Homework assignment: Where do you fit?

A long time ago, I came very close to spending my life as an academic in the field inaptly called “political science.” I did some work for a major news organization doing early exit polling. That hooked me on the power of quantitative research. As a senior thesis, I constructed a questionnaire to see whether if you identified yourself as a Republican or Democrat that single variable could predict your response to First Amendment issues. I administered the survey to a large group, and then ran all the statistical tests (on a main frame computer that probably had less computing power than the little Chromebook I am using to write this post). I found out that the single variable was probably not a very good predictor depending upon the Ryou felt was necessary. Anyway, I have faith, albeit not unlimited faith, in experienced and unbiased researchers to get helpful data from such surveys. If you doubt me, spend a little time studying whether market research works.

So here’s the deal. There is a new and unbiased survey instrument that is just now available that allows an individual to test where he or she falls in the political spectrum. The survey doesn’t take long to complete. Just for fun take the full survey here* and then read the article here explaining the survey and the national results.  DON’T READ THE ARTICLE FIRST.

You might be surprised with your individual results as well as the national results. I certainly was. After you take the survey,  I urge you to comment upon (1) what you think about the survey and (2) whether the overall survey results recounted in the article tell us anything relevant to the federal courts.


*The basic survey allows you take a slightly longer version when you get done with the initial series of questions. Go ahead and answer the supplemental questions. They don’t take long.

14 responses

  1. i was not very impressed by this survey. first, after completing the survey i was told that i was “part of the 14% of the electorate that advocates for personal responsibility and everyone doing their fair share” and that this makes me “part of the New American Center.” i usually equate the “center” of politics as the location where the majority of folks find themselves. if only 14% of the electorate is in my ideological neighborhood, i fail to see how that can be the “center” of anything.

    i found many of the questions/responses so vague that a slight rewording would likely produce significantly different results. also, i thought that the “scale” used on many of the questions (e.g., which response was at which end of the spectrum) was often counterintuitive, thus i wonder how many inaccurate responses will be generated by people not reading carefully thus skewing the results.

    interesting, but i find these sorts of surveys to be overly simplistic and open to far too much interpretation to be of much value. sorry

  2. It says I am one of the 10% most left-leaning people in the electorate, which I find hard to believe in some respects and not so hard to believe in others. Some of the questions were conflicting and for some there are no right answers (and it is hard to answer on an agree/disagree spectrum). I think it tells you that the federal courts are skewed very far to the “right,” but that fact is most likely not sinister in origin, but instead a natural result of selecting a bunch of old folks (no offense intended) based on their political connections. I would comment more but I have to get to work ><

  3. I was likewise unimpressed. Having given uniformly “libertarian” answers, I was told that I am a right wing “talk radio head”.

    That adherence to a left wing / right wing model seems to me to be one fundamental flaw in the survey. I have no doubt that there are others.

  4. I was not shocked to be pegged to the far left of the spectrum – not because I identify with a radical liberal ethos but because I assumed that the results would be shifted a bit – thanks to the “middle shifting” that has gone on in the past few decades.

    There used to be progressive Republicans, and the GOP used to have a big enough tent for a lot of flavors of conservatism, but recently the party has been successful in dragging the centerline of the spectrum further and further to the right. Maybe it is a good strategy – they certainly have won numerous successes with it (e.g., control of the House of Representatives).

    If it were more important to me to be in the center than to have values I stood with, I guess I’d be willing to follow the tide downhill. As it stands I’m not surprised that standing by my beliefs has left me further from the median than I would have been 10-20 years ago.

  5. I had the opposite reaction. I thought it described me pretty effectively, and reflected my beliefs more strongly than either party currently does. I am in the middle bracket between the two parties.

    Most of my friends match the demographic described as the “new center” Bluntly, we have come to our own conclusions on things, and don’t buy into the rhetoric of either party.

    I’m interested in seeing how my generation deals with gerrymandering issues. It’ll be fascinating to watch.

  6. My usual bugaboo with “What is your ethnicity” questions: one of the right answers always is omitted. My ethnicity is American, not Other.

    The United States is a country where anyone, regardless of their background, can work hard, succeed and live a middle-class life. ?? Hard to know how to interpret this question. A man’s goal is to be in the middle, and not rise to the top? No context for where impediments might lie, which would color an answer. Etc.

    In the end, according to this survey, I’m a right wing talk radio head.

    There’s a surprise.

    Re Mike D’s comment: I agree. Standing by our beliefs has moved us, according to a survey, away from the middle–or at least away from what this survey thinks is the middle.

    Eric Hines

  7. Unsurprised by my result, but I did get a chuckle out if it… “New American Center” huh? I suppose in a nation as purportedly polarized as it is today, someone had to decide that being in the center is somehow “New.” 🙂

  8. I was only surprised by how far left I was. I always have considered myself a liberal but not that far left. I felt like it was a decent survey because it picked up on some subtleties about issues. the question about the ability to rise to middle class! for instance! I didn’t have a problem with. It spoke to me about the myth that we can all just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and live happily ever after. The deck is stacked against many, many people for that to happen.

  9. Pingback: The recently (re)discovered Center and what it means for the federal courts « Hercules and the umpire.

  10. As I took the survey I became less concerned with where I would come out than with the survey itself. While the “Methodology” statement at the end sounds impressive, there are real problems with the way many of the questions are worded. This question is an example: “Even low-income Americans should still have to pay their fair share of taxes.” It seems to be geared towards people who want poor people to pay money to the IRS – a “flat tax” system, but what about those who believe the “fair share” for many low-income Americans is zero? Either group -from opposing parts of the political spectrum – could strongly agree with the statement for totally different reasons.

  11. I’m a Bleeding Heart-no surprise there. I’m a consumer bankruptcy attorney, representing Debtors (exclusively). doing my part helping the folks who hit hard times and/or have the deck stacked against them. It’s not the path to great riches, but I sleep well at night knowing I do change people’s lives for the better-one case at a time.

  12. SAH,

    Assuming that it would pose no future conflicts, would you take the creditor’s side if the creditor came to you and said I wish to engage you? If not, why not?

    All the best.


  13. RKG,

    Sorry for the late reply. As much as I abhor the shutdown, I have to admit that it brought me more work than I would have ever expected. It wasn’t so much the federal employees, but the small businesses and sole proprietors that rely on them as customers that that I saw being pushed over the edge. I guess that really qualifies as “burning down the village to save the village.”

    As to your question – I thought quite a bit about it. I think there’s a moral guideline component and a practical component to it.
    Starting off with the latter: I represent debtors all day long (with the exception of one or two hourly domestic cases in the mix to even out the cash flow a bit). Creditor representation is a new area for me, so I need to learn as I go, which sucks up a lot of hours. So far an honest retainer quote convinced every inquisitive caller to look elsewhere.
    As to the “moral” component, I’d say that I’m open to representing as creditors individuals and small businesses that might as well be “my” debtors. I declined cases that looked more like facilitating harassment of the debtor than anything else (I’m suspicious if someone is willing to pony up more attorney’s fees than the face value of the claim). I’m also not willing to prepare assembly-line-style Lift Stay motions to foreclose granny’s home (or grannies’ homes?).*

    *: My wife is a figure skater and good at it (see here: http://www.youtube.com/user/KDHonICE ), and that is EXPENSIVE. I’m not sure how far I would branch out if the family budget would require it.

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