Thursday, November 6, 2008

Lefty's Political Square


Lefty's Square is a quadrilateral mapped on a Cartesian plane to illustrate the political ideology of a given person. Each point of the shape represents a score out of 10 for each of the following categories:
(1) Economic
(2) Social
(3) Civil Liberty
(4) Foreign Policy

The higher the score for a given category, the more liberal (in the American politics sense) the person is for that topic. The smaller the number, the more conservative. One could also say that the more total area in a Lefty's Square, the more liberal a person is overall. For our purposes, let's say conservative spans from 0-3, moderate from 4-6, and liberal from 7-10. The following example is a person who is liberal on economics (8), left-moderate on social (6), conservative on Civil Liberties (3), and right-moderate on Foreign Policy (4). You can try to imagine who this might be.

The reason for Lefty's Square is that too few scales illustrate the complexity of a candidate's ideas or on the other hand are too complex to understand easily. I felt that the four categories used in the square encompassed most of the political issues people care about. The nuance of Lefty's Square is that it is calculated in an interesting manner. Here's how:

A person takes a survey with 20-25 questions covering most of the major issues. For each question, they give an answer from 1-5 (5 being the most liberal, 1 being most conservative). For certain issues, their answer will affect only one of the four categories. For example, the following question is a single-topic question:

The federal government should impose a highly progressive tax structure.

(1) Strongly Disagree

(2) Disagree
(3) Neutral/Undecided
(4) Agree
(5) Strongly Agree

For this question, if the respondent said 5, they would be given +5 to their Economic score. At the end of the survey, each categorical score is divided by the denominator (total possible) and multiplied by 10 to get the numerical score for that category.

Many questions will involve more than one category. For example, issues like abortion or warantless wiretapping are a combination of factors. Let's say abortion is 1/2 civil liberty and 1/2 social. If you score a 3 on a question, it is multiplied by the weight for each category.

In the end, we are given a nice shape that gives a more detailed description of one's political views. Hopefully, we will launch a survey for Lefty's Squares in later weeks for you to try it out yourself. In future posts, I will evaluate certain politicians (or Lefty's authors) and show you how we generated their Lefty's Square.
If there are any requests for certain people, feel free to post your suggestions.

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