Does The Political Compass give an accurate reading?

I have decided to open this thread as a “catch-all” for objections to the validity of The Political Compass, which uses a set of 60 questions to assess one’s political orientation in terms of economic left/right and social libertarianism/authoritarianism (rather like the “Libertarian diamond” popular in the US).
Examples of such objections are that it is “left-biased” or that some propositions are clearly slanted, ambiguous or self-contradictory.

Now, the site itself provides answers to these and other Frequently Asked Questions. Please read this first.

We have already covered other important points in the two threads to date, and I feel they are worth repeating here.
[ul][li]They are not “questions”, they are propositions. These propositions are deliberately slanted towards one of the four compass points in order to assess your personal reaction to them. eg. [/li]“My country, right or wrong” - strongly authoritarian.
“Marijuana should be legalised.”- strongly socially libertarian.
“The freer the market the freer the people” - strongly economically Rightist.
“People are ultimately divided by class more than by nationality” - strongly economically Leftist.
As far as I can see, there are no more strong slants in any one direction than another. If I see a strongly authoritarian slant, then as a social libertarian I simply tick Strongly Disagree and move on. Similarly, as an economic leftist I tend to Agree with the left-biased propositions where a rightist might Strongly Disagree. No judgement is made as to which is “correct”, it is simply trying to place you at the correct point on each line.
[li]RickJay said he thought that the “left-bias” manifested itself rather less obviously: By making the traditionally “right-wing” options so extreme that even moderate authoritarians and Rightists find themselves ticking Disagree. This came up in discussion of the proposition “My country, right or wrong”. I explained:[/li]

[li] In a similar vein, Gest opined that the questions ought to be reworded so that American conservatives did not feel that they were “on the fringe” when either agreeing with propositions which would never even be questioned in the mainstream US media, or when disagreeing with propositions they’ve never heard of on US media. To which I said:[/li][quote]
I will gently suggest that we steer around this talk of rewriting the propositions to be more palatable for “down home” America. The intellectual calibre of this board is hopefully strong enough to see through traditional mischaracterisations and empty blandishments to get at the real meat of the politics behind each proposition, as applied to the world in general, not merely in terms of specific examples.

Early 21st Century America is indeed a powerful and important entity. However, it is still but a single country, at a single time. If we are to compare US politics to times past, or to other countries, the test cannot merely blow with the prevailing political winds.
[li]Some of the questions do “niggle”. They propose what might be perceived as a false dichotomy, or are phrased such that the answer you give will produce a score you know will send you in the “wrong direction”. I agreed:[/li][quote]
These threads are purely an attempt at a rigorous exploration of our personal political orientations. As the site itself says, “some of the questions may niggle” and it is all too easy to poke holes in every single question, but I still feel that by ticking with your gut instinct you get an accurate assessment of your views.
We will be going through the propositions one by one. When I give an answer which I feels misrepresents my true opinion solely because of the way the proposition was posed, I will say so and explain the caveat. Nonetheless, my final score would not change that much even if all the propositions I found problematic were reworded to my satisfaction, and so I’m happy to “go along with it”. Responses to even the most poorly worded statements still give an indication of your general political orientation.[/ul]

So, having read the FAQ and this OP, what objections does anyone have regarding this test?

One further point occurs to me. Perhaps the very idea of a test to find one’s political orientation is anti-authoritarian by its very nature.

Rigorously exploring one’s own personal politics can surely be considered “socially liberal” in itself, since authoritarianism entails far less scope for the introspection and free exchange of ideas which are ultimately the seeds of dissent?

Well, it puts me at economic 2.38 and Social -1.53, which is probably about right. I still think it’s bogus.

I would agree with RickJay and offer some examples:

In and of themselves, no they can’t; only a fool believes this. Those on the right would just argue that the market is a better regulator than the state.

These are phrased for most people to say “no.” They’d be fine if there were counterbalances along the lines of “A growing economy eventually helps everyone,” or “Drug companies with a profit motive will produce better drugs.” There isn’t.

A “good idea?” Sure, I agree. A horrible system to run a country on, but nice thought. How do I vote?

WTF do any of these have to do with my views on politics? Sex outside of marriage wrong? For me, yes. I wouldn’t tell others what to do though. How do I vote?
For me, the kicker is the placement of political parties: not only do they have all the Merkins on the right, but pretty much every other elected world leader, too! How do they determine what the “center” is? It’s obviously not by surveying everyone and then coming up with an average: if it was, we would see elected leaders more toward the center; they can’t be that far away and still get elected. Are we supposed to conclude that all the voters of Europe fit in one corner?

And the center was not determined by looking at “times past, or to other countries.” Even were we to ignore the foolhardiness of trying to quantify the political views of all humans who had ever lived, if we tossed the trillions of ignorant serfs throughout human history who acquiesced to the divine right of kings te scale would be utterly different. Only by blowing with the prevailing political winds does it make any sense. By the standards of human exerience, from the Pharohs to the Emperors of China to the Kings of Europe, George Bush is a wild-eyed libertarian. (Yes, yes, I know, he would if he could :rolleyes: )

The only conclusion is that the center was determined arbitrarily, by what the creators saw as “correct” or “fair.” To which I saw “bushwah.” A useful test could be based on what people in the UK/US/EU actually think. Ideally, one that “recenters” itself as responses came in. As it is, it just serves as partisan propaganda for left-wingers who want to believe that all politicians are fascist.

furt, did you read the FAQ?

“Bogus”? As in artificial?

And so why can they not simply tick Disagree because they believe corporations can voluntarily respect the environment if it is inevitable that the market will eventually make such voluntary action profitable in some way? Like I said, for each proposition, I will be giving caveats if necessary, and I invite everyone to do the same. However, I would suggest we wait until those threads themselves to discuss each one rather than here.

If it is not your opinion, then don’t. There are people who would strongly agree with all three of those propositions (even I agree with the third one!): surely it would be useful to find who they are?

And I could demand counterbalances for any number of other propositions. I believe the existing ones have plenty of scope for disagreement, as you will find. I would even Strongly Disagree with your “better drugs” hypothetical.

Like I said, there are several “niggly” questions. Whether you Agree or Disagree to this will not affect your final score very much, but again there are people who would have strong views.

Like it says in the FAQ, they give an indication as to your Social worldview. There is a difference between merely not choosing extramarital sex yourself and actually considering it immoral.

The FAQ says it tried to independently assess the answers to each of the questions based on press releases, and admitted this wasn’t perfect.

Even the most extreme of the propositions has had someone to strongly agree with it at some time. It attempts to account for all of the political orientations throughout the ages and plot them simply. It is irrelevant how many people think in such and such a way, all that matters is that that opinion exists.

I agree 100%. There is nothing particularly noble or appealing about the “centre”, indeed the FAQ makes it crystal clear that the entire chart is a continuum, and one could draw lines on it any way one wished. The point is that there were and are people having extreme views and it is useful to be able to plot them somehow. Locate the centre at (+4, +4) if you must, I do not care. However, if the only reason for doing so is to make a certain mindset more “mainstream acceptable”, I would suggest you were missing the point.

SentientMeat, sorry about that hijack so I appreciated your diplomatic and reasonable response. Next time I’m in Wales you’ll have a pint waiting for you.

I wasn’t so much objecting as anticipating the objections some people would have regarding the quiz. American-style conservatives have centre stage on the global political scene at the moment so a flaw of the test is that it leaves itself open to accusations of bias and therefore irrelevance. The joke was on me though as, evidently, I was trumpeting the cause of diametric counterparts that never even entered the debate. So consider me suitably chastened and more intent on staying on track.

For my part, I like the test. In fact, I was quite impressed that it placed me so far southwest given some of my responses. In particular: [ul][li]Protectionism is sometimes necessary in trade.[/li][li]Those who are able to work, and refuse the opportunity, should not expect society’s support.[/li][li]It is a waste of time to try to rehabilitate some criminals.[/li][li]Mothers may have careers, but their first duty is to be homemakers.[/ul][/li]A disagree followed by three strongly agrees respectively had me thinking I’d at least be placed in the mid-west.

That fourth proposition seemed like a trap for misogynist troglodytes but I decided to approach it literally. I’ve always felt any parent, mother or father, may have a career but that their first duty is as a parent (homemaker). Does the test allow for the possibility that some will interpret it this way or do they allow for a few outliers in your results and reject them in the style of competition diving judges?

Before I got the results, I cynically assumed my general hostility to statism would exclude me from a quadrant reserved for proponents of big, interventionist government. But, I’d have to agree with your statement that by ticking with your gut instinct you get an accurate assessment of your views. It appears there was actually room for the occasional grumpy, borderline anarchist too. :smiley:

As far as your addendum though, I can’t agree that introspection is exclusive to the socially liberal. Proponents of any ideology, no matter how ridiculous we’d view it, would bristle at the suggestion they’d arrived at it without introspection. Certainly, some doth protest too much but not all.

If I disagree with this gem of a proposition, am I saying it’s NOT fine for society to be open about sex? Or am I saying it hasn’t gone too far? Those two meanings would seem to have opposite implications in one’s political leanings.

No apology necessary whatsoever, Gest. I always knew there would be objections to the test itself even before we got down to the real meat; your post merely crystallised some of my thoughts such that I could formulate this OP.

As for those somewhat “north westerly” responses of yours, clearly they are only 4 out of 60 questions (or 61? I think I counted wrong). You must’ve been quite the anarcho-communist in the other 56!


I read the FAQ per your request, and it is interesting. My problem with the test is that some of the questions are impossible for me to answer. For example, the first one: “If economic globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations.” It’s rather like asking Jesus whether we should pay our taxes yes-or-no so that He’ll be damned either by the crowd or the Romans. I object to the entire reification or hypostatization of every entity in the question. I don’t think EG is inevitable, and even if I did, I don’t think it should serve anyone. As an Austrian, I believe that every economic praxis is local and to exist at all, must come from voluntary volition. So, how can I possibly answer the question much less be evaluated for my answer? It isn’t that one of the four answers is closer for me than the rest. It’s that they all are equally bad.

Of course , Lib, I myself found the very first question among the most niggly. See my rationale behind “Agree” here.

However, I repeat, it is just one question out of 61. I believe your “gut instinct” will provide a fairly accurate reading, and we can discuss particularly problematic propositions as we come to them. I know that some of your personal caveats might be enormous tracts of detailed political theory, but I’m looking forward to them!

Economic Left/Right: -0.25
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -1.74

It’s this sort of thing that bugs me about the compass.

I know a certain cohort who are NOT social libertarians who’s objection to the illegality of the so-called ‘soft’ drugs is the cost of enforcement (and the lack of effectiveness). They don’t see the illegalization of marijuana as providing bang-for-buck and therefore support legalization. That doesn’t make the social libertarians of any stripe. It makes them economic realists.

But the test will score them otherwise. And that’s a design flaw.

And presumably, Jonathan, their other 60 answers would reflect that such that they hopefully got a fairly accurate reading. For all I know, the points structure is such that you get an economic Right nudge for Strongly Agreeing to that proposition.

There’s stuff that bugs me about the test - I’m not saying it’s perfect. But I think it does give a valid reading overall, and I feel there are valid arguments against simply rubbishing its entire premise based on minor flaws.

Lib, very interesting. I’m sure I’ll be intrigued by some of your reasoning in the specific threads to come.

I cannot imagine what they might have thought was authoritarian in the slightest about any of my responses unless the questions were preloaded. For example, if you ask me whether from each according to his abilities to each according to his needs is a good idea, I will answer that it is a wonderful moral commitment but a lousy ethical rule. I have no way to tell the test that I do not consider a moral obligation to be a civic one.

I have never seen it as particularly disingenuous. Its “problem” is simply that we are inclined to interpret the question in a certain way as indicative of a political alignment because we know it is a political test. We build a bias into the question. For example, “If economic globalisation is inevitable, it should primarily serve humanity rather than the interests of trans-national corporations.” This is not strictly a false dilemma. To a liberal, for example, the question could just as easily be, “Since globialization is inevitable anyway, should we seek to use it as a tool for pleasing corporations or humanity in general?” To a libertarian, the question might as well be, “Should we engineer globalization at all?” In either case one disagrees. However, there would be those on the right who feel that, directly, helping corporations is the most efficient way to help people, so they might answer, “Yes, we should globalize with an eye towards helping corporations.” It is a proximate, not an ultimate, question to these people. How you interpret the question will impact how you answer it.

If you have trouble answering a question, you’re thinking too hard about it. It makes perfect sense that a libertarian might have trouble answering it by vacillating between the “should we engineer it at all” interpretation and the “what is good for business is good for all” interpretation. This is not surprising since libertarianism is not strictly an economic notion as right-left, but is more as the test interprets as a top-bottom control notion. Thus, if you’re having trouble with this question, you’re trying too hard to figure out which interpretation “they” want rather than simply picking the interpretation you feel most comfortable with.

The test paints me thusly: Economic Left/Right: -4.62; Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.51. I would consider that almost 100% accurate. I am a left anarchist. This is not to say, necessarily, that as a left anarchist one can always predict how I will answer any particular question. In many ways I am very fiscally conservative, and in fact I believe that as a matter of course, anarchistic societies will tend towards competition rather than cooperation, but that was not the question they asked me.

Well, not really, but ok. If they don’t want to be associated with social libertarianism but still choose a platform that, by its very nature, is socially libertarian, then the problem is with self-identification not with the question. Economic, and hence social, liberty is a part of social libertarianism. The justification for such liberty is not really relevant.

I suggest we’ll see when we come to them, Lib. Indeed, I conceived of starting these threads jsut so that such subtleties could be discussed. Even the site’s creators admit that it is really just an introduction to genuine political debate as opposed to the infantile partisanship which passes for “politics” these days.

But it’s *their * interpretation that they’re using to score, and I’m living proof. Is there anything — anything at all — in my worldview as I have explained it over the years that would cause you to say, as they did, that I’m pretty much as authoritarian as I am libertarian? That’s ridiculous.

Note that the “centre” is arbitrary Lib - they could put it at (+8, +8) for all I care. If you feel you are misrepresented, I’m sure you can make it clear what you really mean in each particular thread.

I don’t really care to answer that in this thread, but to me, yes, sometimes. In fact I think the test puts you almost exactly where I would. Ideally, with a range of [-10,10] for both directions I’d put you Left/Right 0 and Top/Bottom -2. I don’t think that argument really belongs here, but roughly, I would view the authoritarian/libertarian dichotomy as, “How much do you like government?” and the left/right as, “How much do you like competition?” Maybe that’s just me.

I took this test awhile back and encountered many of the objections raised by other posters. Mainly, that some of the questions were loaded and that I saw all answers as equally “bad”. Some of the questions forced you to agree with a premise that you wouldn’t agree with. I opted out on quite a few.

Still, it put me right next to Milton Friedman, and I would say that’s exactly right.

At any rate, I’d say this is an interesting parlor trick and nothing more.

For the record I scored:

Economic L/R: 0.25
Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.08

Roughly right, though I’m more a believer in the free market I’ve been reassessing the governments responsibility to provide more of a safety net for those unemployed by the dislocations of the market lately.