Who will replace Justice John Paul Stevens? While pundits, savants, and oracles across the SCOTUSphere pontificate and read Article III tea leaves, FantasySCOTUS.net conducted extensive and detailed polling to predict the next Justice. We have invited our nearly 5,000 members – who represent some of the closest and most ardent Court watchers – to weigh in on the vacancy, rank the candidates on the short list, and give their views on the potential nominees. We are still collecting data.

This is the third in a series of posts breaking down this data, as we attempt to add some certainty to the vast amounts of uncertainty emanating from the penumbras of the upcoming vacancy.

This week, we pit Elena Kagan, Diane Wood, and Merrick Garland in a head-to-head-to-head confirmation death match…

By dividing users across these lines, we can tell whether a nominee is supported by users who feel strongly about that nominee, or if the nominee’s supporters just like the other candidates less. We have divided the predictions into groups based on the top three nominees: Team Kagan, Team Wood, and Team Garland. Although some users placed other nominees as the top pick, we have limited our discussion to the best three potential nominees.

In discussing the opinions of Team Kagan, Team Wood, and Team Garland, we have statistics about those opinions. In the first column we note that Team’s top pick, followed by their second pick, and third pick. We list the maximum and minimum opinions for the nominees (on a scale from -10 to 10) to give general context. We include the average opinion of the group, the standard deviation among the group, and the overall average opinion. The average opinion of the group tells us how the group generally feels about the candidate, while the standard deviation tells us how spread out opinion about that candidate is.

Finally, we include the overall opinion to show how the group differs from the total predictions, and to have a better overall context.
Team Kagan

Nominee Kagan (1st Pick) Wood (2nd Pick) Garland (3rd Pick)
Minimum Opinion -10 -10 -10
Maximum Opinion 10 10 10
Average Opinion 4 2.66 1.47
Standard Deviation 5.79 6.45 5.4
Overall Opinion 3.04 2.93 1.89

Our discussion naturally begins with those who picked Kagan. One of the easiest things to notice about the Team Kagan as a group is that they have full range of minimums and maximums for each candidate, which might be due to the fact that they are the largest and most inclusive group. However, it does indicate that predictions are not strongly tied to the opinion of the nominee.

Unlike our previous post however, the average opinions do reflect the order of picks, with Kagan having the highest and Garland the lowest. At 4, Kagan is by no means the peacemaker candidate, but it does indicate that she can attract solid support. The standard deviation shows how volatile the candidate is by showing the amount of spread in the opinions. The opinion of Kagan, at 5.79, is well spread out, but less so than Wood at 6.45.

This difference hints that Kagan is preferred over Wood as a less divisive nominee, while Garland fails to engender much opinion period. Finally, the difference between the average opinion and overall opinion indicates that while those who picked Kagan are the largest group, Kagan is disfavored enough by other users that there is almost an entire point of difference in the opinions.

The results for Team Garland and Team Wood, after the jump at JoshBlackman.com.


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