Political compass…es

Last month I came (for a second time) across the political compass. The idea behind this is that one’s political views are too complex to be only measured by how “left” or “right” they are. Stalin had, in some ways, much more in common with Hitler than with Gandhi, yet on the left-right axis he’d be closer to the latter. Another, authoritarian-libertarian axis is needed to better describe one’s politics. A slightly more detailed explanation can be found here.

I loved taking tests of like nature as a child, and sometimes I can’t resist the temptation of taking one even now. I decided to give it the ten or fifteen minutes, began ticking the boxes of the questionnaire off and ended up with 4.50 points to the left and 5.69 towards libertarian. (The extreme is 10 points in each direction.)

This was somewhat surprising: too much to the left and not enough libertarian. Intrigued, I took the test again after a week and once again after another week, taking care to choose different times of day (and thus, presumably, moods). However, the final average was even slightly more to the left (4.79) and less to libertarian (5.45).

I knew that partly this was a matter of interpretation. For one thing, do you “strongly” (dis)agree with something you feel certain but indifferent about? Or take one of the statements on page 2: “The rich are too highly taxed.” In which country? “Good parents sometimes have to spank their children”, on page 3, can be perceived as authoritarian (taking the child’s viewpoint) or libertarian (taking the parents’ in countries where this is prohibited by the law). Page 4: “Making peace with the establishment is an important aspect of maturity.” I can think of more that two ways of interpreting the meaning of this, let alone where it puts you. And so on.

Still, my three results varying only insignificantly, I wanted a proof to support my scepticism about them. It occurred to me that the compass I’d seen about a year ago might have been a different one. Surprisingly, after some effort I found it, and was relieved. The questions were different and my result shifted to only 1.93 to the left.

Don’t think I concluded the latter test was much better. It also moved me up to only 4.14 on the libertarian axis. If you go through the statements, you’ll see that a lot of what I criticised above applies here as well. True, the option I missed so much in the former test, “neutral”, was present, and there was no confusion between how much you’re convinced and how much you care. On the other hand, there were statements I just couldn’t interpret any way, having no idea what they were supposed mean (“School science classes should teach intelligent design”*).

The final outcome is that I continue to believe I belong somewhere between 0 and 2 to the left, and somewhere between 6 and 8 towards libertarian. Possibly, there’s a variation of this test somewhere with questions which would prove this.

Come to think of it, there is some agreement. I’m definitely neither authoritarian nor right-wing.

* because back than I had no idea “intelligent design” denoted a certain ideology and interpreted it as “well-thought-out interior design”



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