Q&A of the Day – How much more conservative is the Supreme Court with Gorsuch & Kavanaugh?
Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods.
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Today’s entry: You mentioned Ginsburg was the most liberal justice on the Supreme Court but how much more conservative is the court already with Gorsuch and Kavanaugh? Or is it?
Bottom Line: These are great questions. The narrative has been that the court had already moved to the right with President Trump’s first two SCOTUS picks prior the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg. But is that really the case? In the story you referenced I compared to the voting record of Ruth Bader Ginsburg in split decisions along perceived ideological lines using the University of Washington’s Supreme Court Database. In those decisions she voted with the more conservative justices only 15% of the time, making her the most liberal justice on the court at the time of her passing. Using the same methodology, I can compare the voting records of Gorsuch to Scalia, whom he replaced and Kavanagh to his predecessor Kennedy. The net results will determine if the court has moved to the right during the Trump Administration.
- Antonin Scalia’s voting record was 81% conservative
- Anthony Kennedy’s was 71% conservative
That averages out to a 76% conservative voting record in split decisions. Now for their successors.
- Neil Gorsuch’s voting record is 80% conservative
- Brett Kavanaugh's voting record is 82% conservative
That averages out to an 81% conservative voting record in split decisions. There’s a bit of a small sample size consideration in play – especially with Kavanaugh but what we see is a court which is slightly more conservative, 5%, than it was prior to President Trump’s picks for the high court. If Trump’s replacement for Ginsburg were consistent in voting with his first two picks, we’d see a justice who would be 66% more conservative in split decisions. Under that scenario, the court would be meaningfully more conservative in split decisions.