The Political Compass

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.

This two-dimensional scale represents the different combinations and degrees of political ideology.

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.

After completing the questionnaire, users are placed on the scale to determine their political ideology.
This is how “The Political Compass” places 2016 U.S. Presidential Candidates on their scale.

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.