A Three-Axis Survey

Below is a survey you can try out, based on the three-axis model. Do your progressive friends answer as one would expect? Does the survey help to separate conservatives from libertarians?
Here is a ten-question survey. There are no right or wrong answers. The purpose of the survey is to gather your opinions on a set of current and historical events. For each event, pick the answer that best agrees with your point of view. Get a piece of paper, and write down numbers from 1 to 10. Next to each number, give the letter of your answer.

1. Late in 2012, in Newtown Connecticut, about two dozen school children were murdered in a shooting incident. In your initial reaction, what struck you the most was

a) the need to reduce the power of the gun lobby
b) the need for society to exert more control over the mentally ill
c) the need for teachers to be empowered and armed to fight back

2. In the latter half of 2012, UN Ambassador Susan Rice went on news programs as an Administration spokesperson and described the deaths of Americans at the Libyan consulate in Benghazi as resulting from a protest demonstration. People would share your outlook on this controversy if they paid more attention to the fact that

a) Susan Rice is a female African-American
b) Islamic militants were to blame for the murders
c) Politicians were seeking to assign or deflect blame

3. In the 1940s, ordinary Germans participated in atrocities against Jews. In your view, what best explains this?

a) German anti-Semitism
b) German civilization collapsed in the wake of World War I, reparations, and hyperinflation.
c) Germans operated under a totalitarian system of government

4. When the issue of changing the tax code comes up, what question comes to mind?

a) how will the change affect inequality?
b) how will the change affect the reward that people get for hard work and thrift?
c) does the government spend money more wisely than individuals?

5. When Palestinians fired rockets from Gaza into Israel in 2011 and 2012, how did you regard the Palestinians?

a) The Palestinians are an oppressed people, and the rockets were a feeble gesture.
b) The Palestinians have no respect for civilian life—either the Israelis’ or their own.
c) The Palestinians have been badly treated by the government of Israel, by Arab governments, by other nations, and by the UN.

6. In 1992, a study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston found a high rejection rate for mortgage applications by African-Americans. What explains this?

a) racial discrimination
b) African-Americans were more likely to have poor credit histories or insufficient incomes to qualify for mortgages
c) the officials who directed the study had an agenda

7. The Milgram Experiment (a famous study undertaken in the early 1960s) demonstrated that when encouraged by authority figures to inflict pain on others to try to get them to improve on a task, people will administer punishment. The lesson from this is that in order to avoid the phenomenon of people “just following orders” that are evil, we need to

a) elect leaders who stand up for good and against evil
b) respect and encourage the institutions, traditions, and beliefs that keep us on the right path
c) place constraints on the power of leaders

8. The wave of mortgage defaults known as the “sub-prime crisis” was caused by mortgage loans that were

a) predatory
b) given to unqualified and undeserving borrowers
c) government-induced

9. The large number of unwed mothers with low income reflects

a) lack of economic opportunities, education, and access to birth control
b) cultural decay, which over-values sexual gratification and undervalues marital responsibility
c) incentives built into our tax and welfare system

10. Since 9/11, Presidents have employed controversial powers, such as warrantless surveillance and targeted killing. Does this concern you?

a) I am more comfortable that these policies will be used judiciously by the Obama-Biden administration than by the Bush-Cheney administration.
b) Because Islamist terrorism is such a difficult and dangerous problem, I basically support the use of these powers to protect the American people.
c) I am totally against the use of these powers.

Before we score the quiz and interpret your score, please answer one more question. Which of the following paragraphs best describes how you feel?

The Basic Question

A) My heroes are people who have stood up for the underprivileged. The people I cannot stand are people who do not seem to care about the oppression of working people, minorities, and women.

B) My heroes are people who have stood up for Western values. The people I cannot stand are the people who do not seem to mind the assault on the moral virtues and traditions that are the foundation for our civilization.

C) My heroes are people who have stood up for the individual’s right to his or her own choices. The people I cannot stand are people who do not seem to mind letting government make more and more decisions for us.

My hypothesis is that the answers on the ten questions will tend to line up with the answer to the basic question.

This entry was posted in Three-Axes Model, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to A Three-Axis Survey

  1. DJ says:

    For question #1, I am a libertarian, but I don’t like choice C much – I think making big changes in response to very low probability events is a fool’s errand. I really don’t like B, and I’m not too fond of A either.

    I think the “assume that something must be done” mentality will wind up being more harmful than the problem it’s trying to solve – this seems like the _real_ libertarian axis choice?

  2. Vacslav says:

    A libertarian, I was surprised to discover 6 b’s, 3 c’s and even one a.

  3. Joel says:

    A number of these questions are not great — for #1 I couldn’t choose any of them (and it’s not clear to me how (c) is the “libertarian” response). For #3, it’s hard for me to disentangle (b) and (c); it’s not as if the totalitarian government just magically appeared, it was (to some degree) what the people wanted. For #6, my preferred answer is (b), but I don’t see how that answer has anything to do with the civilization/barbarism axis (nor how (c) is the “libertarian” answer). And for both #8 and #9 both my inclination is that every one of the answers is partially correct and relevant (although for 8(b) I don’t like the “and undeserving”).

  4. Steve B says:

    Also call myself a libertarian – 6 c’s, 3 b’s and an a. The ‘a’ was for question #1. I like DJ’s take on that question.

  5. Becky Hargrove says:

    For question one, some teachers will be naturally comfortable with guns and some won’t. It turned out I wasn’t comfortable with guns so decided not to use them. I ended up with six c’s, three b’s and and an a but some of the problem for me was just the wording, which would lead to a “yes, but” sort of reaction and my concerns were like those Joel had.

  6. Probably Wrong says:

    Your 3 axis model doesn’t work for me. Is there a technocrat axis?

    5 D, None of the above
    3 A, 2 B, 2 C (A&B for 6, A&C for 10)

    Basic Question: (D None of the Above) My heroes are free-thinkers, people who question authority, look for evidence and test new ideas. They never assume that power is right, never assume that traditional values are right, and never assume that the existing distribution of capital ownership is just.

    1. D The need for more scientific resarch regarding the causes of violence. We should treat gun violence as a public health problem.
    2. D There was an active investigation into a an act of terror, and Susan Rice’s primary responsibility was to support the success of that investigation. Of course we shouldn’t believe her public statement, but the reasons are not political.
    3. D Excess respect for institutions (church and government). Lack of willingness to believe that respected leaders are frequently wrong.
    4. B
    5. C But the Palestinians are not blameless either. None of the parties involved in this dispute hold the moral high ground. Too much respect for institutions, authority, tradition, family.
    6. A & B, but mostly B
    7. D Reduce respect for institutions. Too much willingness to trust & obey authority results in obedience to immoral orders.
    8. D Irrational exuberance. Failure of government economists to consider home price appreciation as inflation. Failure of government economists to use inflation as a tool to moderate the impact of the fall in home prices. Too much respect for institutions (banks).
    9. A
    10. A & C

  7. Vacslav says:

    SurveyMonkey perhaps? Curious to see correlations between answers. And between answers and self-identification.

  8. Bret says:


    The Basic Question: C

    Again, I don’t think your choice of axis is even vaguely orthogonal.

    • Arnold Kling says:

      I agree that they are not orthogonal, so if you think in terms of a vector space they should not be viewed as axes

  9. Phil says:

    This is one of my favorite posts ever. Consider my comments below mere nitpicks. And, I may be wrong. Maybe I’m more (b)ish than (c)ish, and I shouldn’t blame the survey.

    4. I’m a libertarian, but I worry more about (b) than (c). It’s less bad to have government waste more of the people’s wealth, than to create incentives that prevent that wealth from being created in the first place. At least in today’s climate. If you had said “level of taxation ” or “level of spending” rather than “tax code”, I might have said (c).

    1. As others have pointed out, you can be a libertarian but not think arming teachers would be effective. My (c) would be, “how willing people are to knee-jerkingly restrict gun ownership based on this single random occurrence.”

    2. I’d choose (b). The fact that the politician lied in this case is evidence that leads you to accept (c) also. I choose (b) as evidence of politician lies, rather than wanting to actually assign the blame. Maybe (b) could be, “Islamic militants were to blame for the murders and constitute a grave threat”?

    Similar issue for 8. (b) happened because of (c). I’d argue (b) to convince people of (c).

    6. I’d choose (b). Maybe it’s a trick: I interpreted “what explains this?” as what explains the finding. I agree that (c) explains why the study was done!

  10. Glen says:

    I’m a big fan of the three-axis model, but I think you’ll need to tweak this quiz substantially to make it track with the model. I’m a libertarian, and if I had to choose my “leaning” direction, it would be more liberal than conservative. Yet in my answers, I got 5 C’s, 4 B’s, and only 1 A. So my most-frequent response matched with my ideology, but just barely, and my other responses didn’t really track my attitudes.

    I think you need to make the A responses more attractive. (Or to put it another way, I think you passed the conservative Turing test, but not the liberal Turing test.)

  11. Alejandro1 says:

    I see myself as a liberal, but chose C in half of the questions, B on three and A in only two. In many cases neither all three options seemed very far from my reactions, and especially A seemed like a strawman liberal. I agree with Glen’s comment above.

    • Arnold Kling says:

      I need to improve the wording on the a’s, then, to make them more charitable toward liberals

  12. enoriverbend says:

    1 b
    2 b
    3 c
    4 c
    5 b
    6 b
    7 c
    8 c
    9 c
    10 c


    For many of these I either wanted to pick multiple-choice or complain that they were all over-simplifications, but I was assuming you wanted these treated as forced-choice (1 only) questions.

  13. Richard Boggs says:

    I had 5 b’s, 5 c’s and the last question B. I think that it is more useful to think of the three categories in a Venn diagram. The conservative thinks about the culture, the people, the nation as inside the circle vs. everybody outside of that circle as barbarians. The struggle to protect the homeland and the people from being over run is a big concern. Within the circle the progressive thinks about the groups inside the circle. There are smaller circles inside the big circle and these represent the oppressors and the oppressed. The progressive have a more focused view than the Conservatives. The libertarian is concerned with smaller circles in in the progressive view. The libertarian is concerned with the individual abusing and coercing another individual. The difference between the three is the width of the view and the importance of that that view.

    Best Wishes,

  14. Amanda says:

    What annoys me is that a lot of these questions are not really values-based, but could be answered with scientific inquiry. And also, a lot of them have multiple causes, and all of the answers are correct or partially correct (or two of them are). I would overwhelmingly tend towards A, but there were several questions where I had to choose a different answer because A was inaccurate and made me sound like an emotionally charged idiot who thinks the cause of every problem is discrimination and social injustice. It causes problems, but not all of them. Inequality can be random or even based on meaningful characteristics (such as one’s actions), although it bothers me nonetheless. So where does that put me?

  15. Floccina says:

    #1. d. I know of nothing that can be done on the policy level to prevent such incidents.
    #2. d. Politicians needed a good fall guy and Susan Rice being a team player took one for the team. Also making her the take the hit may have saved us from another war. God bless her for that.
    #3 a., b. and d people looking to blame some group outside themselves.
    #4 c., d. do they need it. No.
    #5 d. that is a stupid way to go about getting what hey want.
    #6 b.
    #7 c.
    #8 Mostly b. but partly c.
    #9 d. a wealth effect
    #10 d. I am against these power but I am not worried much about them.

  16. mike shupp says:

    Hmmm… I wou d up with 6 B’s and 4 C’s, and my “overall” response was B. So the test “worked” for me. Other hand, the test didn’t “work” for me.

    I already knew I wasn’t a diehard liberal or libertarian, so I had to be a conservative — which is a fine fine thing to be == but not a diehard conservartive. Nothing learned here, in other words.

    As for my score on the test … 6 B items (conservative) and 4 C items (libertarian). Suggesting I’m not a diehard conservative, but support some libertarian ideans. That’s okay. I would have thought that before taking this test.


    But here’s the issue, this is what folks say of me elswhere:

    Mike, you said this:

    It’s because I live in the richest, most powerful nation that ever was, a country noted for its affluence and kindness and generosity and freedoms, a place traditionally praised as an example for all the world.

    But you’re forgetting one thing, as all on the Left do, and it’s absolutely critical: This country did not get to be the richest, most powerfiul country on Earth by way of the Socialist policies you endorse. Capitalism (a dirty word to most on the Left) is what produced this wealth. You seem to think that now that we’re so “rich”, we can change the way we do business, the things that MADE us rich, turn it 180* on its head, and we’ll still REMAIN rich. I have news for you: That won’t happen. Money doesn’t just exist in a vacuum – it’s created by commerce, buying & selling, the market. As our GDP has expanded, the number of businesses, jobs & the amount of money increased in turn. If you enact policies & regs that inhibit investment, expansion, or the ability of businesses to make a profit, you will not have the commerce & vibrant economy that prodiuces that wealth. You will kill the goose that laid the golden egg. Businesses & jobs will leave this country for regions that are more favorable. In fact, we’ve already seen a lot of that – and much of it is the result of well-intended policies that ultimately damage the competetiveness of American co’s.

    It’s no surpirse that as taxes & regulations have placed ever-increasing burdens on individuals & businesses, our standard of living has declined. Leftists seem to think profit is a bad thing. Well, when co’s can’t make a profit, they go out of business, and with it, the jobs that business provided for people. The fast food restaurants & others that are cutting employee hours to get around Obamacare regs aren’t doing that because they’re MEAN – they’re trying to keep costs under control so thay can stay in business. Would you rather have the whole co. go under & EVERYONE loses their job?

    In other words, younger people than you or I see me as a really stupid, really obnoxious, somewhat dangerous left winger.


    I think your test is outdated. I think it is irrelevent.

    I think the people making up most of the populace in 2050 or even 2020 (or 2015?) will not have the slightest conception of the differences you are trying to establish between liberals and conservatives and libertarians. It will be as “off the map” for them as the arguments between Iconoclasts and Icon-lovers back in 7th century are for us today.

    I luv u man! Well, I respect you, and I think you’re generally sensible. But maybe we’re past the age of “classical libertarianism”.

  17. Peter says:

    1 c
    2 c
    3 c
    4 b
    5 a
    6 b
    7 c
    8 c
    9 b
    10 c

    11 (ish) b

    Though I agree with other comments a D would have been nice for many of these especially on the bonus question with “I have no heroes”. I can honestly say there is nobody in history or living I would stick in the “heroic” category in the general/broad sense that they are hero’s to me.

  18. Steve Roth says:

    When faced with a survey like this, what percentage of your answers are Some, None,or All of the above?

  19. Daublin says:

    Too fun. I like that even the people finding fault in the survey were still engaged enough to go through every single question.

    Well done!

  20. Ghost of Christmas Past says:

    Good quiz. I answered ‘c’ to all questions except 5 and 6. I think your summaries at the end are pretty good.

    I think question 8 (mortage crisis) is your weakest question, because I wanted to choose all the answers a, b, and c! I settled on ‘c’ because I think government pressure produced ‘b’ by overriding normal business concerns about profitability, and ‘b’ produced ‘a’ because once salespeople were free to set up unqualified borrowers for loans, they naturally brought in anyone they could find, even if they had to falsify applications (again, ‘b’ made that feasible).

  21. Lord says:

    1. The need for people to turn away from the gun culture and realize they do not make them safer.
    2. She had no direct knowledge of anything that happened
    3. Societies under stress that fail to find solutions are potent grounds for demagogues, excuses, and scapegoats
    4. Why do we think tax code changes will solve revenue problems
    5. The Palestinians are unable or unwilling to solve their problems peacefully
    6. There are many reasons in combination and I assume the reason for the study was to determine to what extent each of them were valid. I wouldn’t call seeking truth an agenda, but I would if they weren’t.
    7. We aren’t going to avoid it but the best we can hope for is to take responsibility for our own actions.
    8. Predatory of the financial system, given to unqualified borrowers, taking advantage of government.
    9. The desires of many low income women
    10. Concerned, mostly about the precedent than the execution, but also concerned about terrorism, so a difficult pragmatic approach.

    My heroes are those who stand up for truth, question authority and ideologies, look for knowledge and wisdom.

  22. Matt says:

    3 b’s, 7 c’s — but the final question I scored b. I think like a conservative when it comes to everything except government. When it comes to government, I think like a libertarian.

  23. Doug S. says:

    I’m kind of a weirdo, I think. I’m B on the Basic Question, but the moral virtues that my heroes defend are *precisely* those that many people classify as barbarous. The right to make fun of, to parody, to insult, to mock, to blaspheme, to throw pies, to say that the emperor has no clothes, that the earth moves, that two plus two equals four, that the God of Abraham is as much a myth as are Zeus and Thor, that we should actually change our minds when new evidence is available – those are the values I defend, and my heroes are such people as Clarence Darrow, Bertrand Russell, Margaret Sanger, John Brown, Martin Luther King Jr, Richard Feynman, Voltaire, Mark Twain, Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, George Carlin, Ayan Hirsi Ali, and so on. So this puts me in opposition to most conservatives, especially religious conservatives, because I see *them* as the barbarians.

  24. Robert says:

    On the basic question, I chose C because I’m extremely mistrustful of government power. But my replies to the 10 questions came out with 5 Bs, 2 Cs, 1 A (#3), and two B/C splits (#1 and #8).

    In the splits, I’m probably closer to B in #1 and C in #8. So the final tally would be 6 Bs, 3 Cs, and 1 A.

    I guess I’m a libertarian (small-L) who believes Western values are the best guide, but they should never be compulsory, and government needs to be both small and limited in scope.

  25. Anonymous says:

    It was close, but not perfect. I answered 5 Bs, 4 Cs, and 1 A, but the basic question was C.

Comments are closed.