Monday, October 04, 2010

Political Compass

There is a fascinating site online called The Political Compass. The basic premise behind it is the traditional left-right view of politics is very limiting, and therefore quite inaccurate.

Rather than going along this single line, it fixes Left and Right in terms of economic policy (collectivism vs free market) and introduces a 2nd dimension in the form of Authoritarian and Anarchistic/Libertarian.

What this means is, while Stalin and Margaret Thatcher, for example, were at opposite ends in their approach to the economy, they were pretty close in their ideas that the masses were not to be trusted and needed to be controlled by the state.

For those interested in the UK political system, Political Compass plotted the parties based on their policies in the 2010 elections, on to their grid (they also have ones for the most recent US, Canadian, Australian, Irish and New Zealand elections)

As you can see, the traditional, left wing party of British politics, Labour, has moved so far to the right over the past couple of decades that it now sits in almost exactly the same place occupied by Thatcher back in the 1980s.

However, the real fun part of this site is you can take the test yourself to see where your outlook fits in the grand scheme of things.* It’s completely anonymous, unless you decide to blog about it afterwards.

I first did this test when a friend emailed it to me about 8 or 9 years ago. I then rediscovered it about 3 years back and did it again. And in the interests of this post, I have just gone through it a 3rd time. However, while my score has shifted by a degree here or there, it seems my politics are pretty well entrenched. Fundamentally I still occupy exactly the same region on the grid as I did a decade back - Economic Left/Right: -7.75 Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -9.49.

It turns out I’m an extremist – it’s difficult to move further to the left, or more towards anarchism. I’ve discovered over the years that even people I was convinced had far more radical outlooks than I do are right-wing, authoritarians compared to me. Hell, Ghandi was more of a right-wing, authoritarian compared to me (it'll be interesting to see how many Followers I lose after this post).

Yet to me, my outlook is perfectly reasonable. I don’t feel like an extremist, and I certainly don’t act like an extremist.

But perhaps that last sentence gives a clue to the limitations of The Political Compass – it is lacking a 3rd axis – pacifist-activist.

Ideologically I am a collectivist-anarchist, but I am not an activist.

Over a cup of tea I will debate with you until I get tired or it becomes clear you’re never going to be convinced by my reasonableness, and I will write the occasional blog post expressing my views. But you won’t find me on demonstration marches, writing letters to newspapers or making bombs.

If there were a 3rd axis, I’d be at the extreme end of that one too.

*Feel free to leave your results in the comments if you wish, but I’m not an authoritarian so it’s not compulsory...


TalesNTypos said...

Most of my freinds would classify themselves libertarians.

I confess, I do love Boris. *shrug*

TalesNTypos said...


V said...

Hi Kim,

I'd forgotten about this site. Lovely to have a reminder of it. I think the thing that surprises me about it is that there are people about there who 'strongly disagree' with things I take for granted as being completely normal thoughts. Reading some of the questions makes me wonder 'who can think such a thing?'...then I remember we have a Tory government.

I'm fascinated that people can believe things that I just can't connect with at all. We're all entitled to our opinions....and interesting to have mapped out the spectrum of opinion and where it lies on the political landscape.

Good post. Thank you,


Sandy's witterings said...

Well I wouldn't call myself a political type at all but we all have ideas of right and wrong so I gave it a birl and got economic -4.75 and libetarian -4.41 - perhaps what I would have expected.

TalesNTypos said...

economic left/right -7.00
social libertarian/authoritarian -5.64

I'll stop hogging the floor now. ;)

Roschelle said...

i think i saw something similar during our last presidential election cycle. can't wait to check it out!

Rachel Fox said...

Interesting to see if your position on the grid changed if you were actually put in power...

Chrissie B said...

Ooh, interesting! I scored Economic -2.88 and Libertarian -3.90 and plan to pass the link on to friends. Thanks!

Eryl said...

I'm off to do the test but thought, first, to say it seems to me that you act entirely in accordance with your idealogical beliefs.

I'll come back and let you know how I score.

Ron Tipton said...

Interesting test Kim. I took it and found out that I am also a libetarian.

Ron Tipton said...

I'm closer to Ghandi (no surprise) than any other historical figure.

Economic Left/Right: -1.50
Social Libertarian/Ahuthortarian: -1.85

Thanks for the heads up on this test. I always wondered where I stood. I knew I wasn't strictly left or right. Now I know.

Eryl said...

I got: Economic left/right: -8.00 and Social lib/auth:
-8.15 which sounds about right, but I confess I found some of the questions difficult to answer because they seemed to contain ambiguous terms, and I often couldn't quite contextualise. Nonetheless I'm delighted to find myself situated well inside the anarcho-syndicalist camp.

Thrup'ny bits said...

I remember visiting that site several years ago. I was put in the same quadrant as you, Kim, but not so extreme: closer to Gandhi and the Dalai Lama . . .

I'll visit the site again and see how things have changed.


Thrup'ny bits said...

Still in the same quadrant
Economic Left/Right: -5.12
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.33

And on your third axis, Kim, I would say I am more passive than active.


Thrup'ny bits said...

"And on your third axis, Kim, I would say I am more passive than active."

That was sloppy: should have typed 'more pacifist than activist.'


Anna van Schurman said...

6 page of questions and all the images in my evaluation are broken. I'm guessing I'm floating in the lower left with you.

Carole said...

I had never heard of this site and had fun taking the test although you might imagine I am in a different quadrant than you. I agree with Eryl about some of the questions. Or at least to me, none of the answers fit certain questions to my way of thinking so I had to take a stab in the dark. I was in the lower right hand purple box (but I was closer to the middle than you might imagine) Which I think makes me a little on the weird side.

Kim Ayres said...

Adila - I think probably the majority of my friends don't respond too well to authority. Looks like your score puts you in the same region as mine

V - I think this post is more related to my recent post, Naiveté than I'd realised - the fact that I think my position on things is perfectly normal and reasonable, and yet I'm actually on the far edge of conventional thoughts. Most people don't seem to think like I do.

Sandy - it's no bad thing to come out where you expected - you must have a good sense of self understanding :)

Roschelle - hope you enjoyed it :)

Rachel - ah, now that would be interesting! Would I become corrupt with power and become an authoritarian dictator? At the moment, that feels like it would take too much energy, so I'd be more likely to devolve power, but perhaps I'm as corruptable as anyone else :)

Chrissie - it seems most who are prepared to admit it seem to be falling into that bottom left quadrant :)

Ron - quite close to the centre, but in terms of US politics, that practically makes you a pinko communist ;)

Eryl - I think it's inevitable that there will be some questions like that - I had the same problem, but overall we've ende up pretty much in the same place. And I have to say pleases me no end to find I'm not alone here :) Now, where do you think Nietzsche would end up...?

Alan - it's interesting that even several years apart, we still end up in more or less the same places. I think I went through my most major political ideology changes when I was at university, and I've stayed in that place pretty much ever since. I wonder if many people change much later in life?

Anna - what a shame the images weren't working. It does give the grid reference though, so if both your numbers were negative, then that would put you in the same quadrant.

Carole - I wondered if you'd feature up in the top right box, but clearly you're not an authoritarian. Which I would guess is less usual in the Christian circles you move in, but I'm open to being corrected :)

Pat said...

I wouldn't dare.

Kim Ayres said...

Pat - oh go on. I'll still love you, whatever your result :)

Litzi said...

Hi Kim,
Why do most of us (me included) find it necessary to pigeon hole or compartmentalize our political ideology? Too often it creates tunnel vision and doesn’t allow us to consider alternatives that might be more practical. Perhaps it’s one way of hoping to gain a modicum of control in our rapidly changing world.

Attila The Mom said...

Oh gak, that makes my eyes cross!

Entrepreneur Chick said...

(it'll be interesting to see how many Followers I lose after this post).

How many times have I said that before? Hahahaha.

You clearly enjoy analytical thought, which I like.

A Daft Scots Lass said...

I guess our views change over time.

The Birdwatcher said...

economic -3.5 libertarian -7.85 thanks for that very interesting. I have drifted leftwards in my old age.

Kim Ayres said...

Litzi - well that's what I quite liked about this site - it helps to challenge the traditional pigeonholes

Attila - tell your eyes to calm down - it's only a website... ;)

EC - I can't help analytical thought - it's one of the reasons I studied philosophy :)

Gillian - I don't think they do much, unless we experience something that shakes our world

Birdwatcher - perhaps you've stayed the same and the world has lurched to the right...

allencapoferri said...

This reminds me of elections coming up in November. Although certainly it should be taken seriously I'd have to say I chose not to have any affiliations with any political party here in the States or elsewhere.

Kim Ayres said...

I do vote, however pointless it feels, because I'd rather be in a country that has a vote than doesn't. But I'm not affiliated to any party and decide at the time who I'm going to vote for

Jayne Martin said...

That's fascinating. I'm going to check it out. And I find you the absolute definition of reasonableness.

Kim Ayres said...

Jayne - I'd love to know your result :)