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What Stereotype Do You Fit?

July 15th, 2014

Pew has a “Political Typology” quiz you can take, but fair warning: it’s a very blunt tool, and shouldn’t really surprise you much at all. Unsurprisingly, I was tagged as a “solid liberal,” but was very unhappy with a lot of the choices I was forced to make. You could very easily see where the questions were taking you to, and you will probably find yourself making statements you don’t agree with, being steered towards a group you don’t feel comfortable with.

The questions, mostly polar opposites, tend to be incredibly simplistic and often force you to extremes. For example, you either believe that you have to do “whatever it takes to protect the environment” or that we’ve “gone too far” already. Answer one way, you’re a tree-hugger; answer the other way, you’re a hard-nosed industrialist. In terms of U.S. international involvement, you have to decide if we usually make things worse or if things would be worse without us. Answer one way, and you’re an isolationist; answer the other way, you’re an adventurist. What if you believe in tempered involvement? Not major land wars, except in true emergencies (WWII was the last one to qualify), but definite strategic involvement with a military element. How is that factored in? The answer is that it isn’t—you’re forced to choose way too far in either direction.

In fact, I am not sure that you can test out as a moderate—the results do not even allow that. The categories in the center are called “hard-pressed skeptics” and “young outsiders,” but you get there by being polar on some issues that are left and some that are right. There is pretty much no allowing for people who want middle-of-the-road solutions.

Some questions are too politically vague for the spectrum they are laid upon. For example, is it best for our future to be active in world affairs, or should we concentrate on problems here at home? That supposedly falls along a spectrum from liberal to conservative—despite the fact that I have seen people on both extremes, and in the middle, voice that particular sentiment.

Finally, many of the questions and vague in a general sense; for example, “stricter” environmental laws are good or they are bad. Well, what does “stricter” mean? Stricter than we currently have? Stricter than is currently acted upon? How much more “strict”? Strict in a harsh, arbitrary way, or strict in terms of protecting the environment while maintaining the best future for business? Does this allow for or discount laws which encourage green technology which can be a significant economic benefit?

In order for this to be a meaningful quiz, it should be allowed more depth. For example, take this choice:

This country should do whatever it takes to protect the environment
This country has gone too far in its efforts to protect the environment

These should be changed to:

The country should do whatever is necessary to protect the environment
The country should focus all available resources to stem the damages
caused by global climate change
The country should use strong economic incentives to discourage
non-renewable energy sources and encourage renewables
The country should focus on using nuclear power to stem coal, oil,
and gas use until renewables become economically feasible
The country should allow market forces to determine the best use and
development of energy resources and technology
Renewables are a pipe dream and should be abandoned in favor of all that
can be done to make coal, oil, and gas resources more available

My list is probably incomplete or not properly balanced, but you see where I am going with this. The answers could then be sorted into more coherent political identities. Questions could be added which would determine specific tax policies; instead of “taxes are too high” or “corporations make too many profits,” we would be able to set what we believe would be proper fundamental tax types–e.g., income, capital gains, and corporate taxes.

Such a poll would be much more complex and would require quite a bit more work—but I would be really, really interested to see how that comes out.

Categories: Journalism, Social Issues Tags: by
  1. Troy
    July 16th, 2014 at 02:30 | #1

    Your best fit is…
    Solid Liberal
    along with 15% of the public.

    ^ 15%, great, just great, that’s our #1 problem right there.

    I too was thinking yeah, needs to be a slider not 1/0

    but the extremes do force you to think about your positions.

    it’s easy being in the muddled-middle and not resolve contradictory beliefs.

    A good example of that was the war in Iraq. Polling in the run-up was 1/3 for attacking, 1/3 attacking if we had UN support, 1/3 against

    Then once we were in, then 2/3 were approving the war.

    The question are posed as “comes closest to your views”, so I think it’s good enough.


    • Racial discrimination is the main reason why many black people can’t get ahead these days

    • Blacks who can’t get ahead in this country are mostly responsible for their own condition

    That’s a tough one for me that requires thinking through what I really think. What’s stopping black people from getting jobs at e.g. Google in the same proportion of the public? I didn’t see a single black person at my on-campus interview.

    Is it just “racial discrimination”? I think it’s more cultural than that, but can we blame individuals for having inherited a different culture?

    As for corporate profits, this graph:


    is interesting. Red is wages, blue is profits (left axis) and green (right axis) is wages’ share of the total, how much of the pie labor is getting.

    90% of the latter was the postwar average, but now we’re heading under 80%.

    What we really need to do is poll what facts people actually are operating on, and how that correlates with their “typology”.

  2. Troy
    July 16th, 2014 at 02:51 | #2

    I like the question-by-question breakdown at the end.

    “Government often does a better job than people give it credit for” is a minority (40%) position, as is “Government regulation of business is necessary to protect the public interest” (47%)

    Also minority: “It’s best for the future of our country to be active in world affairs” (35%)

    I really parted company with the SL type here: “The best way to ensure peace is through military strength” — only 5% of SL agree with that, and only 30% of the public for that matter.

    My reading of history is such that I can’t think diplomacy is worth anything when war looms. Calculations are ONLY done on who thinks they’re going to win, at what cost, and talking does not trump people with rifles and bombs exploding on things.

    Interestingly support for “Americans shouldn’t have to give up privacy and freedom in order to be safe from terrorism” is weaker among SL than the public (72 to 74%). This is probably an artifact of Obama being the president, if a conservative was in power the righties would fall back into line on this again.

    “Hard work and determination are no guarantee of success for most people” another minority position (67% of SL but 32% of the public)

    That’s a tough question. Luck is opportunity meets preparation in any conditions, and it is true we can make our own luck with determination. But these are more necessary but not sufficient for success, what also is needed for most people to succeed is a strong
    macro-environment that fosters success by enabling people to get back up from disadvantage and outright failure. We have that a little, but can do a lot, lot more here.

    Similarly, “Success in life is pretty much determined by forces outside of our control” is a minority position even among SLs (36%), and only 1/6 the public agrees with me here. Geez, this is my most isolated position.

    “Success in life” needs to be defined here, I think it means rising out of poverty and reaching economic security, of having no unmet needs and the ability to satisfy the “reasonable” wants.

    But the birth lottery determines so much here. We live in an economy that is more a Monopoly game than the Game of Life now. 3/4 the country is living paycheck-to-paycheck


    and if all of these small-government conservatives get their way, that’ll be much higher, and we’ll really get to see how strong our bootstraps really are.

  3. Troy
    July 16th, 2014 at 05:49 | #3

    the good news is only 12% of the country is my mirror opposite.

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