The Political Compass

If you ever wondered where you fall on the political map, take the test at The Political Compass and find out. It only takes about ten minutes, and then you get to see, in a fascinating four-quadrant graph, where you would fit among several examples of world leaders. Going beyond the simplistic left-right economic spectrum, it adds a social authoritarian-libertarian axis.
Surprising: George Bush (and John Kerry!) are actually to the right of Adolph Hitler on the economic axis, but more libertarian. Ariel Sharon and Hitler aren't that much farther apart than Stalin and Saddam! Not surprising: I'm pretty much opposite of W -- down there in the Left-Libertarian camp with Ghandi, the Dalai Lama, and Nelson Mandela (and, presumably, though he's not shown, Jesus). I scored a -5.75 / -5.13. If you ever wondered what those numbers are at the bottom of some posts and comments on DailyKos, this is what they mean.

Could require a small grain of salt when it comes to world leaders -- the site claims they were plotted by plugging in their public positions and actions. Very interesting that the bottom-left is where we find several heroes of religion, class struggle, and civil rights, but it's the upper-right where you find American politicians. Some cool supporting material in the FAQ, including praise from economic, poli-sci, and law professors who make their students take the test as a starting point for discussions. The test itself is impressive in its simplicity and ability to make you really think about where you stand on certain issues and statements.


Trevor Jackson said...

"Abstract art that doesn't represent anything shouldn't be considered art at all."

Can you strongly disagree with the fundamental premise of the statement? What doesn't represent something? I guess there's my answer.

An eye-opening exercise: -3.63/-6.82.

Some of those statements are fairly tricky and on a different day I might "strongly agree" with something I only "agreed" with today, but I'm pretty sure my quadrant is set.

MSF said...

I had the same thought--the difference between agreeing and strongly agreeing, etc. seemed suspect--if it was an issue i felt passionate about, i voted strongly, and otherwise i just voted. and the fact that there was no provision for things i feel relatively neutral about might have made me a bit contrarian. what's funny is that what i suspect might be my tiny secret conservative (or at least non-socialist) streak only moved me to the middle of the left/libertarian axis.

Economic Left/Right: -4.13
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.28

TLB said...

WOW, I was really farther into that bottom left square than I thought. I am more of a communist than the Dalai Lama or Ghandi? WTF?


ian said...

Apparently, TLB, we are the founders of a left-of-Ghandi movement. Everyone, else you're either with us or against us. -6, -6.67. Wow. Now, where's my state handout for the underemployed?

Pete said...


I guess I should grow that revolutionary beard, shiv a booge and take his beret. Viva the revolution.

I don't see how wanting some regulation of corporate business makes me such a socialist. That seems like a bias of the questions.

I agree that a lot of those questions are flawed in premise. It reminds me of a question I was asked on the El platform last week about CAPS: If you knew more about CAPS would you be more likely to support it? Well, I said, depends on what more I'd know.

"Making peace with the establishment is an important aspect of maturity"

WTF? It depends on the establishment, fuckface. Why don't you ask that question to the guys in Guantanamo.

segall said...


Probably because I'm halfway through Tony Judt's Postwar and dreaming of breezy, sunlit welfare states.

Trevor Jackson said...

Sheesh. I guess I should send a check to Americans for Tax Reform compared to the rest of y'all. I'll put a "Hippies Stink" bumper sticker on my Hummer while I'm at it.

bR said...

Me: -5.63/-3.38. Pretty much right on top of Ghandi, and apparently a tad less libertarian (however you may interpret that) than most goats.

Be interesting to see if any earthgoat readers score outside the "libertarian left" quadrant.

bR said...

There's not enough data here to make this observation statistically meaningful in any way, but something that strikes me as interesting:

The CW holds that (a) Americans become, on average, more "conservative" as they grow older and that (b) the reason for this is that they have more money and therefore become more fiscally conservative.

But looking at the results on this page so far, I notice that the two most moderate scores on the social axis were posted by me and Grendel, the oldest goats, if I'm not mistaken.

Admittedly, eight data points is not a statistically significant representation of the American population. But I wonder: if Americans do, on average, become more politically conservative with age, could it be for social rather than economic reasons?

Grendel said...

I wonder whether it's not so much that we get more socially conservative, in my case anyway, but that we grew up a wee bit earlier, in a that-much cruder, less enlightened social milieu. In fact, I have certainly grown much more socially liberal/libertarian as I have aged, though considering where I started -- rural Indiana in the early 70s (when we drove into Indianapolis, my parents locked the car doors at the city line) ... it was like starting a race from down in a ditch.

SER said...

I feel as if I could take this again and get a totally different score on the economic angle - there were so many economic statements I just couldn't interpret and thus probably wouldn't remember how I voted.

By "interpret," I mean something like the following example (paraphrasing): what's good for corporations is always good for humanity. Okay, so, like, if I am a believer in free markets, but *regulated* free markets (in other words, I am an Eliot Spitzer capitalist), then how do I respond to this question? What I want is a response that's something along the lines of "much of what's good for most corporations is usually good for most people." But does that mean I "agree" with this statement? Or do I just focus on the negative, absolutist connotations of the statement and thus instead "disagree" with it?

Anyway, although I am still in the lower left quadrant, my economic score is to the right of all of yours so far.

Economic Left/Right: -1.00
Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.72

cj said...

I just hit 40, and apparently I am the most "libertarian" of all the people who have commented, at -6.87. The funny thing is, I tend to think of capital-L Libertarians as crazies, and I could never have a philosophy in which one value trumps all other values. But it's true that, the older I have gotten, and the more kids I have had (we're up to three), the more suspicious I have become of authority. Still, for some reason I'd rather call myself anti-authoritarian than libertarian. I guess that's because I wonder which quadrant most capital-L Libertarians would fall into on that chart . . .

On the other hand, my "right/left" score was a mere -3.13. Is that geriatric curmudgeonliness creeping in?

One would certainly get the impression from reading this blog (and BAF) that GWB polled zero percent among recent Workshop grads. (I hope it's true.) I wonder what explains why so many of us seem to place ourselves within the same relatively small sliver of the political spectrum. Is it because of our attraction to writing and literature, or because of some other common factor (age, years spent in college towns, etc.).

Brando said...

Looking at some of these responses, all I could think of was this classic Holy Grail scene.

My scores
L/R: -3.13
Social: -4.62

I have actually gotten more liberal as I've gotten older. Had I taken this when I was 18 (and voting in the 1988 election), I know I would have been in the top right quadrant somewhere.

Grendel said...

I have often wondered why writers tend to be liberals. I can see that compassion, optimism, generosity, hopefulness, disdain for abuse of power -- all are helpful in creating characters and interesting worlds. But ALL of them? Shouldn't there be just as many -- okay not even that, shouldn't there be at least a number of conservative writers we admire?

Can anyone name even one indisputably great conservative writer?

Tolstoy, Dostoevsy -- but they also went through their radical, liberal phases. Could be said they were completing their empathy projects.

Pound? William F. Buckley? Hobbes?

I could name a good hundred liberal writers off the top of my head. Is it really so overwhelmingly lopsided? Or have I just not found/read them?

segall said...

Chris Hitchens?

Seriously, we on the left tend to insulate ourselves. Allan Bloom's Closing of the American Mind is a pillar of the right and a brilliant book. Leo Strauss and Milton Friedman both did some fascinating work. (I'm a little U.Chicago heavy here.) At this juncture in the debate there's just very little incentive to look over to the side of the shore and see what they're doing. (In fairness, what's happening on the other side of the shore right now would so disgust the non-evangelistic - and thus, interesting - right that it's hardly worth peeking.)

Hell, Nabokov was big Nixon fan and kept in touch with the FBI agent assigned to keep an eye out for reds at Cornell.

cj said...

Among people currently writing, Mark Helprin is the name that comes first to my mind. I've read a bit of him, and found him interesting, though not interesting enough for me to read much more, at least yet. As I recall, he contends that his political views have effectively disqualified him from consideration for any literary honors, book prizes, etc. I wouldn't be surprised if he has a legitimate gripe there.

bihari said...

I am shocked--shocked, I say--to find that I wound up in the bottom left hand corner with, apparently, every other goat in existence.

Economic:- 6.38
Social: -5.08.

I didn't think I'd turn out that left on the economic scale--I suspect my score was what it was because I know nothing whatsoever about economic theory (I mean NOTHING; never took a course, never read anything substantive) so am going entirely on gut feeling and idealism, unfettered by any theory or concrete experience whatsoever. Socially, I'm about where I thought I'd be. All that, of course, with the caveat that some of the statements were tricky to parse down into an agree/disagree kind of answer.

What DOES it mean that we all seem to land so squarely in the same place? Am I proud or bothered? Not sure. What do people think?

Grendel said...

Googling "conservative novelist" comes up with people like:

Walker Percy
Mario Vargas Llosa
Jane Austen
Anthony Trollope
Sir Walter Scott
Thomas Mann
Louis L'Amour
Jeffrey Archer
P.G. Wodehouse
Margaret Oliphant
VS Naipaul
Mark Helprin
Jane West
Giovanni Guareschi
Patricia Cornwell
Tom Clancy
Ayn Rand
Tom Wolfe
Richard Dooling
John Braine
James Gould Cozzens
Scott Rosenberg
Hal Porter
John Derbyshire

Trevor Jackson said...

I think segall's got a point about liberal insulation, but I think the more insulated liberal writers are less effective.

Generally, liberals = relativists = flexibility of mind = compassion for others = believable, round, 3-D characters. I think liberals make better writers of fiction as opposed to the conservative who believes in absolutes. (Percy, Austen, and Mann notwithstanding.)

That's George Saunders' contention, anyway. From an interview last fall.

Read the whole thing if you haven't. But the relevant bit is about midway down when the interviewer asks GS about this quote from a Guardian essay he'd written:

"Specificity, precision, and brevity, applied in language, drive us towards compassion."

Grendel said...

Cool interview -- thanks, Trevor.

Googling "conservative poet" -- which is a pretty funny notion, really -- yields (and I don't know if they're talking stylistically or politically):

TS Eliot
Arthur de Gobineau
Dana Gioia
Allen Tate
Oliver Wendell Holmes
Elliot McGucken
Thomas Newton
Helen Ehrlich
Russ Vaughn
Robert Hillyer
Richard Wilbur
Robert Klein Engler
Les Murray
Johan Sebastian Cammermeyer Welhaven
Countee Cullen

T-bone said...

I guess I will never make the conservative poet list. -6.13/-7.44

Jane said...

And let's not forget the other great, conservative novelists: Scooter Libby, Lynne Cheney, and Bill O'Reilly.

the plunge said...

Econ: -8.25
Soc: -6.15

Maybe I'm dumb, but what the hell does it mean that I'm more economically liberal than socially liberal? That can't be right. I think MSF hit on it earlier - there were just too many questions that wanted you to be absolutist about stuff. But everyone knows that a hallmark of liberal-scientific thinking is that there are no absolutes, and that you basically have to assume that you may be wrong about even your most deep-seated belifs. So consider question like: "There are no Savage and Civilized peoples, just different cultures." I know that If I disagree with that, they're going to call me a right winger--but clearly the statement is bullshit (or at least, it fumbles the idea it's trying to simplify). There is a gigantic spectrum of civilized-ness that has nothing at all to do with the inherent VALUE of a culture or the VALUE of the lives of its people, as the question probably implies. So yeah, I mean--is this thing saying you have to be dogmatic in order to lie on the extreme?

I guess that would make sense?

HGF said...

Economic: -6.88
Social: -4.97

Makes me want to have my dad take it, so that maybe he and I can start talking about politics and economics again. (He hated/hates Clinton with the same kind of irrationality I manifested for GWB during the first term.)

A question: liberal is one thing, but who working now, other than Saunders, would qualify as a great progressive writer? In the David Remnick piece on translation in the New Yorker last month, he mentioned that no Russian library was complete without translations of Hemingway, Faulkner, London, Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, and Salinger, who were "officially permitted as 'progressive writers' exposing the 'ulcers of the capitalist world.'" [Note: Sir Walter Scott was also a standard in Russian homes!] Sure, everything's changed, but could such a list of ulcer-exposers be compiled now?

Pete said...

Plunge, you can fight in my revolution, but I can't promise not to stick an ice pick in you when its done.

I agree. I think the issue for me is that I don't like the way social issues are a dance led by the right wing; they make issues of things that I think are intrinsically obvious, and then distract us from the fleecing they do while we're righteously lecturing them about our bedrooms and uteri. On top of this, I dont think they really want to get their way on social issues; it would hurt them politically far more than help, and I'm reasonably confident that, ala prohibition, it would bring out the inner libertarian in most Americans and quickly lose support.

So: while I'm firmly pro-choice (or whatever) I'm ambivalent about the way in which some such debates exist fundamentally to distract from matters that have real consequences right now, like healthcare, economic rights, etc. So that's why I, at least, had more "Strongly"s on economic matters than social ones.

Grendel said...

From the FAQ:

Q: Some of the questions are slanted.

A: Most of them are slanted! Some right-wingers accuse us of a leftward slant. Some left-wingers accuse us of a rightward slant. But it's important to realise that this isn't a survey, and these aren't questions. They're propositions - an altogether different proposition. To question the logic of individual ones that irritate you is to miss the point. Some propositions are extreme, and some are more moderate. That's how we can show you whether you lean towards extremism or moderation on the Compass.

Some of the propositions are intentionally vague. Their purpose is to trigger buzzwords in the mind of the user, measuring feelings and prejudices rather than detailed opinions on policy.

Incidentally, our test is not another internet personality classification tool. The essence of our site is the model for political analysis. The test is simply a demonstration of it.

dunkeys said...

hgf, you might have answered your own question with your excellent post/link from the other day. William Vollman certainly counts as progressive (that few read him isn't his fault).

It is difficult thinking of London-esque socially-concerned authors, though -- we don't exactly have the modern-day equivalent of Lowell and Mailer marching on the White House, do we? So I'll ask this of everyone who filled out the quiz and got placed in the lower-left (-4.78, -4.17 here):

Does your fiction (or poetry) reflect that lower-left point of view? Do you consciously place politics (or even 'ethics,' I suppose), either explicitly or implicitly, in your writing? Why/why not?

Thomas Newton said...


Thanks for Googling "conservative poet."

Thomas Newton
Conservative Poet

Thomas Newton said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.