Graphic Maps Nuanced Ideologies on the Supreme Court


The New York Times uses a graphic to explore the ideologies of the nine U.S. Supreme justices, which the paper says are more nuanced than most might believe. There is no dispute that the court has a four-member liberal wing and a four-member conservative wing, with Justice Anthony Kennedy somewhere in the middle. But not every liberal is liberal in the same measure, according to information from the Supreme Court Database, which codes decisions as liberal or conservative.

In the term that ended in June 2013, the three women on the court — Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — were tightly bunched on the left side of the array. They cast liberal votes around 70 percent of the time. Justice Stephen Breyer was substantially more conservative, casting liberal votes 59 percent of the time. Justice Kennedy is indeed smack-dab in the middle. The court's conservative wing has two blocs separated by a slight gap. Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Antonin Scalia were tied at about 44 percent. More to the right were Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito Jr.; they voted in a liberal direction around 40 percent of the time.

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