Insights: The Political Compass Challenge Redux

On May 19, 2004 I published a post touting a site I had recently come across called The Political Compass. The site is pretty straight forward, it provides you with a questionnaire that measures your political leanings across two axis. On the X axis you have a left to right economic scale and on the Y axis you have an authoritarian to libertarian social scale. This allows for the creation of the following four quadrants.

Quoting the site as an explanation of their analysis

In the introduction, we explained the inadequacies of the traditional left-right line.

If we recognise that this is essentially an economic line it’s fine, as far as it goes. We can show, for example, Stalin, Mao Tse Tung and Pol Pot, with their commitment to a totally controlled economy, on the hard left. Socialists like Mahatma Gandhi and Robert Mugabe would occupy a less extreme leftist position. Margaret Thatcher would be well over to the right, but further right still would be someone like that ultimate free marketeer, General Pinochet.

That deals with economics, but the social dimension is also important in politics. That’s the one that the mere left-right scale doesn’t adequately address. So we’ve added one, ranging in positions from extreme authoritarian to extreme libertarian.

Both an economic dimension and a social dimension are important factors for a proper political analysis. By adding the social dimension you can show that Stalin was an authoritarian leftist (ie the state is more important than the individual) and that Gandhi, believing in the supreme value of each individual, is a liberal leftist. While the former involves state-imposed arbitrary collectivism in the extreme top left, on the extreme bottom left is voluntary collectivism at regional level, with no state involved. Hundreds of such anarchist communities exisited in Spain during the civil war period

You can also put Pinochet, who was prepared to sanction mass killing for the sake of the free market, on the far right as well as in a hardcore authoritarian position. On the non-socialist side you can distinguish someone like Milton Friedman, who is anti-state for fiscal rather than social reasons, from Hitler, who wanted to make the state stronger, even if he wiped out half of humanity in the process.

[Click here for an in-depth explanation of the analysis methodology.]

What I found most interesting about this site in 2004 remains true today. The results it produces reveal a lot about me as well as the broader world of political leanings. For example, here is a graph of the entire field of 2008 U.S. Presidential candidates.

What is interesting here (aside from the fact that I am more aligned ideologically with Ralph Nader than Barack Obama) is that while there is indeed a left-right divide among the U.S. POTUS candidates all but three fall  into the authoritarian-right quadrant.

Shocker?

Thats right Tea-Partiers, Barack Obama is not a Socialist after all.

Let’s put that into perspective. Here are some global political figures from which to draw comparison.

And here is another example with names you are more likely to recognize.

So what we see here is that nearly the entire pool of Democrats and Republicans are closer ideologically to Hitler than to Stalin.

I bring this topic up again because I truly wonder if most people have ever really examined their political leanings and where they objectively fall in the scope of things. Labels like Fascist, Socialist, Marxist and Communist are thrown around in American politics like tomatoes in Tomatina but most of the time the people using them have no clue what they are talking about.

I decided to take this test again and to share my results openly with you. Interestingly, while my results have moved slightly closer to the center than where I was in 2004 I am still solidly planted in the libertarian-left quadrant with Nelson Mandela, H.H. The Dalai Lama and Gandhi.

So here is your challenge. Take the test honestly and plot your results exactly as they are returned. Please do not retake the test if you don’t like the results. Then share either simply the results or the link to the printable graph you are provided in comments section below. I know you will be surprised at what you find.

4 Responses to “Insights: The Political Compass Challenge Redux”

  1. daniel noe says:

    I seem to be just to the right and below of the center. I did have some trouble interpreting the questions, though. I have a hunch that I was placed incorrectly because of semantics. I wonder if our candidates would have been placed differently if different issues were covered. Also, the relative importance of each issue matters as well.

  2. Well, I don’t know you well Daniel – only from the few comments you have left here – but if you would consider yourself a centrist with a libertarian bent that placement seems fine. I did get the sense that some of the questions were meant to make the ‘big’ decisions about which quadrant to drop one in and then others were more tweaking questions. If you answer them as best you can then I think you can trust the placement.

  3. daniel noe says:

    I had thought of myself as a centrist with a libertarian bent, but that was only by comparing myself to various candidates, with the dems and gop being on opposite sides of me, but the gop being a little closer to me. On this chart, I find I am not only closer to the dems, but the gop is on the opposite side of them from me. Is this because the issues focused on during the election were different from the issues focused on in this questionaire? Probably.
    Understand, that doesn’t make this graph wrong at all, just incomplete.

  4. Well, this poll has been consistent since I took it in 2004. Same questions. While I moved slightly toward the center I am pretty much in the same place I was then. I would like to think that these questions are more about gauging where one falls on the economic and fiscal axis then where they align with current political issues. In my opinion this is more of a true barometer than aligning with issues mainly because issues are targeted and honed in order to divide and conquer the electorate.

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