The Political Spectrum: Where Do You Fit?

Report written by Sammy Roach

On March 23rd, 2017, the LYAC held a discussion on the political spectrum, led by Ward 3 Youth Councilor Asala Aladl. Asala led the group through an exercise where they placed themselves on the political spectrum and then guessed where politicians and parties would fall on the spectrum. The actual placings of several parties came as a surprise to the group.

Who Should Read This?

  • Anyone who feels like their views do not align with the parties they vote for
  • Anyone who has ever strategically voted

Asala had asked the group to take a test to determine where they fall on this political spectrum. Here are the results:

Asala asked the group whether the test answers were what they had expected, and generally the room found no surprises. Asala next asked whether the test results reflected people’s’ affiliations.

  • Raghad found the test was opposite to where she thought she would be in terms of what parties she supports.
  • Grace shared that the political spectrum was a new concept to her, because she is used to a one-party government at home in China.

Asala then asked a series of questions to the group to figure out where political figures placed on the spectrum. Where would you put the Conservative Party? What about the Liberals, NDP, or Bloc Quebecois?  What about the U.S. election in 2016?

Here are the answers according to The Political Compass:

Canada: https://www.politicalcompass.org/canada2015

U.S.: https://www.politicalcompass.org/uselection2016

As the group guessed and  Asala filled in the spectrum, audible surprise filled the room as in many cases, the answers did not align with the guesses. In particular, the group thought that parties such as the Liberals and NDP would be further to the left than they placed. For a party such as the Canadian Green Party, the placing sparking some critical thinking, as linking environmental concern with left leaning politics is a popular perception that threw the group off guard. The group was also surprised that Hillary Clinton placed further to the right of the spectrum than Donald Trump.

The chart brought to light a big question for the left leaning people: Who do you vote for when all of the parties are on the right, or at best, dead centre? This is where some comments about strategic voting were made, with the counter-question basically being, what else can you do? Smaller parties won’t get enough votes to gain representation, so there is pressure to pick the big ones.

Asala asked the group about supporting more than one party:

  • Raghad noted that right wing people tend to be more dead set, and would not change affiliation between parties.
  • Several members of the discussion noted switching between Liberal and NDP values.
  • Melissa added that it is easier to switch party affiliations when none of the parties represent you particularly well, whereas if there is a party that lines up with your beliefs, that is where your loyalty will likely be. If the spectrum chart is any indication, this is certainly the case for many right-wing Canadians.
  • Kayley spoke about the difficulty between voting for a leader and voting for an individual. She noted that it is difficult when you may agree with a local representative but not the wider values the party holds that the individual candidate may not hold.

Asala then asked the group so name some stereotypes of people based on political parties:

  • Conservatives are smart, more economically minded, on the flip side, highly capitalist, taking away individual rights, giving to corporations, militaristic, narrow-minded or taking their beliefs
  • Green party supporters are often stereotyped as hippies
  • NDP communists, socialists, idealists, dreamers, taking away money- common with Liberals

Speaking about extremes, the group discussed how the words fascist and fascism get thrown at each other from both sides of the political spectrum without understanding the terms. It’s the same case for the term communism as well. Raghad told a story about a teacher who was talking about the importance of fairness, equality, and helping those in need. Raghad asked if this wasn’t the definition of communism and the teacher was shocked Raghad would bring up the idea. There is a huge grey area around communism, and terms like it and fascism can be hard to bring up in conversation without making people incensed. Meegan noted that some people think Socialists, Marxist-Leninists, and Communists are the same thing.

Big Questions:

  • Who do you vote for when the big parties don’t actually represent you? Do you vote at all?

Things We Still Need to Learn

  • How would the different political parties place on the spectrum in previous election cycles? Is there data that shows any particular shifts that we can look to for explanation?
  • Is there any difference on the spectrum between provincial parties and their federal counterparts?

Find out where you place on the political spectrum here: https://www.politicalcompass.org/test

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