6 thoughts on “Canada 2011 Vote Compass

  1. Have I told of my pet peeve against political tests?

    It’s amazing how much faith people put in them. I’ve seen newspapers – decent newspapers, which should know better – claim that “The test shows he is closest to [party x]”.

    Any fool can cook up a political test telling you which party to vote for, and many fools do.

    It wouldn’t matter if people were critical of the tests, but they aren’t. They think, for instance, that “The political compass” proves that there are two main axes in politics. It does no such thing. It defines two axes, but the test does zilch to show that these correspond to anything meaninful.

    It’s like the magic of the white lab coat that xkcd makes fun of. Once people see something that looks vaguely like an aptitude test, they quietly drop all inclination to question it.

    The only political test I’ve found to tell me something interesting is Chris Lightfoot’s political survey. Unfortunately, Lightfoot passed away many years ago, and no one has continued his work in this direction.

    • Yes, Harald, I believe you have! But I think you are being a bit unfair. It is not as if these are made up by “any fool.” At least some of them, including this one for Canada, are made up by panels of political scientists. (And no bad, even if somewhat deserving, cracks about the profession, please!)

      Some countries’ politics can be captured by two dimensions, some by one, and others need more than two. There was a test for Israel before the last election that had three dimensions.

      There may be perfectly valid reasons for skepticism, and I have my reservations about the question format of this and many others I have taken. But whether they are accurate or not is, in principle, an empirical question. And I know there is some research on this question (done by scholars other than those who have designed the tests being, well, tested.)

      In any case, people are indeed being very critical of this one. See the CBC video I linked to, and also if you do a Google News search you will find quite a few articles in Canada over the past week that criticize the Vote Compass.

  2. My criticism of these tests is that they assume an inflated value of policy preferences in deciding which party to vote for.

    The competence and honesty of each party’s leadership is at least as important a consideration, especially given the increasing tendency of parties to drop key policy commitments once they get into power.

    • Many of these tests, including the specific one under discussion, have a series of questions on the respondent’s perception of the competence of the various party leaders.

  3. The contrary position to Ed’s, all things being equal, is that most party leaders are competent to carry out the polices they advocate. The weakness in the character argument is that it is a short step to making politics a policy-free zone where the only questions allowed for debate are irrelevant details of personal history.

    • I agree with Alan, at least when we are talking about parliamentary parties. For parties in presidential systems, as I have argued, it can’t be taken necessarily for granted.

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