- Some of the questions are slanted
- Respondents are going to feel under pressure to be politically correct
- Some of the propositions are culturally biased
- My position on The Political Compass is at odds with the politicians I support
- In some cases none of the four possible responses reflected my attitude
- You should have a “don’t know” option
- Why don’t you collect statistics and report on test results?
- Where would Jesus and/or Mohammed appear?
- How can you determine where politicians are honestly at without asking them?
- Your proposition on globalisation suggests that corporations and humanity can’t both benefit.
- What have attitudes towards things like abstract art and homosexuality to do with politics?
- Why don’t you include a scale for religion?
- It’s true that a one party state has a significant advantage; even so I wouldn’t support it. So how can I respond?
- Does “our race has many superior qualities” refer to my particular race or the human race?
- The original intention of “An eye for an eye” was that the punishment should not exceed the crime
- There have to be other measures for a political compass
- You can’t be libertarian and left wing
- Where are the right-wing social libertarians on the international chart?
- Why is Hitler slightly right? The Nazis were socialists, so they weren’t fascists either.
- How can I be in the same quadrant as Pol Pot/Hitler/Stalin? I’m no Pol Pot/Hitler/Stalin!
- You’ve got liberals on the right. Don’t you know they’re left?
- Politics have moved, but you’re still using the old economic parameters.
- Most governments and political figures are plotted on the right. Doesn’t that mean that your centre is misplaced?
- Do you have a chart for the political leader of my country?
- Can you provide your scoring details so that students/colleagues can respond to the propositions with pencil and paper?
- Can you help me produce my own version of The Political Compass?
- May I build a Political Compass app on Facebook?
- How can I display several people’s scores on a single chart?
- Why did you do this? What’s in it for you?
- When are you guys gonna learn to spell?
Gripes About Particular Propositions
The Political Compass Definitions
Further Help From The Political Compass
Some of the questions are slanted
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.
The propositions should not be overthought. Some of them are intentionally vague. Their purpose is to trigger reactions in the mind, 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.
Respondents are going to feel under pressure to be politically correct
Not really, because we’ve assured them that not only are their identities unknown, but their responses totally unrecorded. So the only actual pressure will come from themselves. We’ve found that a lot of people aren’t comfortable with the first result, so they go through the propositions again, changing some of their earlier responses. It’s a bit like an overweight person stepping back on the scales after removing their shoes.
Some of the propositions are culturally biased
Right. That’s why the Compass is being promoted in western democracies. We don’t pretend that, for example, the responses of a citizen of a rural region of China can undergo the same evaluation process.
My position on The Political Compass is at odds with the politicians I support
Politicians often speak in codes that disguise actual policy, with the aim of appealing to as broad a spectrum of the public as possible.
While the individual may identify with particular figures, if their positions and the consequences of those positions are acted upon, they may disagree.
The propositions in the test give the respondent an all-too-rare chance to consider many situations. Their reactions are sometimes quite different from the positions of their favourite politicians.
For example, a conservative person may be straightforwardly opposed to universal health care, but disagree with a proposition suggesting that the quality of a child’s health care should be governed by the health of the parents’ finances.
In some cases none of the four possible responses reflected my attitude
One expert in the field suggested that we restrict the responses to simply ‘agree’ and ‘disagree’. But how many do you need? Ten? Twenty? If you choose the one that most nearly reflects your feeling, you’ll get an accurate reading … even if it niggles.
You should have a “don’t know” option
This makes it too easy for people to duck difficult issues. By forcing people to take a positive or negative stance, the propositions make people really evaluate their feelings. Often people find they wanted to select “don’t know” mainly because they’d never really thought about the idea.
Why don’t you collect statistics and report on test results?
It is important to us — and most of our respondents — that the test remains anonymous, and purely for personal information. If we were to log anyone’s results, those results would have to be given voluntarily. This would mean that our sample would be self-selected, and therefore not statistically valid.
In other words, such data would tell us nothing about the political position of a particular population; it would only tell us about the type of person who volunteered to have their result recorded.
Trials have revealed that a wildly disproportionate number of visitors from particular cultures, and of certain age and socio-economic groups, were more willing than others to opt in.
Where would Jesus and/or Mohammed appear?
That one would be way too speculative for our purposes … and if we did engage in such speculation, we’d be even more inundated with correspondence. Most aspects of contemporary politics didn’t impact on the times of Jesus and other religious teachers anyway.
How can you determine where politicians are honestly at without asking them?
How can you tell where they’re honestly at by asking them? Especially around election time. We rely on reports, parliamentary voting records, manifestos … and actions that speak much louder than words. It takes us a great deal longer than simply having the politician take the test — but it’s also a far more accurate assessment. In our early experience, politicians taking the test often responded in ways that conflicted with their actions but conformed to the prevailing mood of the electorate.
We are occasionally asked about publishing the individual responses of politicians. We frown on this. The propositions are too vague to be considered statements of policy, and the individual responses are not significant in themselves. When summed to give an economic and social score, however, they provide an accurate profile of a mental state.
Your proposition on globalisation suggests that corporations and humanity can’t both benefit.
This one sometimes ruffles feathers on right wings. What the proposition actually suggests is that humanity should be the priority.
Critics argue that there’s no conflict of interest. Transnational corporations naturally and unfailingly serve humanity by serving themselves. In enriching business, the argument goes, globalisation will always subsequently benefit humanity. Prioritising humanity would only limit the ability of the corporations to inevitably do greater good. So advocates of this trickle down approach should simply click “strongly disagree” We don’t see the problem.
The record, however, makes clear that there have often been spectacular conflicts of interest between corporate enrichment and humanity. Halliburton, Enron and the tobacco industry’s research cover-ups are perhaps the best known examples. Others are detailed at The 10 Worst Corporations of 2008 and Corpwatch.org.
On the other hand, for the comparatively few who tell us that corporations can never serve humanity, Milton Friedman argues the case for unfettered market forces.
What have attitudes towards things like abstract art and homosexuality to do with politics?
On the social scale, they’re immensely important. Homophobia has been highly politicised by leaders like Robert Mugabe and betrays a tendency to condemn and punish those who disregard conventional values. Hitler’s pink triangles reflected similar authoritarian hostility.
Likewise, authoritarian régimes frequently attack highly imaginative and unconventional art, music and literary works as a threat to the rigid cultural conformity they uphold.
Why don’t you include a scale for religion?
Amongst the western democracies for which The Political Compass is a universal tool, it is only in the US that religion plays a significant role in politics. Had the test been some kind of questionnaire or survey profiling a particular personality it might have a place, but for a purpose such as ours it has little relevance.
Even in the US religion reflects the whole gamut of political opinion — from Quakers, Unitarians and, to some extent Episcopalians, who support gay marriage, the right to choose etc. and oppose, for example, capital punishment and the invasion of Iraq. At the other end of the religious spectrum, there are fundamentalists who hold opposite beliefs. Our social scale already covers these political/social attitudes, whether or not the individual belongs to a religious organisation that reinforces them.
More significant for our purposes is whether or not the individual believes in mystical determinants of fate, hence the astrology proposition. There is a psychological linkage between determinism and authoritarianism. The astrology believer may hold very liberal social views in other areas, but this does not alter this more authoritarian aspect within his or her cluster of attitudes.
It’s true that a one party state has a significant advantage; even so I wouldn’t support it. So how can I respond?
From classical Greece onwards, discussion and, inevitably, argument, has been viewed by democrats as essential for considering all viewpoints and consequently reaching the best informed and most representative decision. For such people, the replacement of polemics with speedy dictates would definitely not be seen as any sort of “significant advantage” or “progress”.
Does “our race has many superior qualities” refer to my particular race or the human race?
“Race” can only refer to the human race or to one of its subdivisions. The proposition, in comparing one’s race with other races, can therefore only be referring to the latter.
The original intention of “An eye for an eye” was that the punishment should not exceed the crime
That’s right, although it’s commonly used to argue for the punishment being as severe as the crime. In any case, it means treating offenders as they have treated their victims; no more harshly, in the case of the original stricture, and just as harshly in the retributive sense. Either way, the proposition remains unambiguous in its call for punishment that approximates the crime.
There have to be other measures for a political compass
Great. Tell us about them so that we can consider adding them. But surely our two axis arrangement is a vast improvement on the single one that you’ve put up with for more than 2 centuries.
You can’t be libertarian and left wing
This is almost exclusively an American response, overlooking the undoubtedly libertarian tradition of European anarcho-syndicalism. It was, after all, the important French anarchist thinker Proudhon who declared that property is theft.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the likes of Emma Goldman were identified as libertarians long before the term was adopted by some economic rightwingers. And what about the libertarian collectives of the mid-late 1800s and 1960s?
Americans like Noam Chomsky can claim the label “libertarian socialist” with the same validity that Milton Friedman can be considered a “libertarian capitalist”.
The assumption that economic deregulation inevitably delivers more social freedom is flawed. The welfare states of, for example, the Nordic region, abolished capital punishment decades ago and are at the forefront of progressive legislation for women, gays and ethnic minorities — not to mention anti-censorship. Such established high-tax social democracies consistently score highest in the widely respected Freedom House annual survey on democratic rank eg Denmark ranks 2, Sweden 3 and Norway 7, while comparatively free markets such as the US, Singapore and China rate 15,74 and 121 respectively (this detailed checklist can be viewed at http://www.worldaudit.org/civillibs.htm).Despite their higher taxes, the social democracies’ degree of social freedoms would presumably be envied by genuine libertarians in more socially conservative countries.Our point is that a regulated economy and a strong public sector are not necessarily authoritarian, and a deregulated economy with a minimal public sector is not necessarily socially libertarian.
Interestingly, many economic libertarians express to us their support for or indifference towards capital punishment; yet the execution of certain citizens is a far stronger assertion of state power than taxation. The death penalty is practised in all seriously authoritarian states. In Eastern Europe it was abolished with the fall of communism and adoption of democracy. The United States is the only western democracy where capital punishment is still practised.
Where are the right-wing social libertarians on the international chart?
It’s a good question, and we’d like to include some, but we haven’t found any among the biggest internationally-known players. It’s important to remember, though, that within each quadrant there are still very sizeable variables. Some figures on the right of the chart are only of a modest authoritarian tendency.
Why is Hitler slightly right? The Nazis were socialists, so they weren’t fascists either.
Let’s start with the second part first. Some respondents confuse Nazism, a political party platform, with fascism, which is a particular structure of government. Fascism legally sanctions the persecution of a particular group within the country — political, ethnic, religious — whatever. So within Nazism there are elements of fascism, as well as militarism, capitalism, socialism etc. To tar all socialists with the national socialist brush is as absurd as citing Bill Gates and Augusto Pinochet in the same breath as examples of free market capitalism.
Economically, Hitler was well to the right of Stalin. Post-war investigations led to a number of revelations about the cosy relationship between German corporations and the Reich. No such scandals subsequently surfaced in Russia, because Stalin had totally squashed the private sector. By contrast, once in power, the Nazis achieved rearmament through deficit spending. One of our respondents has correctly pointed out that they actively discouraged demand increases because they wanted infrastructure investment. Under the Reich, corporations were largely left to govern themselves, with the incentive that if they kept prices under control, they would be rewarded with government contracts. Hardly a socialist economic agenda!
But Nazi corporate ties extended well beyond Germany. It is an extraordinarily little known fact that in 1933 a cabal of Wall Street financiers and industrialists plotted an armed coup against President Roosevelt and the US Constitutional form of government. The coup planners — all of them deeply hostile to socialism — were enthusiastic supporters of German national socialism and Italian fascism. Details of the little publicised Congressional report on the failed coup may be read in 1000 Americans:The Real Rulers of the USA by George Seldes.
Fascism, according to the American Heritage Dictionary (1983) is A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism. Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile’s entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana read: Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power. No less an authority on fascism than Mussolini was so pleased with that definition that he later claimed credit for it.
Nevertheless, within certain US circles,the misconception remains that fascism is essentially left wing, and that the Nazis were socialists simply because of the “socialism” in their name. We wonder if respondents who insist on uncritically accepting the Nazis’ cynical self-definition would be quite as eager to believe that the German Democratic Republic was democratic.
How can I be in the same quadrant as Pol Pot/Hitler/Stalin? I’m no Pol Pot/Hitler/Stalin!
The quadrants are not separate categories, but regions on a continuum. The fact that The Pope is in the same quadrant as Stalin does not make The Pope another Stalin. His closeness to the axes makes him a moderate, and therefore closer to Gandhi and Chirac, even though they are in different quadrants. Each quadrant contains enormous variability and can accommodate philanthropists and monsters, differing in the extremity of their views.
You’ve got liberals on the right. Don’t you know they’re left?
This response is exclusively American. Elsewhere neo-liberalism is understood in standard political science terminology — deriving from mid 19th Century Manchester Liberalism, which campaigned for free trade on behalf of the capitalist classes of manufacturers and industrialists. In other words, laissez-faire or economic libertarianism.
In the United States, “liberals” are understood to believe in leftish economic programmes such as welfare and publicly funded medical care, while also holding liberal social views on matters such as law and order, peace, sexuality, women’s rights etc. The two don’t necessarily go together.
Our Compass rightly separates them. Otherwise, how would you label someone like the late Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan who, on the one hand, pleased the left by supporting strong economic safety nets for the underprivileged, but angered social liberals with his support for the Vietnam War, the Cold War and other key conservative causes?
Politics have moved, but you’re still using the old economic parameters.
Some critics have argued that, because the universal political centre has moved to the right, our axes should correspondingly move to the right. This, however, would not indicate how far one way or the other society has shifted. It could not convey paradoxes such as the fact that, in the UK, Tony Blair’s New Labour occupied an economic position to the right of pre-Thatcher Conservatives. Where was the centre, for example, in Apartheid South Africa? In Third Reich society, such a skewed analysis might show a Nazi opposed to the death chambers as representing liberal opinion.
Narrowing the standard political goalposts to accommodate merely the range of mainstream opinion within any given society at a given time is not only historically uninstructive; it is unscientific.
Most governments and political figures are plotted on the right. Doesn’t that mean that your centre is misplaced?
The Political Compass chart represents the whole spectrum of political opinion, not simply the range within a particular nation or region. The timeless universal centre should not be confused with merely the present national average. The former is far more meaningful and informative. Where, for example, would the centre be within the political confines of Hitler’s Germany, apartheid South Africa or the Soviet Union? By showing the whole spectrum of political thought, we can indicate the width or narrowness of prevailing mainstream politics within any particular country. It also enables us to chart the drifts one way or another of various parties, governments and individuals.
Twenty-five years ago, social democracy was riding high in western Europe. A chart at that time would have shown a number of EU governments to the left of the centre. In our globalised age, however, the shift has been rightward, which accounts for the altogether different cluster that the contemporary chart depicts. In other words most democracies, either reluctantly or enthusiastically, have embraced neoliberalism (ie a right leaning economy) to a greater or lesser extent.
Curbs on civil liberties, rationalised by issues such as illegal immigration and terrorist threats, accounts for the concurrent drift upwards on the social scale.
Do you have a chart for the political leader of my country?
Sorry if your country’s leader is not included in our new international chart — space is limited. Sponsored national versions provide a reading for all key politicians in the country concerned, as part of the package. If you’d like to explore this, please get in touch with us.
Can you provide your scoring details so that students/colleagues can respond to the propositions with pencil and paper?
We get many such requests from teachers, lecturers and students.
While we’re delighted for whole classes to take the test online — and many do — we have a strict policy against releasing this information.
Can you help me produce my own version of The Political Compass?
We’re covered by copyright that prevents the unauthorised adoption or adaptation of the Political Compass. To keep the bulk of the site free, we generate income from sponsorship and seminars. We protect these activities by keeping control of our intellectual property. Sorry if this disappoints you.
May I build a Political Compass app on Facebook?
We had a Political Compass app on Facebook, which didn’t work after Facebook made various changes to their platform. We have concluded that the app is not worth the effort of maintaining.
How can I display several people’s scores on a single chart?
We have constructed a crowd chart for this purpose.
Why did you do this? What’s in it for you?
As we explained in our introduction, it’s a case of a journalist and an academic working on the inadequacies of simple left-right political identities.
We have no ideological or institutional baggage. The satisfaction has been in generating media discussion, and receiving thoughtful comments and so much enthusiasm from web visitors.
When are you guys gonna learn to spell?
This grievance comes from pernickety people who have leapt into attack without checking the FAQs … and without even the remotest realisation that British and American words are sometimes spelt differently. They should have travelled more! We’ve been at the centre of some sulphurous rancour, but we’re not going to take offence or harbour any grievances. The catalogue of their ill-informed certainties won’t colour this organisation’s programme. It’s a grey area anyway. And we don’t want to labour the point. Except to add that most of these cavillous correspondents seem to feel that they have a licence or a blank cheque for a level of rudeness that more civilised souls wouldn’t have dreamt of. In response, we nevertheless practise polite dialogue, enabling them to recognise that the error is entirely their own. (We manoeuvre them towards the Oxford English Reference Dictionary, which is also an encyclopaedia.) This leaves them quite defenceless, which may account for the fact that these less than honourable individuals virtually never apologise.