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