Friday, 13 May 2005

NZ's Political Spectrum

Since I started blogging I've been promising to post my 'map' of the New Zealand political spectrum, compiled largely from answers to the Advocates' World's Smallest Political Quiz' given by MPs and party supporters over the last ten years, supplemented by an examination of party policies. (Idiot/Savant has compiled NZ bloggers' positions on a related, though less intuitive spectrum here.)

The questions are different to the somewhat strange ones in the Times quiz, and are designed to test specific positions on the two issues that define one's position in the spectrum, ie., the level of support for personal freedom on the one axis, and economic freedom on the other. I'm happy if anyone wants to suggest NZ-based questions that have a similar rigour to those of the Advocates' quiz. [Email me at organon-at-ihug-dot-co-nz, or suggest them here.]

The collected results over those years do make very interesting reading.

One thing that has been clear right from the early days of running the quiz is that there is a distinct 'phase shift' between party supporters and that party's MPs; ie., a party's MPs are almost always closer to the Authoritarian end of the diamond than are their supporters. Accordingly, you can probably assume the mode of party supporters would be clustered 10-30 points north of their more authoritarian MPs.

I've found consistently this 'phase shift' is most distinct with the Green Party, many of whose supporters score well up in the left-libertarian position of the diamond, but none of whose MPs even come close. (A similar but 'mirrored' result is found with the ACT Party, though a little less distinctly, although many ACT supporters do claim a spot for themselves in the right-libertarian position.)

With most of these Green supporters and their MPs their problem comes in not scoring too highly on issues of economic freedom - and the most consistent reason for not doing so seems to be a poor understanding of economics. People generally do not move towards being more authoritarian rather than less; so it is with Green supporters who, with greater economic understanding, tend to move along the line of greater economic freedom.

With the ACT Party supporters I've found a related problem is often a low commitment to personal freedom - not so much a poor understanding of what personal freedom means, as a blank refusal to countenance that some things are just not the government's business, or that other people should be allowed to do things that they themselves wouldn't want to. Another problem is an insistence on 'compromise,' meaning a disproportionate number of 'maybe' answers.

So as I say, these results have made interesting reading over the years. It's very refreshing to see The Times recognise that the diamond spectrum is of much more use in explaining political allegiance than is the one-dimensional left-right spectrum, and it's clear that this spectrum says much more about relative political positions, and unravels conundrums such as 'are the National Front left or right'? Simply, they're authoritarian.

You can perhaps 'collapse' the diamond to see the traditional one-dimensional spectrum (and then see why ACT and Winston don't get along) but that makes for example both Libz and National Front centrists, right there by National and Labour, and not at opposite polls to each other as they obviously are.

Amongst other virtues, the diamond spectrum -- or 'Nolan Chart' as it is known -- explains quite simply why Libertarianz will often agree with ACT on issues of economic freedom, and with the Greens on issues of personal freedom ... and that many supporters of both Greens and ACT are not really either left or right, they are really libertarian-leaning in either personal freedom (80-odd percent for Green supporters) or economic freedom (80-od percent for ACT supporters). It shows too that both sets of supporters have much to learn from each other -- such a shame about their respective MPs! -- and why neither can be members of their closest centrist party.

It also demonstrates that Labour and National barely differ at all on issues of substance. If they put aside their decades-long personal antipathy to each other, we'd be seeing one-party rule for some years to come.

Grand coalition anyone? I don't think so; somehow it seems as likely as an ACT-Libz-Greens coalition.

[Supporters and MPs: Please feel free to send me your results to the quiz, telling me your score and your party support. As they come in I'll start adding them to the spectrum as an 'airbrush'. Email me at organon-at-ihug-dot-co-nz (confidentiality is assured), or post them here.]

[UPDATE: To give you the substantive scores for all parties and to indicate how the Advocates' present online quiz differs to its previous printed quiz forms, here are the respective quiz forms for each of the parties, compiled as described above : Greens, Labour, National, Winston First and ACT. And as I've indicated, I'm happy to amend scores and positions if a substantive position can be made based on either MPs who send me their quiz answers, party policy positions being pointed out to me which contradict the way they've been scored, or a combination of these.]


  1. I score ACT as 80 personal and 90 economic. I don't know how you got your result. I suspect you attribute policies and attitudes to ACT that don't exist.

    On a personal level I ended up scoring 100 personal and 90 economic.

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  3. Hi Blair. I do like it that you accept libertarian credentials are important to ACT. And clearly excellent credentials yourself.:-)

    You said, "I score ACT as 80 personal and 90 economic. I don't know how you got your result. I suspect you attribute policies and attitudes to ACT that don't exist."

    Well, answers have been received over the years by those running the quiz from Muriel Newman, Patricia Schnauer, Stephen Franks, Gerry Eckhoff, Richard Prebble ... luminaries enough, surely? Rodney has so far avoided giving answers (as did Roger Douglas), but if you can persuade him ...

    Anyway, supplementary to those answers is an examination of ACT's policies as it relates to each of the ten questions, which rather reinforces the views given by those MPs. In fact the party's poliies are some ten points or so further south, but I didn't let that reflect on the final score.

    ACT's declared policy scores 'No' on each of questions 4 & 5 measuring personal freedom, and for question 3 in measuring economic freeedom'; it scores 'Maybe' on questions 1-3 for the former, and on questions four and five for the latter.

    But here's a deal, if you want it: If you can show policy positions justifying a score of 80-90, then I'm happy to change it. In fact I'd probably join. That's how confident I am of their present rating. ;^)

    [UPDATE: Edited scores to correct my error of reading from the wrong card. Oops.]

  4. Your PERSONAL issues Score is 90%.
    Your ECONOMIC issues Score is 100%.
    Whatever. I said maybe on the drugs issue. In an ideal world I would say yes - but take the consequences, but in THIS world you have hand-wringers saying - *save* these people jumping around like jack-rabbits on a 3 day meth binge- don't let them die!! So I say maybe.

    Anyhoo for Libertarians Caplan's Purity Test is good.

  5. Those interesting answers. I scored ACT as follows:

    P1: A. The only exception I can think of would be Stephen Franks' personal opinion on the flag-burning issue, but I don't think that's enough to justify an M. If you have substantial examples then perhaps I could be persuaded otherwise.

    P2: A. Not sure how ACT could possibly score an M here - to my knowledge no-one in the party has advocated a draft.

    P3: A. Nobody in the party is advocating recriminalisation of homosexuality, or outlawing oral sex.
    Thank God.

    P4: D. Not disputed.

    P5: A. Where is the declared policy for a national ID card? I can't find it. I've never heard ACT advocate this.

    E1: A. Not disputed

    E2: A. Not disputed

    E3: A. ACT want to privatise superannuation and let people have their own individual funds. The only dispute is whether it should be compulsory or not. This is quite well documented.

    E4: M. Not disputed.

    E5: A. You're never going to get a statement like this in an ACT manifesto (as nice as it would be), but I don't know a single MP or member who would disagree with that statement as a long-term goal. So I gave it an A.

    A lot of ACT's stances on these issues aren't often specified, but then the Greens never specify that they want a commune-based society either, even though this is probably the case. So I would be interested if you can find a case of ACT MPs advocating ID cards, sex regulation or a draft of some kind.

  6. Blair you pointed out some discrepancies in ACT's scoring, and I read your answers and they made no sense at all to me. Not your fault though, the Advocates have modestly re-jigged the quiz and slightly altered some of the questions. Bastards. :-/

    No harm done though, as things are still essentuially the same, just differently ordered to their earlier printed quiz forms. I'll post the revised question numbers and scores shortly, but in the meantime would just suggest to you that it's policy that's important in the long run, not an MPs personal views, which is why I advocate measuring policy papers not isolated after-dinner comments and rogue press releases and the like. If MPs have a personal view but it's never reflected in policy then it's not really useful to anyone -- as they say, the large print giveth and the small print taketh away. Particularly when it comes to politics.

    Talk soon.

  7. Some very encouraging answers DPF, and Ruth. Looks like you're in deep cover there in the Nats, David. :-)

  8. Blair, I've posted the original ACT summary here for your purview so you can see the difference between the two quizzes. I'll discuss the substantive points of disagreement over how things are marked for later; for now I'll just talk about the differences.

    Apart from the order, the only essential difference in the Personal Freedom category is the ID Card/Immigration question.

    I had marked ACT 'N,' for this. All we have to go on as far as this goes is the ACT Party stand on the new Drivers' Licences which was silence. I'm prepared to make this an 'M' as there's nothing more to go on until we have ACT MPs answer that question.

    With Economic Freedom the difference is greater.

    The Minimum Wage question has been replaced with a question on Superannuation, which I would still give at least an 'M' since the policy of compulsion is definitely a dispute about economic freedom - ie., whose money is it?

    The original question on foreign aid is now one on welfare. No dispute there as you say, so ACT stays at M.

    The tax question has been amended to make the bar lower, but as you say it won't ever be in the manifesto, and as I've said before it's manifestoes we're interested in here, ie., it's policy that counts, not secret desires, so would still mark this as an 'M.'

    So there's the quiz differences out of the way, and we can talk substantively about how they're marked later. The key point for now is that policy is the key -- it's all that counts in the real world -- and that I need to mark each party, and their stated policy allows that, supplemented as I've said by the quiz forms MPs have filled out. And as I've said, I did send ACT's score 10 points north to reflect some of the disrepancy between policy and personal view anyway.

    In any case, I'm comfortable that the broad positions are as I've charted, but let's talk soon anyway, and especially if you do find substantive policy that does contradict the scores I've given.

    So, speaking of bars, I believe there's one calling ...

  9. Oh God, it's worse than I thought!

    I'm afraid I disagree with your assessment of all the parties!

    To explain why would take a large amount of writing and and render me rather nerdy and anorakish so I won't. Besides, I'm drinking a rather nice Sauv Blanc and I can't be bothered.

    My assessment is at

    Make of it what you will.

  10. Blair, with the greatest respect, you're dreaming.

    I've been running these quizzes now for ten years, and apart from one or two Winston supporters I've never remotely seen any of those results. Might I suggest your positioning of parties is wishful thinking on your part? It's certainly not any reflection at all of the thousands of quiz results I've assessed or seen assessed.

    I look forward to your anoracky arguments nonetheless. Perhaps by email?

  11. I got 90% for personal issues and 50% for Economic issues.

    Green supporter.

  12. Your PERSONAL issues Score is 90%.
    Your ECONOMIC issues Score is 50%.

    Greens (probably). Scored pro on free trade and ending corporate welfare, but still in favour of safety net/govt provision of social welfare. Libertarian on all the individual issues except ID Card (nuetral, I don't really care - I don't think it would be a great idea but I don't see it as a great infringement of liberty, either).

  13. I'm a two tick Green, and I got 100% personal, 20% economic. It's far too simplistic isn't it.

  14. I've always hated liberal lefties, I'm glad I'm a centrist with a right wing conservative streak.

    This test is too simple, you should have more questions...

  15. These tests completely ignore the philosophy behind these people. The Greens and Libertarianz may have some similar ideas about personal freedom but they're for totally different reasons. For instance they wish to ban junk foods, guns, that sort of thing. Those types of social liberalism are incompatible. The "left-liberal" tends to see all their philosophy from the point of view of improving outcomes. The "right-conservative" is not like the authoritarian, they may for instance have some "libertarian" tendancies on gun control and such - it's more difficult to define their philosophy, but it seems to often be as a result of religion or tradition. Then we get Libertarian/Authoritarian, which are they only ones strictly focusing on Government power - more or less?

  16. Your PERSONAL issues Score is 80%.
    Your ECONOMIC issues Score is 100%.

    Of course much of the quiz depends on the question interpretation ;-)
    For example I support a National ID card - but not a compulsion to carry

    ACT supporter

  17. I will not argue what absolute score act should get on the spectrum, however, I would say that there is no way that they are worse on personal freedom that national and labour. I would score ACT 60 for personal, and 70 for economic. Rodney may not have given straight answers but if you examine things he has said, he would be quite liberal. If find it ironic that the more conservative act people, (muriel newman and stephen franks) are on your blue team, but he more liberal rodney is on your red team.

    Examples of act being pro freedom are there opposition against labour on the smoking bill and labour and national on the smacking bill. other than civil unions and prostution and keeping drinking age down which was a mixture for all parities(rodney was pro all) can you name any issues that act has been less pro freedom than labour and national?

  18. Oh, this is just nonsense.
    I'd think National is about where you put Labour; Labour a bit to the left and further down. ACT is not nearly as bad on the "personal" scale as you claim, and neither Greens nor Winston First are not as high on the "economic" scale as you have them. And Libz are not anarch(o-capital)ists.
    National and ACT should be the only parties (just) inside the "centrist" box.

  19. Personal 90%
    Economic 80%

    And a Green Party Member. Assuming that your party ratings are accurate (I haven't checked but would tend to agree with you), this would explain why I feel at odds with several Green Party policies and political decisions. My background is a strong liberal & slightly alternative upbringing but a business/land economics education.

    I have long considered that a lack of strong economic policy is the Greens downfall. The Greens seem to have two major sources of voter - Hardcore greens like myself in the minority, and swing voters with environmental concerns in the majority (I think these people also tend to be liberal oriented). When the day comes that another party in power develops some semi-decent environmental policy that appeals to the masses, it could decimate the green party voter base by 'stealing' their swing voters. People who care about the environment can come from any walk of life or political background.

    Saying that, I'm staying with the Greens for the meantime. The environment is the most important factor to me at the present point in time and the Greens appear to be the only party in power with some decent environmental policy. You know what they say - you can have an environment without an economy, but not an economy without an environment.

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