According to Adam Liptak, the Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times, in the five years since John Roberts has been chief justice, "the Court not only moved to the right but also became the most conservative one in living memory." Liptak bases his assertion on social science analyses of the Court's cases that label decisions "conservative" or "liberal" according to certain criteria. For example, in the area of criminal justice a decision in favor of the government is considered conservative while one in favor of the defendant is considered liberal. Similar classifications are applied in other areas, and while one may quibble with some of the schemes, the do provide a rough overall portrait.
Yet in other areas the Court seems out of step with the public. Where the Court ruled that the death penalty is an unconstitutional punishment for the rape of a child, two out of three people disagreed. Similarly, when the Court declared that minors could not be sentenced to life imprisonment without parole, 61 percent disagreed. Three out of five people oppose the Court's decision eliminating restrictions on corporate donations to political races, and a similar number believe that, contrary to the Court, suspects believed involved in terrorism should not have the protection of constitutional rights.
Some commentators believe there is trouble brewing in the fact that for the first time in several decades, a conservative-minded Court has to deal with a liberal president and a Congress that is far more liberal than its Republican-dominated predecessors. One of the first acts of the Obama administration was to overrule a Court decision regarding statutory interpretation of a discrimination law that was clearly in favor of business. The president has criticized the Court for its decision in Citizens United (see below), and congressional leaders are making noises about several court decisions that they think are wrong and should be reversed. How this conflict will turn out is anyone's guess.