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How Will They Vote? Predicting the Future Behavior of Supreme Court Nominees, 1937–2006


  • Cameron is Professor of Politics and Public Affairs, Princeton University, and Visiting Professor of Law, New York University School of Law; Park is Post-Doctoral Research Associate at the Center for the Study of Democratic Politics, Woodrow Wilson School, Princeton University.

*Charles Cameron, Robertson Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08540; email:


Previous research suggests that the future behavior of nominees to the U.S. Supreme Court is relatively unpredictable, except for civil liberties cases. We devise a new measure of nominees' political ideology that more efficiently uses preconfirmation information about the nominees. The measure employs Segal-Cover scores (based on content analysis of contemporary newspaper editorials) as well as DW-NOMINATE indicators, and is scaled into the DW-NOMINATE space. The measure predicts confirmed nominees' overall immediate, short-term, and longer-term voting behavior, as well as voting in issue-specific domains, much better than do previous measures. It is particularly successful for nominees confirmed after 1957.