Last semester, I studied voter advice applications. More specifically, I dug into the methodologies used by these applications to recommend political candidates based on the users’ political stances. Most applications provided a ranked list of recommended candidates at the completion of the questionnaires, but a website called The Political Compass took a more passive approach.
The Political Compass represents one’s political ideology through coordinates on a two-dimensional scale, with one axis representing the social spectrum and the other representing the economic spectrum.
After taking their questionnaire, I can see where I’m placed on their ideological scale, as well as where candidates and world leaders are placed. I notice my coordinate position is close to those of certain candidates, which means The Political Compass concluded that those candidates and I share similar ideologies.
This implicit conclusion sends the message that I ought to view those candidates more favorably, and that people on similar positions on the scale are similar in ideology. I can imagine this process elicits varying reactions from users—I’d personally feel a bit upset if my coordinate position was close to Hitler’s. Not to mention, these results present a metric for candidate-to-candidate and candidate-to-user comparisons, which can either confirm or contrast one’s preexisting opinions about the political arena.
Applying the liberal/conservative spectrum to the economic/social axes seems to overly simplify the meaning of ideology, but people do seem to view political stances through binary lenses. Including other factors or dimensions would hopefully signal a shift away from a polarizing approach to politics.