80 years of shifting ideology on the Supreme Court

If confirmed, Donald Trump's Supreme Court Justice nominee Neil Gorsuch will restore the ideological balance of the nation's highest court toward the conservative end of the spectrum. He'd replace Antonin Scalia, who before his death was one of the most staunch conservatives on the bench.

The chart below tracks the ideological lean of each Supreme Court justice from the 1937 to 2015 session. It uses the Martin-Quinn dataset, a mathematical model that uses court decisions to score justices on an idealogical spectrum.

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The court has trended toward the more liberal end in recent years. For example, Reagan appointee Anthony Kennedy began his tenure on the more conservative end, but has crossed over into the liberal side of the spectrum. FiveThirtyEight has a very interesting look at why the court is drifting left: Justices get more liberal as they age.