Both Figure 1 and Table 1 report the variability in the
national mean affirmative vote across time. The national
average dropped 9 points from 1968 to 1974 whereupon
it remained relatively stable, if not drifting slightly
upward, until 1990. Then the affirmative vote suffered a
7-point drop in a single election cycle, declining from
76.7 percent in 1988 to 69.4 percent in 1990. The average
climbed back to the 75 percent level where it remained
almost constant from 1998 to 2004 before decreasing
slightly in 2006.
As seen in Figure 1, the affirmative vote is strongly
related to political trust. The correlation coefficient
between the trust index and affirmative vote is .82 for the
years 1964 through 2004.2 The trust index is more sensitive
to trust in national institutions/officials than to trust in
state and local officials and this may explain an interesting
disconnect evident in Figure 1. By the 2000 election both
the trust index and the affirmative vote had returned to
their mid-1980s highs. Then, after 9/11, the trust index

completely explained and
the inter-state differences are reported in Table 1. While
the Missouri and Wyoming affirmative vote means are
about 10 points apart in 2006, respectively 68.8 percent
1. The 6,306 retention elections in the data set are all major trial court,
appellate court, and supreme court retention elections held in the states of
Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri,
Nebraska, and Wyoming from 1964 through 2006. These 10 states use pure
retention elections for the major trial court and all higher courts, hold the
elections at the even-numbered years' fall general elections (i.e., 1976, 1978,
1980, etc.), and began using retention elections at least by 1976 Eight other
states also employ retention elections; however, they either began to do so
after 1976 and/or do not use them for trial courts. Thus, their elections are
not included here so as to maximize comparability across time.
2. For the earlier summaries see William Hall and Larry Aspin, What twenty
years of judicial retention elections have told us, 70 JUDIcATuRE 340 (1987); Larry
Aspin, William Hall, Jean Bax and Celeste Montoya, Thirty years of judicial
retention elections: an update, 37 Soc. Sci. . (2000); and Larry Aspin, Trends in
judicial retentions elections, 1964-1998, 83JUDIcATURE 79 (1999).
3. The trust index cannot be calculated for 2006. The 2006 American
National Election Study included only one of the four questions used to con-
struct the trust index.
4. It has been suggested by many researchers, and empirically supported
by others (e.g., See Gary Langer, Trust in government... to do what? 13 PUBLIC
PERSPECTIVE 7 (July/August 2002) that this upward spike in trust was due to
confidence in national officials to handle issues related to national security
and terrorism, not confidence in national officials to handle social issues,
which remained low, Also, state and local government did not also enjoy an
upward spike in trust in 2002, but rather remained constant (See Richard
Cole and John Kincaid, Public opinion on U.S. federal and intergovernmental
issues in 2006: continuity and change, 36 PUBLIUS 443 (2006). Thus, it is very
possible that trust in the judiciary did not also experience an upward spike
after 9/ 11.

208 JUDICATURE Volume 90, Number 5 March-April 2007

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