If anything is extreme, it’s 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.

20 comments for “If anything is extreme, it’s this survey

  1. Robert Edwards
    August 28, 2012 at 12:11 pm

    As a bit of fun, I completed several versions of the Pew survey with my daughter (23, economically conservative, socially very liberal). Our purpose was to establish (along the lines of the sketchy options) which questions one should answer which way in order to score an extreme. So, Guardian reader or sensible…

    On that survey, I’m a Tea-Party supporter. Fair enough; I probably am. On the survey cited above, I scored as a right-wing libertarian, but a little further south and a little further right that you.

    Now, I wonder what I missed?

  2. David A. Evans
    August 28, 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Here’s mine from Political compass


  3. john in cheshire
    August 28, 2012 at 1:01 pm

    Mine’s similar to yours, James; Left/Right score= 4.62 (I’m slightly more to the right than your score) and Libertarian/Authoritarian score= -0.21 (I’m slightly more authoritarian than your score). Not sure what it means, though but an interesting diversion nonetheless.

  4. Watchman
    August 28, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Normal problem with dealing with the US – political history there is different, so not directly comparable.

    Only country in the world where I could actually suggest Obama was the best candidate in an election and still have a libertarian viewpoint…

  5. August 28, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    Interesting that with the Political Compass rundown on which world leaders were where [currently up to date], there were none in Right Libertarian. What does that say?

    • Watchman
      August 28, 2012 at 3:22 pm

      It’s probably true – right libertarian is likely to be the least organised section, so there is not the organisation to elect/impose a leader.

      Also, we are the least inclined section to follow leaders – our aim is generally to break the influence of leaders, not become them.

      • Robert Edwards
        August 28, 2012 at 3:34 pm

        What a very excellent point. Whenever anyone suggests: “What you need is a wise and charismatic leader…”,

        Then one turns away, repelled…

  6. August 28, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    There’s the crunch – we want a life without “leaders”, free to pursue what we can within “classical liberalism” with a consensus rule of law but nothing imposed and then we need a focal point to at least break what there is now. Tall order.

    • Watchman
      August 28, 2012 at 4:34 pm

      Not that tall – we’re getting there.

      No longer do representatives of religion control us all. No longer can people easily monitor our communications. No longer is there an expectation that politicians are acting for the public good. No longer is authority for the elder automatially assumed. No longer is your sex life a matter of public order.

      The old order (and believe me, if you think we are controlled now, our ancestors had it much worse) is crumbling – the representatives of the state seek to make rules and to control us still, but their ability to do so is greatly diminished.

      Look at it this way – if we are dissenters (which we may be) against the whims of our leaders, we are unusually safe for such people. They cannot crush us with force: an attempt to do so would produce a very unusual and very broad opposition – the only people you can use force against now are criminals and terrorists, hence the states misuse of at least the latter term. They cannot silence us: even totalitarian states cannot manage this any longer. They cannot intimidate us.

      All that is left to the statists and those who need leaders is to control our economy – society is already out of their grip – and the very laws of economics, as well as current experience, show that will fail.

      We may not have the leaders, or even necessarily be heard very often, but the world is moving our way. The EU, or big government, or UN mandates are not the future, but the elites of the present seeking to preserve their position.

      • August 29, 2012 at 4:57 am

        “No longer can people easily monitor our communications”

        Unless we go to lengths to encrypt (which itself spooks them and you have to by law hand over the key or be guilty) that statement surely isn’t true.

        • Watchman
          August 29, 2012 at 11:27 am

          We can all write, and use technology. The volume of communications makes it impossible for people to tap our internet usage, phone, mobile, letters etc without sustained effort (the government can if they wish pretty much monitor one person – they cannot monitor everyone in the way they once could). Don’t confuse the ability to monitor the individual with the impossibility of monitor everyone – that would require something like the giant listening centre in the Simpsons Movie…

  7. nisakiman
    August 28, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    Interestingly, at -0.1, -3.0, the closest world leader was Nelson Mandela, who was a couple of points left of me but on a level libertarian-wise. And I always considered myself a slightly right of centre libertarian leaning sort of chap. 😕

    The problem, as always with that type of questionnaire is that a lot of questions are too black and white. For instance:

    “A significant advantage of a one-party state is that it avoids all the arguments that delay progress in a democratic political system.”

    Well yes, of course a one party state will be able to make faster decisions, I agree. But to the question “Do you think a one party state is a good idea?”, my answer would be “Strongly disagree”. But the fact remains that a one party state would be a “significant advantage” in the decision making process.

    So in a few cases, I agreed with the statement as being correct, while disagreeing with the principal. So I don’t think it is likely to be a very accurate analysis of where I stand politically.

    • August 28, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      Oh yes – there were some amazing assumptions. For example, they said UKIP was BNP Lite – that’s just insane. They had the LibDems who are in some ways to the left of Marx as centre-right, which is bizarre. What it probably shows is that we can’t trust any of these.

  8. August 29, 2012 at 5:02 am

    Political compass don’t think Gary Johnson is libertarian but do think Obama is right-wing?? They also think every single EU government is right wing!

    The random pigeon could do better.

    • August 29, 2012 at 7:50 am

      Where’s the random pigeon survey, SA of T?

    • Watchman
      August 29, 2012 at 11:30 am

      Obama probably is right-wing – I doubt his views are that far from the Cameron-Osborne area really (right-wing does not preclude supporting state provision – otherwise Rab Butler is a bit difficult to explain). Very few US politicians are truly left-wing, hence their very different political divisions (basically polarising as economic freedom versus personal liberty – with the exception of some notable figures who can see the issues with this), and hence the original post I suppose…

      • August 29, 2012 at 2:24 pm

        Basically correct – just a few corrections:

        Obama probably is left-wing as he’s a Marxist, which has come through from everything from his associations to his groups to his policies. If anything, he has become more left-liberal as time has gone on.

        I doubt his views are that far from the Cameron-Osborne area really which makes them leftist (the very definition of right wing precludes supporting state provision). That’s why iDave is often called Pink Dave and his cronies the Pink Tories. This is the whole beef from the true rightwing of the party.

        Very few US politicians are truly right-wing, hence their very different political divisions (basically polarising as economic freedom versus personal liberty – with the exception of some notable figures who can see the issues with this). Examples of leftwing are McCain, Rudi. An example of true rightwing is Ron Paul.

        In fact, most of them part of the global left which, by definition, is into State control by oligarchy – the leftwing definition, particularly in a supranational State. Rightwingers, on the other hand, are into freedom of the individual, low taxes, small government, business-friendly, patriotism to one’s country. Left are more into class divisions and PCism.

        That’s why Nick Clegg is a raving leftist by his call for “the rich” to be taxed into oblivion.

        • Watchman
          August 29, 2012 at 4:35 pm


          Obama is a Marxist in US terms – he may be the most socialist president of the US (although I actually suspect he is less so than FDR and several of his predecessors) but he does not have policies that would please the Liberal Democrats here, never mind the Labour party – it is purely a matter of context.

          And, like all US politicians apart from a small number of extreme cases, Obama has no problem with free trade, free enterprise etc, which is a right-wing position – it is not un-right-wing to also see a role for the state (because right-wing does not mean right…). And right and left wing only make sense economically – both traditions have excellent examples of people who were for and against personal freedom, so trying to claim that as a right or left wing viewpoint is silly. Orwell was very much against state oversight of the individual for example, but was left wing economically.

          The global oligarchy-statist viewpoint is not right or left wing – it does a great disservice to many socialists to see them as allied to this, when they want local democratic state control. It is pure statism, the belief that they can make the correct decisions for everyone else – and that belief allows people with different viewpoints to work together against those of us who think they cannot do so.

          There is currently a surge towards social liberalism on the part of right-wingers (a major change – most still believed in strict controls of behaviour twenty years ago, or at least pretended to do so), but this is an additional belief. And one does not have to look hard to find illiberal beliefs amongst some right-wingers.

          The mistake is to assume that right-wing means freedom loving – there is no problem with being left-wing and believing in freedom: OK – you may have to explain away the issues of state control of production or the corrupting influence of state interference, but show me a political viewpoint that does not have flaws. Right-wing as a term has to be purely economic to make sense.

        • Watchman
          August 29, 2012 at 4:37 pm

          PS None of which makes Nick Clegg’s call for higher taxes anything other than raving, and certainly left-wing. But then he is preaching to the base, confident in the knowledge that won’t go anywhere…

  9. August 29, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    OK – possibly I shouldn’t have bitten as I’ve just had a bit of a shock in town – where I work a bit – people have been laid off today and there is a strange mood at the place. This looks bad.

    Seems to me that whatever differences we might have had, we really have to bury them now and present a united front against the Big 3 who show no signs of bringing us back to an employed state. Can you see anyone at all who can rid us of the EU and start to bring businesses back again, creating employment?

    It seriously doesn’t look good.

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