Political Spectrum

I liked the discussion over at KVNU’s For The People about how labels can be misleading regarding someone’s political philosophy. As always, there are quizzes to help someone figure out their own philosophy. KVNU linked to The Political Compass. Another popular one is Worlds Smallest Political Quiz.

I’ve seen both of them before, but it’s always interesting to see how I score on a particular day. As I took each test I was reminded about the biases inherent in one, and the frustration that I always feel because of the vague questions on the other. The other thing that caught my attention was the way that their scales are not directly compatible with each other. Here are my two scores from the same time today:

Political Compass ScoreWorlds Smallest Political Quiz Score

After looking at the results I wondered what it would take to accurately compare the two. So I did some manipulation.I flipped the y-axis on the Political Compass so that the libertarian/authoritarian ratings would go in the same direction. Then I realigned the grid to match the diagonal orientation. After that I could overlay the two scores.

Orient the Political Compass to match Worlds Smallest Political QuizOverlay PC score on WSPQ

The fact that one of my scores was almost dead center while the other was all the way to the edge shows how differently the two quizzes score. I really felt that this is a case of the labels being used differently. I would move the Authoritarian and Libertarian labels to the following positions:

Better placement of labels

I have come to the conclusion that rather than labeling groups it might be better to use a quadrant system similar to the time matrix that I was introduced to in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. (reproduced below)

Seven Habits time matrix

I came up with the following matrix. One has a color for each quadrant while the other shows gradients of color along each axis (economic and social).

My Political Matrix My Political Spectrum with my score

So, any thoughts on my conclusion? (The colors aren’t showing up here like they did when I made this, but it’s not worth redoing them now.)

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.

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5 Responses to Political Spectrum

  1. John Dean in his book, “Conservatives Without Conscience” goes through some of the analysis you just did in trying to understand the currents of modern conservatism. His conclusion was that conservatism has drifted dangerously towards the authoritarian side of the spectrum. The libertarian aspects of historical conservatism seems to be creating alot of cognitive dissonance among conservatives and I would conclude, that defining someone as a “conservative” is not as helpful as it once was.

    Obviously, I lean heavily towards the libertarian side on most social issues and even as a “liberal” believe in a robust private sector. In my past writings, I’ve tried to define and take on authoritarianism because I believe it is the greatest threat to our Republic right now. However, that also pits me against most religious paradigms because they are by nature authoritarian. When anyone defines truth by what someone person of authority says, rather than the weight of the evidence, that is an authoritarian outlook.

  2. David says:

    That might explain why, despite our differences, I really like your perspectives. You are approaching the Libertarian position from the direction of “planned economy” (to use the labels on my graph or Big Government in the vernacular) and I am approaching it from “collective order” (Authoritarian). Thanks to you I think I finally know where to place many of the well-known political labels.

  3. Pingback: David Miller » Blog Archive » Mapping Politics

  4. Pingback: David Miller » Blog Archive » Wired for Authoritarianism

  5. Wellington says:

    I have never seen a diagram like that before. I guess when you look at the spectrum like that, I guess it shows how people will never be 100% on the left or right on every single issue.

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