Where our readers stand politically

Yesterday I took the “political compass” test to find out where I stood on the left/right and authoritarian/libertarian spectrum. I turned out to be halfway between neutral and extreme liberal, and halfway between libertarian and neutral. Here are the results of the poll (there were a lot more votes than usual).

It’s not surprising that most readers fell in the lower left quadrant, with only 43 (7.2%) being right wing and only 13 (2.2%) being authoritarian (there’s some overlap here as there are 2 right-wing authoritarians).

Reader Dick Veldkamp was kind enough to make a summary plot of readers’ scores, which he sent to me with the indented remark below. Remember, the left side of the plot is left-wing, the right side is right-wing, the top is authoritarian, and the bottom is libertarian. My score is the red dot, and the mean is the green dot. Not all readers gave their numerical scores.

Here is a graph of your “survey”, which you might want to add to the current discussion. Remarkably (or unremarkably) the mean of the readers is very close to your own score.

It’s no surprise, of course. Being in the middle, I stand to get less flak, as that would come from readers farthest from me on the political spectrum, and if I were on one end or the other I’d have more of those extremes.

52 Comments

  1. GBJames
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 10:19 am | Permalink

    sub

  2. Jake Sevins
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 10:23 am | Permalink

    We all tend to read stuff we agree with… that’s human nature. So yes, no surprise that we’re clustered around Jerry.

    I try to balance out the sanity Jerry brings by reading some Ben Shapiro from time to time. 🙂

    • gluonspring
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

      I’d love to see a plot like this on every news and commentary site. The distribution of readers views would give you a quick and instant reading on the views of the source.

      • Jake Sevins
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:41 pm | Permalink

        True!

        Speaking of which… what other blogs are similar in coverage and political leanings to WEIT? I often want to read more than Jerry has time to provide.

  3. David Duncan
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    I’ve taken these sorts of tests many times. They always show me as a moderate libertarian, but some place me well on the right, others say I’m moderately left. This latest one had me exactly on the axis dividing left from right.

    I think the questions can be manipulated to make the majority of test-takes whatever the test-setter wants.

    • gluonspring
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

      A lot depends on how you interpret the questions. For example:

      Controlling inflation is more important than controlling unemployment.

      “Is it more important to get unemployment below 10% or inflation below 5%?” is a completely different question from “Is it more important to get unemployment below 10% or inflation below 500%?”

      The question doesn’t tell you the boundary conditions, so you can either interpret it as a question about what you should do in normal average conditions, or you can read it as what should be the priority in a crisis. My answer on this question will vary from day to day, depending on which form of the question I take it mean.

      I find that at least 1/3 of the questions are utterly unanswerable in their current form because they all lack scale information.

      • gluonspring
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

        rats, omitted the close

        after “unemployment”

  4. mikeyc
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    Not surprising, really. Like most website/blogs the readership tends to be self selecting.

    I’d seen this quadrant thing before and I have to say I’m underwhelmed by it. Most of the questions are so leading you know exactly where they’re steering you. Wholly contrived. In fact, in response to another commentator, yesterday I tried to see how close I could get to Stalin’s score (I guess they used a Ouija board to their answers). I got Economic Left/Right: -6.13, Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: 5.79 or two squares diagonally from Uncle Joe.

    The score I reported is not a real measurement of where I fall on a political spectrum; it’s the score I got answering the questions they asked.

    • Posted January 31, 2018 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      After a couple of tries, I got a score as authoritarian as Hitler and as right-wing as Friedman. I wouldn’t have thought that possible.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

      I would be interested to see how this test would play out with a different species of readership, like at Breitbart.

  5. Jeff Chamberlain
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    I wonder how those of us who (claim to) come here mostly for the science compare to the rest of the cohort.

    FWIW, I had my usual objections to many of the questions (particularly the ones that required “all or nothing” responses).

    I like Mikeyc’s comment (#4):
    “The score I reported is not a real measurement of where I fall on a political spectrum; it’s the score I got answering the questions they asked.”

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      You could probably come up with a test for that but the site is – Why Evolution Is True. So, if by saying Science you also mean, those who believe in and desire to know more about evolution, I think you have almost everyone. Beyond that the atheists would be high in the stats so you automatically eliminate most very religious people. These basics alone will eliminate most people on the right, in the republican party region.

    • Posted February 1, 2018 at 7:18 am | Permalink

      I have done several of these tests in the past and no matter what questions they ask, I always seem to come out as libertarian slightly left of centre.

  6. Randall Schenck
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    It would be interest to take, if they have it, a test to determine regressive left from just left. Should be fairly easy with questions like – Do you believe in free speech to include speech you disagree with. Do you except that judging others that disagree with your views should simply open discussion and not shut it down. I’m sure others could come up with many ideas for this test.

    • mikeyc
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Sure. Here’s one; is there “a difference between, you know, patting someone on the butt and rape?”

      ;-p

      • Randall Schenck
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

        Funny but I suspect even most regressive’s would say yes to this question. So no, it would not be a good one for the test.

        • mikeyc
          Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

          You’re right, Randall and your idea is a good one. I was just having some fun.

    • Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

      “It would be interest to take, if they have it, a test to determine regressive left from just left.”

      If the test is accurate, wouldn’t that be determined by one’s place along the libertarian/authoritarian axis?

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        I’m not sure it would. A lot of tests are designed to identify right-wing authoritarians but not left-wing ones. And they often use religious questions to identify authoritarianism, but left-wing authoritarians are less likely to be religious. Look at devoted communists for example – definitely authoritarian and some are even prepared to kill to enforce the perfect society, but they’re rarely religious.

  7. Richard Bond
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    I took this a few weeks ago, and I ended up quite close to PCC(E). The problem that I had was that the questions were often slanted towards the USA. I am from the UK, and I am not sure which way that would have shifted my result.

  8. Posted January 31, 2018 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    In these quadrants I always come out half way down the libertarian box and just right of centre. This feels about correct for me but I would agree the questions are leading and very limited. And what does it mean to be Left/Right? I would regard myself as a social Democrat but I am in favour of nuclear power, support good biotechnology, such as genetic modification, I think free trade is a positive thing etc so I automatically fall out of the ‘left’ category because I prefer to support what works rather than belong to a tribe.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      I support good biotechnology and free trade too and I’m a long way left on both. -6.75 for economics and -7.79 for libertarian. And I’m not anti nuclear power, though not strongly for it either.

      • Posted January 31, 2018 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

        That’s interesting Heather, it would be interesting to compare our answers! And, bye the way this Stuart from Ireland, we are both Jerry Coyne fans!

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted January 31, 2018 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

          Hi Stuart! It would be interesting to compare answers. There must be something else that’s important. If you were USian I could imagine that culture might make you naturally farther right than me economically, but not Ireland. We’re pretty similar.

  9. sshort
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:04 am | Permalink

    I ended up in that void a bit under PCC(E). I wonder what leading questions left me there?

    left…

  10. craigp
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    I think that’s me closest to the middle. Do I win a prize? 🙂

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Well, since there’s nothing in the middle of the road except yellow stripes and road kill, how ’bout we award you a dead armadillo? 🙂

      The first rule of politics is: the action moves away from the middle.

  11. Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    The green quadrant (left-libertarian) is the Lost Tribe, for it plays no visible role in current US politics, often identifies itself as “centre” or even “classic liberal”, and is generally overlooked because the Nameless Ideology* has taken control of the left label. It is probably represented somewhat by Robert Reich and Bernie Sanders, but they are of course White Old Males and are only useful selectively.

    ———
    * calls itself “social justice”, “intersectional”, “feminist” — all of which are inaccurate or misleading. Critics call it “social justice warriors”, “regressive left”, “special snowflakes” etc. which are rejected by proponents, naturally. These terms are also often misapplied, and each only captures some part of the phenomenon.

  12. Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    I wonder how the astrology question affects your score? Does answering affirmatively make you more like Hitler?

  13. Historian
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:12 am | Permalink

    In terms of American electoral politics at least, there is a much more important question to answer than what this poll attempts to measure (even assuming it is accurate). The question is this: based on your ideological leanings, which type of candidates do you vote for in elections?

    In general (there are exceptions), Democrats tend to put up candidates who are largely liberal on economic matters while simultaneously, to varying degrees, exhibiting what is labeled at this site as regressive tendencies. On the other hand, Republicans put up candidates who are archly conservative economically and socially (anti-gay, against abortion) while giving lip service to their newly found fidelity to free speech.

    Whom you vote for is all that counts. If you vote for a Republican because you are very vexed that Democrats do not condemn groups on campus that suppress free speech then in every sense that counts you are a Republican no matter what you think about economic issues. On the other hand, if you vote for a Democrat despite the candidate’s apparent sympathy for regressive actions on campus then you are a Democrat.

    Most respondents to the poll ended up in the lower left quadrant of the graph. To the extent that the libertarian aspect reflected anti-authoritarianism (as opposed, for example, support of abortion rights) then such beliefs are irrelevant if those people voted Democratic. It all comes down to the degree their displeasure with regressivism overwhelms the other issues of the day. Such is the reality of politics in America today. It is certainly fine to try to wipe out regressivism as a tendency in liberal ideology, but in the polling booth, you need to decide what is really important to you.

    • Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:35 am | Permalink

      The question is this: based on your ideological leanings, which type of candidates do you vote for in elections?

      The least worst candidate who has an actual chance of winning.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

        That’s always been my heuristic. And based on it, the only Republicans I’ve ever cast a ballot for have been “good government”-types running in local elections.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:37 am | Permalink

      I think it has become a lot easier than this. Republicans will vote republican even for candidates who are far from their republican beliefs. The basics like family, morality, ethics fidelity – come to find out means very little in how these folks vote and who they will support. They pretend to support all of these values but to avoid a democrat they will vote for just about anything on two legs. They will continue to stand by such a person regardless of how far off the reservation he goes, even into bed with porn stars or into business with Putin. Very soon the real question is – do these people believe in anything?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        The saying goes that Democrats need to fall in love with their candidates; the Republicans just fall in line.

        That’s a major reason the GOP controls all three branches of the federal government and most statehouses, despite being the minority party.

        • Randall Schenck
          Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

          Yeah well, it could also mean the republican party, in charge of everything, may soon be in deep, you know what. Great way to run a country – we are in charge, in corruption and believe in nothing. When this turkey goes over the cliff they won’t even have sense to let go of the rope.

  14. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Guess if we skewed any further left, we’d be hanging out at the Daily Worker. 🙂

    • W.Benson
      Posted January 31, 2018 at 3:03 pm | Permalink

      The sidebar of the Political Compass site gives graphs for presidential (and some primary) candidates in the last three US elections.
      In 2016 scores for both Trump and Hillary were far to the right, and Hillary’s views were scored somewhat more rightwing than Trump but a little less authoritarian. Hillary was rated Auth+5 and LR+7.5 (a little harder Republican than she was in the primaries) and Trump Auth+9 and LR+6.5. Trump was scored more extremely right (LR+8) in the primaries, on par with his GOP opponents.
      Obama also scored solidly as a rightist authoritarian in 2008, Auth+3 / LR+2.25) and in 2012 shifted significantly farther right on both scales (Auth+6 / LR+6). By 2012 he had all of us on the hook, did not need to defend himself from primary challengers on the left, and could show his true colors.
      Bernie Sanders (my candidate) in the 2016 primaries scored, according to Political Compass, Auth0 and LR-2.
      We are indeed socialist outcasts.

  15. TJR
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:22 am | Permalink

    Yes, its a nice idea but I don’t find the questions convincing. There are plenty of questions to disagree with stupidly authoritarian or right-wing positions, but far fewer questions to disagree with stupidly leftist or libertarian positions.

    Hence anybody sane is going to be bottom left quadrant (IMHO).

    I scored -5/-5, putting me right next to the Greens on their UK 2016 table, and when I did it a few years ago it similarly put me right next to Ken Livingstone. In reality I wouldn’t touch either of them with a bargepole. (I think I should score more like -3/-7 in their arbitrary units).

  16. Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    I think if the survey had asked questions like ‘The gender pay gap is caused by misogyny’ or ‘cops shoot people just because they are black’ I wouldn’t have come out so far on the lower left. They aren’t intrinsically left-wing opinions but they do correlate with current leftist dogma just as much as a dislike for modern art corresponds to right-wing authoritarianism even if being singularly unimpressed by Tracy Emmin’s unmade bed isn’t intrinsically right wing.

    • Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

      I suspect that many leftists demonstrate their progressiveness by proclaiming an understanding of modern art in general. The understanding of any form of modern art works as an elaborated code, as a distinguishing feature towards conservative petty bourgeois who can not understand this because they are not progressive enough … .

  17. darrelle
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:37 am | Permalink

    “Being in the middle, I stand to get less flak, as that would come from readers farthest from me on the political spectrum, and if I were on one end or the other I’d have more of those extremes.”

    I’m not so sure about that Jerry. You might be just as likely to get it from both ends. And often it seems as if people close, but not quite perfectly aligning with with a particular ideological demographic get the worst treatment from those they are close to.

  18. Ken Kukec
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 11:59 am | Permalink

    According to the polls, I’m a smidge to Jerry’s right on economics, a smidge to his left on social issues. Im’a do my damndest to get him to relinquish his misbegotten ways, and finally see the light, on both topics. 🙂

  19. ThyroidPlanet
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:10 pm | Permalink

    Sub

  20. Dragon
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

    I was very busy yesterday and didn’t get a change to toss my numbers in.

    Your Political Compass
    Economic Left/Right: -6.63
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -6.21

  21. DutchA
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 3:35 pm | Permalink

    I blame the world “Shareholders”. When I read that I went berserk. The result:

    Your Political Compass
    Economic Left/Right: -7.0
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.69

  22. gluonspring
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

    Economic Left/Right: -2.75
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.26

    I waver a lot when I take this quiz between Economic 0 and -4. Probably because a lot of economic questions depend on an unspecified scale. Keeping inflation below 500% is not the same thing as keeping it below 5%. Similarly, creating an emissions credits market for the emission of sulphur dioxide, to keep SO2 emissions in check, is not the same as banning emission of SO2 altogether. So my answer to a question like “Is it more important to keep inflation or unemployment in check” will depend on whether I’m visualizing 5% inflation or 500% inflation.

    The main thing I’ve gotten out of taking these quizzes is to come to realize that the only thing I have any passion about is authoritarians. I’m happy to entertain economics across the whole spectrum, but I simply can’t stand authoritarians.

    • John Taylor
      Posted February 1, 2018 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

      A very reasonable score.

      • gluonspring
        Posted February 7, 2018 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

        I think there needs to be a “non-ideological technocrat” dimension for economics. These scales try to force you onto an economic axis that is really quite stupid. This axis tries to make you choose, for example, between Social Security and capitalism, between environmentalism and capitalism, and so on, but those are fools choices writ large.

  23. aljones909
    Posted January 31, 2018 at 4:39 pm | Permalink

    “left moderate social authoritarian”. Am I in Mussolini territory?

  24. Posted January 31, 2018 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

    Seems like a lot of people have been impugning the accuracy of the survey/test, but I think this nice graphic pretty strongly justifies that it’s doing a good job.

    Tests like this are calibrated to accurately measure the location of the *average* respondent, and the test seems to be doing exactly that since the average matches nicely with our host’s score. An individual respondent may be mismeasured (even greatly so), but that’s fine as long as the mismeasurement cancels out on average.

    Political Compass isn’t calibrated to individuals, like say the SAT or TOEFL are.

  25. Thanny
    Posted February 1, 2018 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

    A bit of a correction.

    The extreme left is not extreme liberal. It’s just extreme left.

    Liberals are both left of center and libertarian.

    The illiberal/regressive/ctrl left, SJW’s, and the only feminists with any influence in education or politics are all left of center and authoritarian. They are not liberals. A rather shocking number of them are openly Marxists (or what they think Marxism is – actual Marxism is predicated on the absence of a state) or Communists.


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