If anything is extreme, it is this survey

The fine and popular blogmeister of Last Ditch

Tom Paine once said to me: “You’re a social conservative, aren’t you?” I didn’t think it an accusation at the time but now I’m not so sure. He’s completed a survey about attitudes in U.S. party-political terms – yes, just a bit of fun on a Bank Holiday weekend – and comes out strongly socially leftist and strongly economically conservative.

I replied [basically in these words]:

Tom, I just took the survey and it is c***, excuse my French.

I challenge the survey as being of a leftist mindset.  It throws people way over to the right on a linear chart, asking only a few brief questions and thinking itself very clever for being able to discern attitude on that.

There were so many issues it did not ask about but assumed that if you were, say, against gay marriage, then you were an extremist on the right.  It did not explore nuances in other areas or how you might be more liberated on other things, for example that you discerned between adults and children in your responses.

A conservative produced survey would have done that.  On the other hand, it went into nuances when I answered again, this time as a “liberal”.

My views are no different to what people in the 50s had on key points – i.e. centrist – or another way to put it is that my views are mainstream within a properly functioning society and the Political Compass survey in fact puts me there.

So what has changed is society’s falling away and this survey is a product of what [is] assumed, [a priori].

It was a shoddy survey, in that, say on that gay rights matter, where there are no in-between positions and you’re either for it in principle or agin it – when you’re agin it, it’s recorded as an extreme right view.   When you are for, it’s ameliorated in terms of other views you’ve expressed, i.e. it’s a sum total of responses which counts.

Plus it takes no account of shades of meaning.  For example, it mentions Tea Party in the later explanatory charting but is heavily weighted towards two-party.   Tea Party are low-tax and so, in the simplistic view of the survey writers, that means over on the right.   The nuances are reserved for the left.

And more than that – it has Tom come out as a dangerous communist and me as a dangerous rightist but in so many ways he and I are similar in view, e.g. on libertarianism for adults, minus the one issue of gay “marriage”.

Even worse is that it presents itself as a professional study with an august name but the assumptions and prejudices are so glaring that if firms were to adopt it, say – HR is usually more subtle than this – then it could well be why many of us are marginalized.   And that tactic is so in line with the global left today with its PCism and relativism that it’s frightening.

For those who do want to know where they are politically, then this is your survey.   It’s not all good, not all bad but it is reasonably accurate if you accept the assumptions you see in the chart.  Here’s mine:

My political compass

… and though I’d like my libertarian credentials to be better, I can’t deny it’s overall accuracy in my case.  And it puts me, quite rightly, as a centre-right libertarian.  I once asked Timmy Worstall what he was and he said “classic liberal” and perhaps that’s where I am.

Political Compass has an interesting take on the 2012 election, by the way.

On the seriously-flawed Pew again, what it signally failed to take into account was:

1. The presence of Them as the arbiters of politics in the world today – they always were around but perhaps national leaders had more spine back then, who knows?

2. Differentiating between adults and children as a key factor in attitudes – one are people and the other are training to be people.  Football leagues don’t rank teams along with their B to D divisions and neither should these surveys.

A more realistic survey today would begin with the assumption that adults will be more traditional with their kids – even libertarians I know are a bit more circumspect with them and yet it doesn’t make those libertarians dangerous extremists so let’s cut that out of it for a start.

Then it would have to include the concept of Statist v Libertarian, which can only be used on the economic chart.   Pew conflated economic and social.   Therefore it would need at least two surveys, configured differently.

You might say I’m making a mountain out of a molehill – well, that’s what PCists also say – oh why can’t we all just get along in a spirit of peace and harmony – after they’ve just committed one of the greatest acts of discrimination and legerdemain in the history of society.

To say this is making a mountain out of a molehill is like Monty Python’s castle owner saying to the assembled multitude after Cleese has just murdered a dozen wedding guests: “Let’s not bicker over who’s killed who – this is supposed to be a happy occasion.”    And to have deliberately f***ed people over, only to say: “You’re very angry aren’t you?   You have a lot of hatred inside you?” followed by a twee homily: “I always find it’s best if we live and let live” – that’s a most brickable statement.

Of course we’re angry over the PC legerdemain.  Why?   It’s like subtle errors in following a compass in the wilds.   You get the angle slightly wrong and it doesn’t matter over 50 metres.  Over 50 miles, the gap between right and wrong is a gulf.

So a simplistic survey, on the grounds that it is simple, is therefore more readily assumed as true by people because it’s easier to understand and quote and so potentially, the whole of society is running around with false assumptions which conveniently shut out the nuances of life and get a person labelled, after which it’s the devil’s own job to get unlabelled.

10 comments for “If anything is extreme, it is this survey

  1. Moggsy
    August 28, 2012 at 11:59

    James,I guess these things are always a bit “pinch of salty”. I do agree some middle, “not sure” questions would make it easier to answer accurately. So especially “pinch of salty” then

    I took the test and was if I am honest with myself quite surprised that I am not too far from your position. I was in the same quarter but a tad further down, towards libertarian. I would have guessed before you were more likely in the top right quarter from some of your posts.

  2. August 28, 2012 at 15:19

    I tend to me down further also.
    Economic Left/Right: 1.62
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.82

  3. August 28, 2012 at 16:48

    Yes, I took this survey too, and found it to be seriously lacking.

    I basically came out fascist – far right on both measures.

    Yet whenever I do the political compass, I am a right-libertarian.

  4. August 28, 2012 at 17:19

    Took this (again) to check whether I’d changed since last ime….I’m in the green Left square, seventh small square down /second square across….. lefty-lefty thru and thru….. Stranger in a Strange Land or what?

  5. August 28, 2012 at 19:12

    I usually come out almost dead-center on this test, sometimes one notch down to libertarian, sometimes one over to right.

    Another similar chart is Zombie’s Political Spectrum. (No test, just a 2-axis chart.)


  6. August 28, 2012 at 19:23

    A normal person in other words. 🙂

  7. August 28, 2012 at 22:07

    The thing with the political compass is that the questions are based on how we think in the UK. It makes it more reliable in assessing where various thoughts are in the quadrant.

    I have found it fascinating over the years since to see how most of the parties have migrated into that top right segment.

  8. August 28, 2012 at 22:33

    There were so many false assumptions with the Political Compass, weren’t there?

    For example, they said UKIP was BNP Lite – that’s just insane. They had the LibDems who are in some ways close to Marx, most certainly Statist, as centre-right, exactly where I am, which is bizarre.

    They even said the Lib Dems had moved right and upwards. Actually, exactly the opposite – they’re left of Labour, so they’ve moved left and upwards into authoritarian.

    I think what has confused all these surveys is the Statist-freedom continuum which has largely replaced left-right.

    What it probably shows is that we can’t trust any of these.

  9. Moggsy
    August 29, 2012 at 06:53

    James, I think I agree with your comments on UKIndependance and the LibDems. I would put the LibDems closer to the Greens, (bottom Left quadrant?), but both have an authoritarian coercive streak like two groups glued together, so maybe they should be more top Left?

    Maybe what is showing is as much assumptions and predudices of those framing the questions as the person taking the test?

  10. Per Øen
    August 29, 2012 at 23:18

    Economic left/right: -4.00
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -5.79

    Leftist, deep libertarian?

    According to the web site my closest follower was Gandhi. However I believe myself to be a tad more to the economic right. 😉

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