I was listening to the Freakonomics podcast the other day while on one of my many train commutes around the city and they were interviewing UCLA Political Science professor Tim Groseclose.
Groseclose became well-known for his research on media bias and in doing so also ended up with a unique way of measuring the political leanings of members of Congress as well as a test which anyone can take to determine their own place on the political spectrum.
I’ve always enjoyed taking those “political compass” tests but ended up frustrated because most of them were built in ways that would result in one saying I was very liberal while another states that I am very conservative. The problem, of course, was in the questions. Too often you run into a question like “Are you pro-choice or pro-life?” and of course, pro-choice gives you points for liberalism while pro-life gives you points to conservatism. But what if you feel that this is a medical decision that should be left to a woman and her doctor, not the federal government (a seemingly conservative reason to select pro-choice)? Or perhaps you think that abortion is a red-herring argument and the real problem is inadequate sexual education? Well, obviously the political compass would fail to account for these opinions.
No political compass is going to be perfect, but by basing his on the research he has done and not on popular public opinion and simplistic questioning, Groseclose has provided as close to perfect a test as I’ve ever seen or expected could be possible.
I encourage everyone to take the test and figure out where they are on the political spectrum. Your results fall on a spectrum between 0 and 100 where the lower the number, the more conservative, and the larger, the more liberal.
I landed at a predictable 43.1, slightly right of center. Which puts me in the same area politically as the state of Missouri, as well as two of my favorite Senators, Olympia Snowe and Susan Collins, both of Maine. It also makes me probably one of the most conservative among my friends and one of the most liberal in my family.