The titular question is one I am currently pondering for a book chapter I'm writing and, happily, the eminent John O. McGinnis has a very thoughtful post up on the issue of whether elected judges are more likely to reach incorrect results:
I generally like Adam Liptak’s reporting on law, but a recent story poorly frames the question of the stakes in state judicial elections. Liptak reports on two studies that suggest that elected judges are less likely to rule in favor of rights for homosexuals and become harsher on criminal defendants the closer the proximity to an election. At the end of the article he suggests that making judges more accountable to the people is thus in tension with “the utmost fairness,” quoting Chief Justice Robert’s desideratum for the judicial system.
But I hope and believe that what the Chief Justice means by fairness are decisions that follow the law. It certainly should not mean decisions that the left likes. ...
Judges may want to skew their decisions to maximize their chances of reelection. But judges who do not face elections may also want to maximize personal advantages. And the most obvious objective to be maximized is their reputation and that reputation is decided by a subset of the people— lawyers and elites. I have already shown how elite universities shower recognition on one kind of Supreme Court justice—those who rule for the left-liberal side of the spectrum. Lawyers too are predominantly left liberal for a variety of reasons, including that legal change and unclear legal rules are generally monetarily advantageous to them. Thus, it is possible, even plausible, that in some judicial systems popular elections provide some counterweight to this elite pressure and we will get fairer, i.e. more accurate decision making as a result. For instance, elite pressures surely favored the recognition of same-sex marriage, regardless of whether that decision was correct as a matter of law.
Go read the whole thing.