Tenured public officials such as judges are often thought to be indifferent to the concerns of the elctorate and, as a result, potentially lacking in discipline but unlikely to pander to public opinion.� We investigate this proposition empirically using data on promotion decisions taken by senior English judges between 1985 and 2005.� Throughout this period the popular view was one of ill-disciplined elitism: senior judges were alleged to be favouring candidates from elite backgrounds over their equally capable non-elite counterparts.� We find no evidence of such ill-discipline; most of the unconditional difference in promotion prospects between the two groups can simply be explained by differences in promotion-relevant characteristics.� However, exploiting an unexpected proposal to remove control over promotions from the judiciary, we do find evidence of pandering.� When faced by the prospect of losing autonomy, senior judges began to favour non-elite candidates, as well as candidates who were unconnected to members of the promotion committee.� Our finding that tenured public officials can display both the upsides and downsides of electoral accountability has implications for the literature on political agency, as well as recent constitutional reforms.
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