On Political Compass

A reader unimpressed with my blog post “Right-wing Improperly Understood” suggested the website www.politicalcompass.org was “more logical and easier to understand.” I went to the site. The opening page presents you with a survey. You answer the questions and the site returns the results in a 2D format; economic left to right, authoritarian to libertarian top to bottom). The evaluation in my case was dead wrong (the blog post previous to this one is a simple poll on your evaluation results for anyone interested).

I have a bit of a libertarian streak concerning some topics that I suspect does not align very closely with what might be called a “typical” Republican. Political Compass does not appear to be able to correctly account for this. I went back and took the survey again, this time answering along the lines of what many could consider “typical” for someone calling themselves conservative. This time, the results were much more accurate in terms of where I actually fall on the political spectrum – but obviously, I had lied on several questions.

The survey, in my view, has a disproportionate number of questions connected with religion. I am not in any way anti-religion. I am concerned about religion or religious factions acquiring too much political power (think theocracy, the inquisition, etc.) and support the notion of a separation of church and state. It appears my answers led the survey algorithms to believe I was anti-religion which put me on the left (I have no idea what the algorithms behind the survey are, I am simply speculating).

There were almost no questions about the military, national security, or foreign policy. The answer options were all agree or disagree. There was no option for “this is none of the government’s damn business.”

I found it interesting that the economic evaluation was left to right, but the social evaluation was libertarian to authoritarian and that all politics distills down to social and economic. I would concur that most politics does equate to social and economic topics but where do foreign policy and military policy fall? On many of the questions, I was thinking “how is this political?”

What is it that makes any given topic “political?” In my view it is simply this; when someone tries to pass a law on the matter, it becomes political. Is the car you choose to drive a political matter? No, not unless someone proposes or passes a law trying to control which car you buy.

Are the first and second amendments political matters? Not by design. By design, the Founders’ clear intent was to put these (and several others) beyond the reach of the majority and therefore beyond politics. They become hot-button political issues only because of political attacks on them, attempts to write laws that curtail or invalidate them.

The Political Compass survey appears to me to be flawed. It does not seem to be able to account for views that fall outside the “stereotype” for any given point on the spectrum. It offers only absolutes in responses. It does not appear to account for the idea that some respondents might view some questions as completely outside of politics (having a “not politics” response option would no doubt significantly change the outcome in certain cases).

To be fair, Political Compass returning results in a 2D format is, I believe, a good idea. In my research for the previous article, I found many sources that insisted that the straight (single) line from left to right to describe the political spectrum is an oversimplification. I tend to agree but I have not yet seen a convincing alternative.


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