28 January 2009

Taking your political temperature

About 18 months ago I looked at the test on the Political Compass to see where the US presidential hopefuls stood. All of them, with the exception of Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, were on the authoritarian right. I found I was on the libertarian left, in about much the same place as Nelson Mandela, which is no doubt why I voted for him.

Now Jams O'Donnell at The Poor Mouth: Political Spectrum has found another site, The Political Spectrum, which does much the same thing, but from an American viewpoint.

Here is my result:

My Political Views
I am a left social moderate
Left: 3.86, Libertarian: 0.9

Political Spectrum Quiz

The result was not very much different from Political Compass, but a little less libertarian so not much surprise there.

My Political Compass results were:

Economic Left/Right: -6.50
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.00

Nor is there much surprise in these results on Political Spectrum:

My Foreign Policy Views
Score: -5.73

Political Spectrum Quiz

My Culture War Stance
Score: -2.57

Political Spectrum Quiz

But the tests are like chalk and cheese.

The Political Compass has carefully-worded questions, designed to be clear and unambiguous, and where the answers will actually measure something.

In the Political Spectrum test the questions are biased, tendentious, and very often beg the question, and it is difficult to see what they are trying to measure.

The Political Compass did not give the opportunity for a neutral answer, but it wasn't needed, because the questions were clear and unambiguous.

The Political Spectrum gave the opportunity for neutral answers, and also gave the opportunity of indicating the importance of the issue. In theory this should make the test more accurate, but in fact I answered most questions as neutral, and of neutral or little importance, because of the bad wording.

I can't remember the exact wording now, without going back and doing the tests again, but one example that struck me was that the Political Compass test asked something like:

Do you think that abortion should be legal for a woman when there is no danger to her life?

whereas the Political Spectrum equivalent version was something like:

Do you think that the state should deny a woman her right to an abortion?

which begs more than one question.

The difference may be because Political Compass is a serious exercise and appears to have drawn on professional expertise in designing the questionnaire and formulating the questions. The Political Spectrum one is on a public quiz site, where anyone can post a questionnaire, and there is nothing to prevent the wording of the questions reflecting the biases of the compiler.

But I can't help wondering whether it is also perhaps a reflection of the differences between British and American culture.

And now, with a general election looming, I wonder where our own political leaders stand.

I imagine Jacob Zuma would be a circle in all four quadrants, getting a different result depending on the last person he spoke to.

I also suspect that Patricia de Lille is still closest to my position (and that of Nelson Mandela).


Harry Haddock said...

All of them, with the exception of Dennis Kucinich and Mike Gravel, were on the authoritarian right.

Oh come on.. Ron Paul? Authoritarian right?

Steve Hayes said...


I forgot to mention Ralph Nader, who also appears on the libertarian left. Mike Gravel is on the libertarian right, while Ron Paul is close to the borderline.

Harry Haddock said...

Well, I took the test and it put me in the extreme libertarian right. Therein is the problem with such tests. It got the 'social' and 'anti war' bits right ~ in that I am a complete social libertarian, and completely anti war, but I would argue that there is no such thing as a 'right' or 'left' libertarian.

If you start from the standpoint that libertarian's believe that individuals know best what works for themselves, or if not, that nobody has a God given right to tell them what to do, or what is 'better' for them, then I believe it is only consistent to apply this to all areas of life (personal, economics, etc etc), with the state just there to run the rule of law, i.e. to settle disputes and protect against coercion.

Thus I often thing 'right' libertarians are those who think everyone should be free in one area of their lives (economics) but can't be trusted with their own personal liberty, whereas left libertarians tend to think that people have an absolute right to personal liberty, but appear to think that this shouldn't apply to economics, which is after all just another human interaction.

Richard said...

Thanks for posting this with the links to the questionnaires. The 'spectrum' idea is one that I have long held to and talked about, being increasingly irritated by the simplistic 'left' vs 'right' that the media and politicians talk about.

I came out as almost bang smack in the middle of the green libertarian/left quadrant, half way between Nelson Mandella and the Dalai Lama, on the same line but slightly more libertarian than Ralf Nader.

When we lived in the USA, one of our friends, who taught economics/sociology in California explained to us that the English word liberal translated to the American word libertarian. He was libertarian and we had many views in common. Although I had not checked out Ralph Naders views completely, those I had seen seemed to match my own.

Many people seem to wish to have the compass as a triangle based one (like colorimetry/phase relationship in TV) rather than four quadrant based. I must admit that was almost how I saw it myself, but think the four quadrant based approach of the compass much better now having seen it.

When I look at the British chart, it appears I match close to the Green party. In fact, almost bang on same placement in the compass. Interesting. There are some views from that party that I radically disagree with (I think, maybe I haven't checked them out much.

I think that my disagreements may possibly over motivation though -- I believe that God gave us the world to enjoy, which necessarily means being good stewards, but doesn't mean 'hug a tree', radical 'protect the earth at all costs that the Green party seem to be known for. Hence I have always discounted the Green party as a bunch of earth lovers who have forgotten the 'be fruitful and multiply' part of God's gift to us.

I drive a large 4 wheel SsangYong car. I enjoy it. We are thinking of changing it, but not because of green issues, but because its too expensive to run. I don't believe the government so force (through high taxation) us to be 'green', that to me is a freedom issue.


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