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A Segal-Cover score is an "attempt to measure the perceived qualifications and ideology" of United States Supreme Court justices.[1] The method of was introduced by Jeffrey Segal and Albert Cover (both of Stony Brook University) in their article "Ideological Values and the Votes of U.S. Supreme Court Justices," published in the American Political Science Review in 1989. The scores as of publication in 1989 have been updated by Segal to cover all nominees up to the 2005 nomination of Samuel Alito.[1]

The scores are based on analysis of pre-confirmation newspaper editorials regarding the nomination of each justice dating back to the Franklin D. Roosevelt Supreme Court candidates. The editorials analyzed are from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Chicago Tribune and Los Angeles Times. The Wall Street Journal was added starting with David Souter's nomination "to compensate for the Los Angeles Times drift leftward."[2] Each nominee received two scores that ranged from 0 to 1:

  • for qualification, a score of 0 means unqualified and 1 means extremely qualified
  • for ideology, a score of 0 means most conservative, and 1 means most liberal. Segal and Cover found that the scores were strongly correlated with the subsequent votes of the justices.


The Segal-Cover Scores for some members of the Court are as follows:

Name Ideology Qualification
Ruth Bader Ginsburg 0.680 1.000
Stephen Breyer 0.475 0.545
Sandra Day O’Connor 0.415 1.000
Anthony Kennedy 0.365 0.890
David Souter 0.325 0.765
John Paul Stevens 0.250 0.960
Clarence Thomas 0.160 0.415
John Roberts 0.120 0.970
Samuel Alito 0.100 0.810
Antonin Scalia 0.000 1.000

In June 2009, Segal revealed a preliminary calculation of the Segal-Cover score for Sonia Sotomayor, less than three weeks after her nominiation and before her Senate hearing; at that point he thought Sotomayor will be one of the most qualified justices (though not the most qualified) and likely as liberal as Ruth Bader Ginsburg.[2]


  1. ^ a b "Perceived Qualifications and Ideology of Supreme Court Nominees, 1937-2005". SUNY at Stony Brook. Retrieved 2009-08-08.  
  2. ^ a b "Keeping Score On Sotomayor". The Ninth Justice. National Journal. June 12, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-08. ""She's going to fall as a moderate liberal," Segal predicts. "There will be evidence that she's not a doctrinaire. And she'll come out pretty high on the qualifications, but not at the very, very top.""  


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