We find that Gorsuch may be more conservative than Justice Clarence Thomas has been. This is different than some other estimates, which place Gorsuch about halfway between Justice Samuel Alito and Thomas. The difference is that these estimates rely on the ideological preferences of the home state senators involved with confirming Gorsuch to the Tenth Circuit.
But Gorsuch’s actual voting behavior suggests that he is to the right of both Alito and Thomas, and by a substantial margin. The magnitude of the gap between Gorsuch and Thomas is roughly the same as the gap between Justice Sotomayor and Justice Kennedy during the same time period. In fact, our results suggest that Gorsuch and Justice Scalia would be as far apart as Justices Breyer and Chief Justice Roberts.
So, yes, Gorsuch is likely to be conservative, but more conservative than Scalia—and more conservative than Thomas has been.
To be sure, the kinds of appeals the Tenth Circuit was forced to hear are different than the kinds of cases the Supreme Court chooses to hear. It is possible that this mandatory docket makes Gorsuch look more conservative than he is. On the other hand, it is also possible that a discretionary docket would provide greater opportunity for Gorsuch to undo liberal doctrine. Conservatives will hope for the latter; liberals for the former.