U.S. Supreme Court

Profs' simulations predict conservatives will control Supreme Court for at least 3 more decades

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Roe v. Wade may be just one of many liberal precedents likely to fall in coming years, according to two professors who ran computer simulations to predict the future ideology of U.S. Supreme Court justices.

The Princeton University professors determined that conservatives are likely to control the Supreme Court for at least the next three decades, they wrote in the Washington Post. A draft paper with more details is here.

The professors are Charles Cameron of Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs and Jonathan P. Kastellec of Princeton’s politics department.

Their simulations looked at the probability of Republicans or Democrats having control of the White House and the likelihood of deaths or retirements of current justices. Their simulations assumed that all nominees would be confirmed by the Senate, and each nominee would be a “reliable ideologue” who would vote conservatively or liberally in accord with the party of their appointing president.

“We ran the simulation 1,000 times,” the professors wrote, “giving us 1,000 ‘courts’ in every year.” Each simulation allows for some variation in the justices’ “ideal points”—their position on the left-right spectrum. A justice in the middle of the spectrum would be the median justice.

The professors calculated the location of the median justice for each simulation. Currently, the median justice is Brett M. Kavanaugh because he voted with the majority in 97% of the cases last term, they wrote.

“Our results are unambiguous,” the professors wrote. “In the early decades, the medians obviously tilt heavily conservative, suggesting that conservatives will likely control the court through the 2040s. Only in the 2050s do the distributions become roughly symmetrical, meaning that there’s an equal chance the court’s median justice will be liberal or conservative.”

They cautioned, however, that their calculations “are based on assumptions, not certainties.”

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