Plotting my Politics

A little less than a decade ago, shortly after the time when I’d come to question virtually all of the ideological assumptions common within the U.S. (and in the Utah conservative Mormon community in which I’d been raised in particular), I came upon a fascinating website, PoliticalCompass.com this site provided a fairly extensive quiz to plot your ideology on the political grid (one axis being the liberal-conservative spectrum, the other being the authoritarian-libertarian axis). I took the quiz and found myself right here.

me1.gif

I realized that my challenge to conventional Utah politics wasn’t just an example of my contrarian streak, but the result of a fundamentally different ideology from that of most of my Utah Mormon peers. Indeed, it was different from most U.S. politics, period.I had been baffled by the outcry among conservative champions about the liberal descent of the U.S. at the hands at the Democratic party. After all, the Democratic party’s positions were little different from that of the Republicans. The mainstream DLC Democrat was (and is) just as likely to pander to corporate interests, promote corporate globalism with institutions such as the World Bank, the IMF, the WTO and NAFTA, encourage government intervention in social issues like marriage, and (a few years later) fall all over themselves to get tough on terrorism with the Patriot Act and the vote to authorize the president’s invasion of Iraq. They are the examples of the extreme liberalism which is such a threat to the “American values” of the conservatives? I just didn’t see it. Few of the Democrats (Paul Wellstone and Dennis Kucinich were the only ones of which I was aware) took stands even remotely resembling those of Ralph Nader, whose agenda greatly appealed to me, let alone radicals such as Noam Chomsky or Howard Zinn.

The Political Compass helped confirm my doubts. As it evaluated the candidates at the time, it listed virtually all high-profile Democrats in the conservative/authoritarian quadrant, only slightly less conservative and authoritarian than the high-profile Republicans. The 2000 primary field is no longer shown on their website, but those for the 2008 election are.

usprimaries_2007.png

As it shows here, almost all the Democratic candidates are once again listed on the conservative/authoritarian spectrum. That bane of Republicans, Hillary Clinton, is listed as the most conservative of the Democratic field (with ample cause, as any liberal Democrat or Green party member will tell you). For the most part, we in the U.S. don’t even know what liberalism is on the scale of most of the rest of the world. The spectrum of thought here is generally speaking so narrow, its frightening.
I’m comfortable with the ideological company I keep here in the liberal/libertarian quadrant (Kucinich, Nader, Chomsky, Mandela, Gandhi, the Dalai Lama). This is why I am confident I am a “true” liberal.

(The other great resource for understanding my place in the liberal camp? Moral Politics, by George Lakoff. This book put liberal thought into a coherent perspective, one which I share, and one which I found to be most consistent with the perspective taught in the Gospel. When I read it a few years later, it only confirmed my comfort in the Liberal label.)

Go ahead, take the quiz. Where do you fall on the grid?

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24 Responses to “Plotting my Politics”

  1. jennifer Says:

    I took the quiz a couple of times in the past 3 years and my results were very similar to yours, naturally. Thanks for sharing 😉

  2. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I fell pretty deep under libertarian, as you might expect, but just barely (and I mean barely) to the right. Not that far from you in the big picture, and I’m happy with that. As much as we’ve disagreed on some things, I really respect you. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. Allie Says:

    I’m about as far left as Kucinich, but slighly further toward libertarian.

    There were several questions that I would have selected “neither agree nor disagree” if the option had been available, or I would have changed my choice if the statement had been worded differently.

  4. Ben Says:

    I’m about in the same place where you fell. Great article!

  5. Aaron Orgill Says:

    It’s too bad, but not surprising, that virtually all of the mainstream candidates are in the authoritarian right. We need terribly someone who stands out, and it seems there is only Kucinich. I admire him for sticking to his guns, but as a matter of both practicality and his actual beliefs, he is not a viable candidate.

  6. Misty Fowler Says:

    I agree with Allie – I would like to have had an “ambivalent” option.

    I also think that the questions were kind of loaded – it seems to me that they have an agenda, and I’d really like to take a completely unbiased version of the test.

    It put me not quite midway through the left side, and just about midway down on the Libertarian portion, very close to yours.

  7. shenpa warrior Says:

    Interesting that the Dems are leaning right nowadays. Kind of depressing.

    As for the test, it was fun but it really needs to be a true Likert scale, with a neutral middle.

    I was about a -4, -4, which is a little northeast of you, but in lower left.

  8. The Independent Mormon Says:

    I am in the upper left quadrant, a leftish authoritarian. Although I have some problem with this quiz because it doesn’t exactly give you a nuanced opinion on issues that are very complicated.

  9. cb Says:

    A fun little exercise, but this is not a thinking person’s quiz. Parts of this quiz sounds as if it were written by Sean Hannity, MoveOn.org, and Ron Paul. I expect to be to the left of Mitt Romney, but it put me to the left of Hillary, which, I have to say is absolutely crazy. Did Hillary actually take this quiz? Or did some frustrated far-leftest or libertarian just decide to put her in the top right quadrant? I was located almost in the exact center of the grid, right on the X axis and a little above the Y axis.

  10. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Those are good points. After taking the test again (without intending to answer any of the questions differently), I ended up on the left side of the line. Perhaps my mood just shifted from the time I first took it Saturday morning prior to conference, but I think this could be a lot more neutral and thus more accurate. For example, I don’t think there are truly many people who believe that whatever is best for corporations is best for everybody, but still believe in the right to pursue a profit and leave businesses alone. And as I took notice, there are a lot of manipulative questions like that.

  11. Rleon Says:

    I’ll have to take that quiz and see how it compares with mine in connect2elect.com but from what I can see it is a pretty accurate tool if all you want to do is see where you stand in relation to the major political parties or tendencies out there. If what you want is to compare candidates in a more individual basis rather than by party lines I would recommend my grid. Anyway, it’s open for debate…

  12. Rudizink Says:

    A “chewy” post indeed. I too have taken similar tests in the webosphere over past years, and I was delighted to find that now… as I’ve matured… I fit onto the grid somewhere near Ghandi on the anti-authoritarian scale… although slightly to the right… which is just fine with me.

  13. Cody Says:

    I ended up 6.8 boxes left of center, and 2.5 boxes south of the A/L line. I enjoyed that. I also find myself agreeing with those who wish there’d been an option to neither “agree nor disagree” on a couple of the questions.

  14. LDS Anarchist Says:

    I tried to take the quiz but all of the questions were loaded. I couldn’t bring myself to answer a question whose presupposition I didn’t agree with. I never made it past the first page before abandoning the endeavor. (The quiz would not allow me to leave a question unanswered.) But no biggie. I know that I’m LDS and an anarchist, but where anarchy lies in that chart is unknown to me.

  15. Cliff Says:

    The use of authoritarians bogus for liberal. Authoritarian refers to an psychological quality of mean crazy people who tend to identify with strong, often mean, sometimes evil leaders.

    Bush, Stalin and Hitler are good examples.

    I would think a better characterization of the top left of the graph is something like”

    Quaker
    Religiously convicted
    Prophet
    Idealist

    or…

    All around super kind, caring person with a level of optimism that offends the sensibilities of the cynical.

  16. One Utah » Blog Archive » Sunday Morning Reality Check Says:

    […] Derek took a political test and wrote a cool post called “Plotting My Politics.” […]

  17. Derek Staffanson Says:

    I’m glad a lot of people had fun with this post and site. I thought I’d address some of the questions people raised about the test. Now I’m not affiliated with Political Compass, nor do I know anybody who is, so I can’t claim to have any authoritative knowledge. But I’ll take a stab at it.

    First off, nobody should take the ratings too seriously. It is simply impossible to give any truly quantitative measure of abstract concepts such as “liberalism,” “libertarianism,” “conservativism,” or “authoritarianism.” It would be silly to try to say “I’m actually 2 degrees more liberal than you, but 4.75 degrees more libertarian.” All we can really expect is for the test to give us a general area. I can see that I’m in the same general vicinity of Kucinich, Gravel, and Gandhi, and I can understand why I’m unimpressed with the Democrats generally—they are nowhere near my area.

    It should be noted that, to the best of my knowledge, none of the candidates or world leaders have taken this test. The Political Compass scored each of those individuals based on their stated positions and their actions. So we should probably take their rankings with a grain of salt—though from my perspective, the rankings seem pretty consistent with my personal observations.

    Why didn’t the test include a “neither” or “no response”answer? I think for legitimate reasons. Any reasonable human being understands that there are few categorical absolutes in life. Our answer depends on the circumstances of the individual situation. Given that reality, providing a “no answer” button would render the test meaningless. The majority of responses would likely be “no answer,” putting most people much closer to the mushy middle than is accurate.

    So the test doesn’t provide you that out. It forces you to take a stand, most likely your initial impression. And that initial impression, devoid of any situation-specific data, most likely represents your primary nature.

    This is the same reason many of the questions seem loaded and why the avoid nuance. By making general, blanket statements, test-takers have to rely on their initial impressions. A blanket statement which could be a sound-bite from Hannity or Savage will, devoid of any context, make me nauseous, and elicit an extreme response. A generalized statement which sounds like something from Barbara Ehrenreich or Michael Moore will send some of my other readers into fits, and get an extreme response from them. These kinds of statements speak to our core convictions, if not to our rational brains. Thus these generalized, “loaded” statements can probably get a more accurate picture of your core ideology than a more detailed scenario would.

    CB, being left of Hillary isn’t that hard when you’re left of Romney. Nor is it crazy. After all, did you notice how Hillary recently propose a health care system not all that different than the one which Romney cobbled together in Mass? Hillary, the DLC, and the mainstream Democrats simply aren’t much to the Left of the mainstream Republicans.

    Those questions aren’t being manipulative, Aaron. They are merely making blanket statements which will appeal to certain ideological predispositions. And the test creators discussed the “corporation vs. human” question you raised in their FAQ. Their explanation makes a good deal of sense. Try reading the FAQ.

    You’re right, Rleon, this test is much better for establishing general ideological stands than critically evaluating candidates. I’m curious to take a look at yours. Thanks for sharing.

  18. Aaron Orgill Says:

    Thanks for pointing out the FAQs. I very much respect their declining to guess where Jesus or Mohammed would fit in. Evangelicals are convinced that Jesus is a Republican, and liberals love to claim him as one of their own. The whole fight makes me want to vomit. There is no way you can claim he was a conservative in his own time, but the writers correctly pointed out that things have changed a wee bit in the last 2,000 years.

    Some of the questions ARE manipulative, no matter what they say. Halliburton and the others they mentioned are far from the way an average corporation operates. For the most part, businesses (even most large corporations) see a need or want and help fill it, and are no less honorable than someone who makes their living as a librarian or free-lance graphic designer. 🙂

  19. Derek Staffanson Says:

    Aaron, read the FAQ. They mentioned both the conservative view (corporations provide a venue from which the needs of the people to be met by the market) and the liberal view (we need to moderate the market to protect the public from the excesses of corporate power). They even threw in a second blurb for the conservative side, mentioning Milton Friedman at the end. You can bet that Milton and Ron Paul would have no qualms nor hesitation in answering. Where is the manipulation?

  20. Aaron Orgill Says:

    I think these guys do a pretty good job of staying out of it, just that some of the questions are incomplete. Corporations or humanity? Can’t it be both? I don’t care to argue about it any more. We have a slight and very unimportant disagreement. I do think it’s cute how you see my name next to something and argue with me, even if I’ve spent most of my text agreeing with you.

  21. Derek Staffanson Says:

    You provide a strange combination of ignorant statements with a willingness to reason. I just can’t pass that up.
    😉

  22. Aaron Orgill Says:

    You’re right, those comments were pretty schizophrenic. And I really don’t have the passion to argue about this topic anyway.

  23. Mathew Call Says:

    I have thoroughlly enjoyed this blog and all of your comments. Just like almost everyone else, I am in the lower left quadrant: -7.oo on the x- and -3.18 on the y-axis, right where Gandhi is. 😉 What would be really cool would be a z-axis on Morality! Then we could have a 3-dimensional plotting. I find myself extremely at home with everything the Green Party stands for except moral issues like gay marriage and abortion. On those I am as Mormon as they come. Anyone know of any sort of organization of LDS Green Party members who hold my same views? If so I think I found my party.

  24. Saintless » Libertarian Left Says:

    […] Derek over at A Liberal Mormon, put this test up on his blog, so I took it, […]

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