Sunday, March 3, 2013

Political Typologies - don't box me, bro!

How do you identify yourself politically? How does it align with the results from this Pew Research Center for the People and the Press survey/analysis? I consider myself a liberal Republican turned moderate Democrat (a centrist, really...something we've lost in our current political divisiveness). And, indeed, that's where my typology fell ("Post- Moderns" to "New Coalition Democrat", depending on my answer to one question) - socially liberal but generally fiscally conservative. I find it silly to try to label people along a continuum as they can simultaneously hold multiple "positions" along that spectrum - that is to say, being at one place along a spectrum isn't mutually exclusive from simultaneously being at another place along the same spectrum. 

Why do I consider myself centrist? I hold some socially liberal perspectives but also consider myself fiscally conservative. The results from that fun-to-take-but-not-too-insightful Pew Research survey landed me pretty much where I expected, too. BUT...I did not like answering many of the questions as the two options presented often did not capture my position. I took the survey several times, changing one question each time to see where it would place me and was not surprised to learn that changing one answer was often enough to move the label assigned me to another category. For instance, when I first took it, I landed in the "New Coalition Democrat" but when I changed my answer to the question about people whose skin color is of the darker persuasion and racial discrimination from "racial discrimination is the main reason people can't get ahead these days" to people of the darker skin persuasion "can't get ahead and are mostly responsible for their own condition", I was assigned to the "Post-Modern" category. In reality, I don't agree with either of these statements. But I did find it apropos that the name of the survey was "Going beyond red and blue" and yet the answer options were so restrictive, forcing you into one of two answers with no grey area between them. Guess that's the tradeoff between having too few people answer the questions (too complex and long) and a survey short enough to hold people's attention. No matter, it's just a quick-n-dirty survey/analysis. I am a complex onion with many layers. Some are so sweet and others might make you cry. I am secure in it.
I am an onion... (art by
Nevertheless, the utility in these sorts of "analyses" (if we can call them that) and of public policy theories in general is in helping us structure how we view the world. Indeed, these sorts of typologies offer some insights into how groups of people might loosely be clustered. But what value does that have in and of itself? How about for deciding how allocating government funds? Or deliberating on cutting, expanding, or creating new programs? Is it useful for getting understanding how to get elected? Certainly. How much utility beyond that? I believe the real utility is in illuminating where similarities exists and where the potential for commonalities/overlap can help advance or arrest particular policies.

This Pew Research survey/analysis claims to go "beyond Red vs. Blue". I don't think it goes far enough in identifying commonalities among differing political ideologies. Do you?

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