Why it matters: Chances are that whomever Trump appoints will be solidly conservative, tipping the balance of the court.
In November, the Trump administration released its list of 25 potential Supreme Court nominees. Of those, 12 were included in an analysis by political scientists Lee Epstein, Andrew D. Martin, and Kevin Quinn which placed them on an ideological spectrum called the “Judicial Common Space."
Conservative justices receive scores from 0 to 1, while liberal justices receive scores from –1 to 0. Clarence Thomas, currently the most conservative justice, scored at 0.725. Sonia Sotomayor, the most liberal justice, scored –0.521.
None of the potential nominees analyzed in the study are as conservative as Thomas, but all of them score solidly among the conservative wing. One outlier is Thomas Hardiman, a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, who scored as an ideological moderate.
A score of 0 signifies a swing judge who is as likely to favor liberal policies as conservative ones. Kennedy, who just announced his retirement, scored a –0.066. Though nominated by Republican Ronald Reagan, Kennedy often sided with the Court's liberal wing. With his retirement, four liberal justices remain, including 79-year-old Stephen Breyer and 85-year-old Ruth Bader Ginsburg.