– What do liberals, conservatives, moderates, and libertarians think of the SCOTUS Short List?

April 22nd, 2010

Who will replace Justice John Paul Stevens? While pundits, savants, and oracles across the SCOTUSphere pontificate and read Article III tea leaves, FantasySCOTUS.netconducted extensive and detailed polling to predict the next Justice. We have invited our nearly 5,000 members–who represent some of the closest and most ardent Court watchers–to weigh in on the vacancy, rank the candidates on the short list, and give their views on the potential nominees. We are still collecting data. Sign up for free at and voice your opinion. This is the second in a series of posts breaking down this data, as we attempt to add some certainty to the vast amounts of uncertainty emanating from the penumbras of the upcoming vacancy.

Are Elena Kagan’s liberal bona fides established, or would Diane Wood be the better progressive pick? Glenn Greenwood, among others on the left, have written sharply that Kagan is not a proper progressive pick. Others on the left have rushed to Kagan’s defense, and Greenwald has replied in kind.

In this installment, we break down the picks based on self identified ideologies; liberals, moderates, conservatives, and libertarians. Because these brackets are often difficult to define, we also polled the voter’s favorability ratings of the two most recently appointed Justices, Justice Sotomayor and Justice Alito.

For each ideology, this table lists the top pick, along with percentage making that prediction, the correlating opinion scores for Justices Sotomayor and Alito (from -10 to 10), and the top three ranked candidates, with the candidate’s score in parenthesis.

Moderates, once again, place Kagan as the top pick, with 56% of the vote. Moderates mostly have positive opinions of the possible nominees, with both Garland and Kagan rating higher than Sotomayor. Garland takes the lead with a 2.89 rating, followed by Kagan with a 2.75, and then finally Wood with 1.61. One important takeaway from the moderates is that a slightly higher opinion of a candidate may not make much of a difference in how the user predicts the likelihood of nomination.

Among libertarians, Kagan holds a plurality as the top pick at 40%. However, the other top picks are spread among the other candidates. Libertarians have a neutral opinion of Kagan, which is only slightly lower than their opinion of Sotomayor. Garland has the second highest rating of -0.55, followed by Sunstein at -0.7. Perhaps his work on libertarian paternalism with Richard Thaler lends him more support among libertarians. Overall, Kagan is still predicted most likely to get the nod, but Sunstein being third in opinion was interesting.

How do the candidates rank among liberals and conservatives? Is Glenn Greenwald right? Is Kagan appealing to liberals? The results after the jump, at

Liberals, place Kagan as the top nominee with 52%, slightly less often than moderates and conservatives. The most interesting part of the liberal predictions is their ratings of the nominees. Garland is the highest rated nominee with a 5.56. Wood is second with a 4.97, slightly higher than Sotomayor’s 4.74. Kagan is third with a rating of 4.25, almost a full point behind Wood in the ratings, and given the size of liberal group, not likely to close that gap. The difference between the rankings and ratings show that the person thought most likely to be nominated—Kagan—is not the same person who is considered best for the job—Garland or Wood. These numbers tend to lend support to Glenn Greenwald’s concerns about Kagan’s progress qualifications.

Among conservatives, Kagan is the clear frontrunner with 67% of predictions. Unsurprisingly, conservatives have a negative opinion of all potential nominees, with Kagan being the least objectionable at -1.67. Garland is a second choice with -2.89, while Sunstein is still third, but this time with -4.39. Surprisingly, Kagan and Garland rate higher than Sotomayor among conservatives. The fact that conservatives have such a high favorability of Kagan tends to further support Greenwald’s thesis

All ideologies think that Kagan is the most likely nominee, but is not the favorite of moderates and liberals. She is the least objectionable among conservatives and libertarians. This is likely do to those who fear she may be the least worst option, rather than her strong bipartisan record.

This post was co-authored by Josh Blackman and Corey Carpenter.