Why We Made the Political Coordinates Test

The internet is crawling with free political observance tests of almost every imaginable kind. So why did we make our own?

Well, we wanted a test that gave the respondent a broad overview and wasn’t tied to specific elections or countries. At the same time, we were frustrated with all the biased tests out there. That is, tests that pretend to be neutral, but are in fact designed to make everyone come out as socialists, libertarians, or whatever.

Some people like to think that our test is the same as another well-known online political observance test. That charge doesn’t hold up.

First, both our test, as well as the alternative, are essentially variants of the Nolan Chart, proposed by David Nolan in 1969. Besides, from the 1950s onward, a long line of researchers, such as Ferguson, Eysenck, and Rokeach, had all devised similar multiaxial charts.

Furthermore, even in spite of our common reliance on the Nolan Chart, there are still essential differences between the Political Coordinates Test and the alternative in question. For example, the alternative:

  • Is calibrated towards the fringe position of anarcho-syndicalism or left-libertarianism, which almost no voters in Western democracies support.
  • Relies on findings from heavily criticized and dated surveys undertaken more than 60 years ago.
  • Sneaks moral assumptions into the questions and uses leading questions to get respondents to comply with its preferred position of left-libertarianism.

Let’s go over these points.

Left-libertarianism

Left-libertarianism is an anti-authoritarian branch of socialism. It is commonly associated with political thinkers such as Noam Chomsky. It is also a fringe position which almost no voters in Western democracies support. Today most people don’t even know what left-libertarianism is and mostly associate the word ‘libertarian’ with free-market thinkers such as Milton Friedman.

Compared to the Political Coordinates Test, the alternative uses a left-libertarian baseline as a lens through which all other politics are seen. The Political Coordinates Test, on the other hand, is calibrated towards the actual center of Western democracies.

In practice, almost every contemporary political party is characterized as “right-wing authoritarian” by the alternative test. The Political Coordinates Test generally makes the correct distinction in making right-wing parties come out right-wing and left-wing parties come out-left wing on its chart. We know this for a fact since actual politicians in several different countries have taken our test and publicly shared their results.

Questionable Surveys

Quantifying politics was all the rage in the 1950s. Not in the least because a few years earlier, there had been a major political event that seemed in need of some explaining.

One such ‘explainer’ was the German socialist Theodor Adorno. Together with his associates, he conducted a large study which concluded that ordinary right-wing voters are fascists waiting to happen. His study was enormously influential, and if you were born in the 70s or 80s, you probably had teachers who actually believed that.

However, Adorno’s study had some problems. As other researchers started poking through it, things began to feel fishy. Turns out it had:

  • Leading and ideological questions: Rather than mapping actual political opinion, the items on the survey sought to confirm its authors’ idea of a big fascist bogeyman lurking around every suburban picket fence. Intelligent respondents recognized that they were not being polled in good faith and held off from answering the questions truthfully.
  • Unrepresentative sample: The people sampled in the survey were not representative. The results were therefore unsuited for drawing general inferences about politics.
  • Poor questionnaire construct: The survey did not comply with best practice standards of polling, such as neutrality, reversed scoring, and the like.

The alternative test relies on Adorno’s study while the Political Coordinates Test does not. The result is that the alternative test does not actually test for right-wing alignment, but an extreme left-wing caricature of what it means to hold such views. The Political Coordinates Test, on the other hand, was designed with input from all major political groups to make sure everyone feels they are being polled in good faith.

Leading Questions

Any question that begins along the lines of:

  • “Isn’t it sad that…”
  • “Isn’t it worrying that…”
  • “Don’t you regret that…”

Is not a neutral question, but a leading one. Studies have repeatedly shown that when you make use of leading questions, you almost certainly end up with misleading or skewed results. In other words, when you use these types of questions, you no longer measure what you set out to measure.

Related to leading questions are loaded questions. Loaded questions typically contain an assumption that the respondent is unable to get out of. For example, a 1937 Gallup poll asked: “Would you vote for a woman for president if she were qualified in every other way?” No matter how the respondent answered, he or she would be unable to disavow the notion that being a woman was disqualifying in and of itself.

The alternative test presents the user with several leading and loaded questions. For example, one question assumes that free market policies are inherently at odds with the interests of the people. But as the professor of social psychology at New York University Jonathan Haidt has shown, this belief is only held by some political parties. To others, such a question is simply nonsensical, just as it is nonsensical for a person who believes that being a woman isn’t a disqualification to be asked to answer the Gallup question above.

The creators of the alternative test have confronted this criticism on their home page, and by their own admission, they don’t see anything wrong with these types of questions – we do.

Conclusion

Therefore, the Political Coordinates Test is different from the alternative in at least three important ways:

  1. The alternative test is calibrated towards the theoretical position of left-libertarianism and sees all other political positions through that prism. The Political Coordinates Test doesn’t.
  2. The alternative test relies on the conclusions of studies that had severe errors in their methodologies and used skewed samples to arrive at their conclusions. The Political Coordinates Test doesn’t.
  3. By their own admission, the creators of the alternative test don’t see anything wrong with using leading and loaded questions and so they do. The Political Coordinates Test doesn’t.

Go here to take the test.

31 Comments

  1. The Self-Aware Fool says:

    “The Political Coordinates Test generally makes the correct distinction in making right-wing parties come out right-wing and left-wing parties come out-left wing on its chart. We know this for a fact since actual politicians in several different countries have taken our test and publicly shared their results.”

    Can you guys give me any specific names/links? Not questioning your honesty, just curious to know. Thanks!

  2. Scoop says:

    Guys your test is hands down the best on the internet right now and the most neutral one with good worded questions. So kudos for that!

    Also it’ll be cool if you share which politicians took your test. Pretty awesome. :)

  3. Scratch says:

    While you are probably entirely correct in your criticism of the alternative tests, I find your own test to still be littered with the same left/right assumptions that every single other political test I’ve ever taken has.

    For example:

    “Immigration to my country should be minimized and strictly controlled.”

    This presupposes that someone who wants stricter immigration also wants less of it and seems to imply that if you are in favor of this statement your are also in some degree xenophobic or at the very least favor less multiculturalism. Someone might be in favor of very little immigration, but without any limitations on who can enter. Or for example my own view that a country should pursue a policy of very strict screening based upon a number of criteria, but allow very high amount of immigrants in, with a corresponding mass investments in infrastructure to support the robust integration of those that have a large cultural difference to the native population.

    “Government spending with the aim of creating jobs is generally a good idea.”

    This one presupposes that jobs is a good in and of itself, something the majority of people agree with, but is something that looks increasingly stupid the more you understand economics. The creation of high quality goods and services and the distribution of those to as many people as possible is a good in and of itself. More jobs might or might not increase that. As a strong supporter of basic income and wage slavery emancipation I disagree with any ridiculous job creation scheme. I do, however, support heavy government spending on infrastructure, research and direct investment in businesses, which I guess would give similar scores to this one. Also political technocrats might agree on either or both, but disagree unless a technocratic body was in charge of the spending.

    “The government should set a cap on the wages of bankers and CEOs.”

    This one seems so emotional. Specifically bankers and CEOs? Why? Because they are unpopular? Someone might want a cap on all wages or very high progressive taxation that make it effectively impossible to be a millionaire, but still disagree with this statement.

    “Some peoples and religions are generally more trouble than others.”

    This is an empirically provable statement that is generally true, but somewhat simplistic. You can agree with this and still be opposed to or in favor of pretty much anything.

    “My country should give more foreign and developmental aid to third-world countries.”

    Again, there are many more aspects to this than just more/less. How you spend foreign aid is extremely important and can be the difference between going entirely to fascists governments, mafia and corrupt individuals and reaching the right people. Also there is ample evidence to suggest that foreign aid creates poverty traps if used carelessly. A country can currently have very smart aid programs or very stupid aid programs and someone can easily disagree with this statement merely on the current quality of their countries aid programs, but still want to help people in other countries even more so than people who agree.

    “It almost never ends well when the government gets involved in business.”

    If you are in favor of a more technocratic style of government (or pure technocracy) you probably disagree with this (as elected officials and the people they appoint are mostly morons), but would probably disagree in general and favor some or a lot of government interference in the marketplace.

    “There is at heart a conflict between the interest of business and the interest of society.”

    You can agree or disagree with this one without having taken any political stance whatsoever. You can easily add a “but the marketplace is instrumental in creating the wealthy society we enjoy today” or a “so we need to abolish/control/etc business interests to a larger degree” to that statement.

    “The market is generally better at allocating resources than the government.”

    Again, degree of technocratic influence in government is ignored.

    “Import tariffs on foreign products are a good way to protect jobs in my country.”

    Another statement that is most likely empirically true, but does not say anything on whether or not this is desirable. Again with the left/right presupposition that jobs equals good. It also does not mention the likely undesirable counter tariffs and other negative ramifications of such a move, making this statement almost as bad as a leading question.

    “Overall, labor unions do more harm than good.”

    and

    “Overall, the minimum wage does more harm than good.”

    You can be in favor of either of these and still be a hard core socialist or just a proponent of basic income.

    Your test is probably the best out there, but still sucks and ironically (since you mentioned him) appears to fall under that Chomsky quote on spectrum of acceptable opinion.

  4. admin says:

    Links: We’ll have to google them and come back. It’s possible to find them on Google though. Off the top of our heads, MPs in Poland, Germany, Denmark and one of the Baltic Countries have shared it. In the USA, congressional hopefuls.

    Scratch: As the test says, it’s calibrated towards the actual blocks and “issues of the day” in Western democracies. The test is *exactly* setting out to measure the Chomsky spectrum of “acceptable opinion,” though not, as Chomsky believes, because people are too stupid to understand that they’re being duped, but from a democratic standpoint, i.e. that revealed preferences show that is how people want their countries governed. So you are criticizing the test for being something that it never set out to be, like going into a McDonald’s and yelling at the staff for not serving Whoppers there.

  5. Dom says:

    “Today most people don’t even know what left-libertarianism is and mostly associate the word ‘libertarian’ with free-market thinkers such as Milton Friedman”

    Guess Rothbard was successful in co-opting the term. Though libertarianism has gone past the point of free-markets and M.Friedman and off into the end the Fed/Gold Standard deepend (which would make any Economist, libertarian or otherwise, cringe)

  6. Anon says:

    “though not, as Chomsky believes, because people are too stupid to understand that they’re being duped”

    Read as: “I’ve never actually read Manufacturing Consent, but I still feel fully qualified to give my opinion on it.”

    Also, just curious, but does the site admin enjoy being as passive-aggressive as humanly possible? Because it seems like he/she enjoys it. It’s never “I personally feel that the Political Compass has biased and leading questions which give the respondent inaccurate results”; it’s “We, as completely neutral and unbiased arbitrators, have objectively observed that our competitor (which we refuse to reference by name because we are just so mature that way) is horribly weighted towards an absurd political position and that its creators are undeniable dickfaces. Said observations are indisputable fact.”

  7. admin says:

    Your comment is 100% non-specific criticisms and your own psychologizations of us. Are you sure we’re the passive-aggressive party here? :D

  8. Anon says:

    Alright, specific criticisms:

    1. I don’t even like the Political Compass, but going out of your way to not name the thing you’re attacking is just plain intellectually dishonest.

    2. The test isn’t trying to pose unbiased questions. It is posing intentionally biased statements of opinion to determine whether or not the respondent intrinsically agrees with those biases. You can argue that this is a stupid way of doing it (which I personally agree with), but saying that they failed in their objective is untrue.

    3. Left-libertarianism is a broad category that stretches far beyond simple anarcho-syndicalism; it theoretically includes everything from some forms of democratic socialism to anarcho-communism.

    4. The reason most major parties come out in the same quadrant is BECAUSE they have very little difference in their economic, social, environmental and political platforms. Take out gay marriage, gun control, and abortion from the platforms of the Democratic and Republican (or Labour and Tories, etc.) parties and you quickly realize they are virtually indistinguishable as political organs. They all basically want to fuck over the working class as much as they can and bomb the shit out of brown people; the only difference is that there’s usually a party that will pay some worthless lip service to things like “social safety nets” and “the Welfare State™.”

    5. This is a nitpick, but Noam Chomsky is a personal hero of mine. Boiling down Manufacturing Consent to “People are too stupid to understand what’s REALLY going on” is a crime and leads me to believe you have some sort of neoliberal agenda in creating your alternative test in the first place.

  9. admin says:

    1. At the advice of counsel.

    2. Let’s say you have a question, the scoring of which is specifically tied to left/right, and then in that question, you have a bias that the respondent cannot get out of. Then it’s indisputably a problem. Otherwise, empirical evidence merely suggests that you are not getting valid results. I guess that would depend on what the test maker’s objectives are. If your objective is a test that doesn’t knowingly skew the results, then you have at the very least compromised your objective.

    3. Yes.

    4. This type of comment reflects the position of someone who views the spectacle from a (numerical) fringe position. To a right-libertarian, they’d all look like big government monstrosities with way too much redistribution. And to a technocrat, well, see the other poster’s comment above.

    5. A more precise way of stating his argument is that people are manipulated through the information streams they receive through the mainstream media. He gives numerous examples to this effect. For example, he says that anti-globalist protesters count some academic heavyweights in their ranks, but the MSM portrays them as foolish and for this reason ordinary people never give these protesters a fair chance, even though it is presumably in their ‘objective’ interest to listen more to these protesters than the ruling elites. Out of these elements I would read (a) “people are being duped” is not a stretch, but a 100% loyal rendition of what he says (b) that the reason they’re being duped is that they’re stupid is a stretch on my part, but if you couple what he’s saying about normal people being exploited but unable to recognize it, why are smart people like Chomsky and his co-author exempt from this? If it’s not a question of smarts, shouldn’t they also be fooled by what they explicitly refer to as “propaganda”?

    6. If you think there are any unfairly worded questions or biases in the test, we’re listening. Never too late to improve. :)

  10. Justin says:

    I’m a huge fan of the test and very grateful for all of the work that you put into it.

    My only problem was with the results page. I was somewhat left wing and significantly libertarian, which I think is a correct result for me. I’m in favor of an expansive welfare state much further to the left than the United States’ currently rather conservative offerings. I’m skeptical that the profits from globalization/trade agreements are going mostly to the very wealthy.

    At the same time, like Stiglitz, Reich, and others, I’m willing to admit that sometimes well-meaning liberal programs like rent control, tariffs, etc are counterproductive and fail to pass the tests of economics 101. I should add that I’m not the type of quiz taker to hesitate to click strongly agree or strongly disagree if that’s an accurate reflection of my preference on a given item. So I thought where I got placed (-3.5 economic, -6.5 social) was believable.

    However, it was pretty laughable to see Barack Obama, someone who, among many other things, 1) loves trade agreements 2) prefers Romneycare market solutions to single-payer 3) wanted to cut social security but was foiled by Democrats is so much further to the left of me economically. If my score was accurate relative to Obama, I’d easily be a -10 on economic issues.

    So, I’d say, you need to either
    1) calibrate your quiz so that a -0, -0 quiz taker is the US equivalent of a Michael Bloomberg on economic issues or
    2) fix your results table to incorporate the diverse left-wing perspectives that are not quite as fringe as you claim.

    There are a lot of criticisms that you can level at the political compass, and I think your test is more measured and less leading than theirs, but I think the fact that the vast majority of elected politicians are further to the right on economic issues than the public at large is incisive and evidence-based.

  11. admin says:

    Thank you, we’ll think about it. :)

  12. DomMMK says:

    I think you guys are demanding too much detail from a 2D pop-politics test.

    Overall though I agree with Anon in that it doesn’t do quite a good job at describing the current political climate. Even in the test I saw some antiquated references to outdated economic beliefs.

    What we understand about Min.Wage has become uncertain over the last decade: http://www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel/poll-results?SurveyID=SV_e9vyBJWi3mNpwzj

    Free trade, irrespective of your political beliefs, isn’t a question anymore in Economics: http://www.igmchicago.org/igm-economic-experts-panel/poll-results?SurveyID=SV_0dfr9yjnDcLh17m

    Despite the contempt Janet Yellen and Ben Bernanke hold among the anti-intellectual libertarians like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson, I dare you to find an Economist worth their weight in this post-Greenspan, Jean-Tirole-world that would disagree with their interventionist nature. How do you reconcile someone like Scott Sumner–who is Milton Friedman reincarnate and a good example of an intellectual libertarian–endorsing Hillary Clinton this year?

    PS: Robert Reich is NOT an Economist. He routinely spouts economic non-sense.

  13. admin says:

    We know these things. Again, it’s calibrated towards what voters think, not economists.

  14. DomMMK says:

    I was speaking more to the futility of others trying to get nuanced political beliefs out of such a simplified system.

    Nut jobs like Ron Paul maybe easy to peg, sure, but Scott Sumner will always be my go-to for these examples. He is the modern day Milton Friedman, a self-described libertarian: His colleagues (as he notes) have described him as being a liberal, slightly left of center. If he were to take your test then he would be far right of center given he is Friedman reincarnate. If you were to ask him he would say he is a sensible moderate (and has said). If you were to check his blog you’d see him constantly being chastised for being a left-ist. I can’t help but find that all amusing.

    Tests like these can never be made to appease all parties, especially when peoples political beliefs have a level of nuance to them.

  15. admin says:

    Ok, cool. Yes, economists — even interventionalists — tend to score significantly to the “right” of the general population. We even contemplated making a test about that: “How economist are you?” :D

  16. rachelw says:

    I think I’d get 0% on a “How economist are you?” test. :D Incredibly dull, tedious subject.

  17. rachelw says:

    Ryan / Eva

    Why on earth are you guys writing articles about politics when you could be watching Euro 2016 football? The insanity… :)

  18. Scoop says:

    Rooting for Iceland. :D

  19. Scoop says:

    Guys, could you add some more people on the coordinates chart. Maybe some examples of Left-communitarianism (Social democracy), Castro would fit?

  20. admin says:

    Millions of Britons have signed a petition for a re-match and parliament has been encouraged to vote against the result, which was only advisory. 2-1 is far too narrow a margin to decide such an important matter.

  21. rachelw says:

    Iceland played brilliantly, while England have been poor all tournament. They deserve to be out.

    Italy or Belgium will win.

  22. Scoop says:

    Watch out for France too. :D

  23. Scoop says:

    Also, I don’t see Italy going past Germany easily. Germans aren’t in their immaculate form but you never know.

  24. rachelw says:

    I think Iceland will beat France actually – with the exception of Payet they’ve been very disappointing, and not much better than England.

    Italy vs Germany will be a great match, and I guess 2:1 to Italy.

    Italy vs Belgium in the final. :)

  25. rachelw says:

    Scoop,

    I’m guessing you’re from Europe if you understand that by football I didn’t mean that American rugby nonsense? :D

  26. Scoop says:

    Lol, not European but I think when we say football most of the world knows what it means. :p

    It would be great if Iceland can somehow beat France but I very much doubt it, Griezmann can fire any day.

    The match to look forward to is Italy vs Germany. Let’s see if Germans can live up to their potential.

  27. awesomeEllefant says:

    I’m from Los Angeles but I watch soccer-football too. :D

    I think Germany will win. Even with no Marco Reus :)

  28. awesomeEllefant says:

    Why didn’t England use their women’s team?? :) They were amazing at last year’s world cup.

  29. Scoop says:

    So Wales downed Belgium. Didn’t see that coming…

  30. rachelw says:

    Portugal. WTF?

  31. Scoop says:

    Well. Goes on to show you don’t have to be the best to win. :D haha. But Congrats to Portugal on their unlikely success.

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