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« Sotomayor and Liberalism in the Strange World of Political Science | Main | On Why "Judicial Activism" Is an Empty Nonsense »

Sotomayor and Liberalism in the World of Ideology Scholars

(sent to LawCourts)

someone wrote: "Yes, according to my editorial scores, Sotomayor is the most liberal justice confirmed since Marshall, but remember, there have only been two Democrats confirmed since then, Ginsburg and Breyer."

... let's be clear. According to the "editorial sources," she is thought to have only the score value generated by that procedure. That's all the measure says. Scientifically, the scores do not measure her "ideology" (whatever that means).

And with respect to the announced prediction of what political science calls her "votes," we probably should note a few disclaimers:

1. If you include the whole docket and all of the justices for which there is data, the predictive relationship is extremely paltry.

2. Even if you cherry-pick the docket and the justices, whatever results you get are fundamentally driven by the few justices with extreme propensity for direction under the "liberal index" -- most of whom are no longer there. And even this predicts that Sotomayor will be closer to neutrality (50%) than her alleged reputation (78). And of course, you don't need any newspaper scores to guess that Sotomayor will be in the 60s -- the safe money already has her around 65. (Flipping coins puts her at 50. The PRE on honest logit models was never impressive with these scores).

3. One of the biggest problems these models have is their misleading conclusions. The dependent variable (the so-called "liberal index") is quite peculiar because it doesn't have any empirical or substantive relationship to true "liberal voting." It's just called that by people pretending to do the "science." After all, the great majority of the coding doesn't concern exemplar issues that make up the belief-spectrum in the political system. And it doesn't concern issues that appear in campaigns or the culture war and so forth. In fact, one has to have a great deal of ideology himself or herself in order to see or call this measure "liberal voting." You have to sort of think like a creation scientist would when they study the world. In fact, one might think of political scientists who try to catch "ideology" this way as being sort of "ideology-creation scientists."

When scientists study the external world, they develop rigid designators for the things in the world they have "pinned down." I have always found it extremely curious that in ideology-centered, quantitative political science, no one attempts to talk precisely and honestly about the empirical things they actually observe. If they would, they would find that Sotomayor has a 78 on what appears to be some sort of exemplar-conceived political-issue barometer by a small media/journalist workgroup acting within a discreet time in American politics. And that this thing, when combined with other such prejudice workshops, has some sort of relationship to what we might call a rather badly-conceived yes-no claimant-priority arrangement. (And only when dockets and justices are constructed).

But that's not the way it comes out. It's always comes out as "the ideology going in was measured by the scientists," and "the scientists confirmed that ideology was coming out on the other side." I mean, it reminds me of one who would say, "first they were baptized, and then they went to heaven."

Regards and thanks.

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