Thursday, January 04, 2007

My Political Compass

(Update 2 - one more blogger added to the grid.)

(Update 1 -- more bloggers added to the grid.)

I had 10 minutes to kill on what to me is a slow news morning, so I took Dave's suggestion and tried my hand at the Political Compass test.

The test is designed to see where you sit on a two dimensional political spectrum. When you finish, you get two scores -- one for your views on economics, and one for your views on social control. If your score is negative, then you're to the left. If your score is positive, then you're to the right.

My score was -5.25 (economic), -5.33 (social). Dave ended up with -2.38, -5.54, Jay Bullock scored a -6.13, -5.95 when he took the test, and Nate (from The Nate Report) wound up with -8.5, -5.28.

UPDATE 1: A few more bloggers to add to the grid. Ben (Badger Blues) scored -2.63, -4.36, Scott (Scott Feldstein) scored -4.38, -5.69, and Tom (Marginal Utility) scored -6.13, -6.97. Everyone's still hanging around the 4-7 range for social, while the economic ranges from 2 to 8.

UPDATE 2: Dean (Thoughtful Conservative) gave his score in the comments section, which came out to 4.13, 0.77. It's nice to have a righty out there.

Here's how that looks on a graph:

It's interesting that most of the differences, thus far, are on the economic scale. It seems likely the differences between myself, Jay, and Nate are a matter of responding with "Agree/Disagree" rather than "Strongly Agree/Strongly Disagree." I rarely used the "Strongly" options in my responses; I imagine Jay used it slightly more often, and Nate used it a lot more often, at least on the economic questions. Dave explains his economic views in his post.

If I took this test six or seven years ago -- in the midst of my college days -- I probably would be much closer to the bottom lefthand corner. My mid-twenties have certainly moved me more toward the middle.

If anything, though, rather than this demonstrating a shift in my core beliefs, I think it exemplifies a growing conviction that it's possible (and, often, best) to work from within an established structure for change. In other words, my spectrum shift is more tactical than ideological. But, I do admit, as my tactics ease, what and how I think changes, too.

For instance, back in college "capitalism" was a negative word for me. While I participated in it everyday, I felt it was out of necessity rather than acceptance. Now, however, I don't see capitalism as the evil, but rather the way the market is manipulated by particular players.

So rather than denouncing capitalism, I prefer to work toward reforming it from within by advocating sensible regulations along with using my purchasing power as a consumer to reward the companies who are, in my view, responsible market players.

But enough about me. If any other bloggers give the Political Spectrum test a shot in the next couple of days, let me know how you score in the comments and I'll try to put it up on the grid. As Dave noted, it would be interesting to see where we all sit.

UPDATE: Dave added more to explain his economic position here. While reading his exposition, I found myself agreeing with every point he makes; yet, I find myself a few points to the left of him on the scale above.

This suggests, to me at least, an obvious problem with these political spectrum tests. Due to the absolute nature of the responses (SA, A, D, SD), much of how people respond is based upon what they have in their mind at the time. A certain amount of psychology enters into play, as the responders try to work the system in order to account for those inevitable exceptions to the rule that most people, at least, can imagine.

Nevertheless, the tests can be interesting and fun in a broad brush type of way.


Blogger proletariat said...

But the difference between agree / disagree can have a large influence on action.

If anything that is my biggest criticism of compass it highlights idealism over action. In the vast majority of democrats there is a big disconnect between what they think or believe and how they vote and act.

My guess is that the disagree /strongly disagree gets at this disconnect somewhat. I would have to say most of my disagrees were on the libertarian not economic quadrants.

January 04, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...


I think the difference between using the word "strongly" in your responses and not using it comes down to how much nuance one sees on a particular issue. The questions that I used the "strongly" response for were ones where I felt there was no room for compromise (such as the right of same-sex couples to adopt).

As I noted in my post, I was far more absolute in my beliefs in college. I very much had a "with us or against us" attitude. But over the past five years, or so, that's changed. I still have my absolutes, as noted above, but I just don't have as many.

I suppose if someone doesn't feel strongly about something, they are less likely to act on their feelings. But, at the same time -- and here's the catch-22 -- when you feel strongly about something, it's often difficult (and, for some, impossible) to compromise. So even when those people with strong feelings are acting, it doesn't necessarily mean they're getting things done, paricularly on a large scale in a widely pluralistic society like the US.

January 04, 2007  
Blogger proletariat said...


Funny, the older I get the further I move to the left. I would argue it has more to do with class positioning than anything else. Many college students are poor some outgrow it, others don't.

I think the disagree / strongly disagree is less important than what quadrant those choices were made in. As you admit it the the libertarian quadrant you invoked it, for me it was the economic one.

You also have to realize what you see as compromise many see as weakness and a character flaw. Many voters are going be damn angry in 08 if there is not universal health care. Doyle's save a few kids program is not going to cut it. Many, like my self, feel these economic issues for Dems are akin to the cultural ones for Republicans. They are not core values but useful to rally the troops during election time.

It is not only about compromise, its the disconnect. As a male it might be easier for me to compromise on abortion, as a father of teenagers it might make me less so. The strongly moves the rational, intellectual response to an emotional, passionate one. Its the fire in the belly that Franks, Siroto and other progressive populists are able to articular that leaves the compromise Dems dumbfounded.

January 04, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...


It seems we have a different view of what it means to compromise. That word probably invokes images of Herb Kohl for you, while I picture Russ Feingold (who has compromised quite a bit over his legislative career, but still holds the respect of nearly all progressives, including -- I imagine -- Sirota and Frank).

Compromising on policy doesn't mean you're compromising your values or your character -- it often means you're just interested in getting things done. And, in time, you can still work toward your ideal, but there's a process involved in that, one that's just as cultural and social as it is political.

Take gay marriage, for instance. I'm a strong proponent of it, but, at this point, I'd be happy with the enactment of civil unions. Then, gradually over time, as people start to see that granting the right of legalized unions to same-sex couples doesn't destroy society (and, in fact, benefits it), then that may open the door for full gay marriage (FYI, I know you disagree with the entire institution of marriage, and I wasn't trying to start a debate on that topic, I'm just using it as an example of how compromising on policy doesn't mean you're compromising your values).

January 05, 2007  
Blogger Dave Diamond said...

Update to your update: Part of that, too, is I tend to read more shades of meaning into things than most people do. On economic stuff there was very little stuff I felt "strongly" about way or the other, while a great many of my civil libertarian answers were.

January 05, 2007  
Blogger TC said...

I'll have to add a little balance here ;^)

Economic 4.13, Social .77

Prof. Althouse recently took this test and reported on results. I scored 30.

January 08, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Thanks for the balance, Dean. I'll add you to the grid.

January 08, 2007  

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