This Pew typology quiz isn’t nearly as good as the old one


Remember the Pew political typology quiz of a few years back? It was an attempt to classify people by their actual beliefs, getting beyond simple “left” and “right.”

It posed a lot of questions with only two answers and both of them wrong, but I found it intriguing. It placed me in what it called the “Faith and Family Left.” That bugged me because I didn’t like the “left” part — but I thought the “faith and family” part was fair enough. In fact, I liked it. And how often are any of us comfortable with the ways others describe us? Here’s how that category was described:

The Faith and Family Left combine strong support for activist government with conservative attitudes on many social issues. They are very racially diverse – this is the only typology group that is “majority-minority.” The Faith and Family Left generally favor increased government aid for the poor even if it adds to the deficit and believe that government should do more to solve national problems. Most oppose same-sex marriage and legalizing marijuana and most say religion and family are at the center of their lives. Compare groups on key issues.

Sounds kind of like me, doesn’t it? Even though it’s the group with the highest percentage of African-Americans (I joked at the time that Pew thinks I’m a black preacher) and I’m the whitest white boy at Bypass High, it felt more or less right. I chafed at some of it, but not all.

But Pew has a new typology quiz now, and I hate it. (Actually, it’s relatively new. I tried last year and hated the results so much I didn’t even write about it. Today, I decided to give it another chance, but it came up with the same stupid answer.) The questions demanding one of two wrong answers are even more egregious, and I simply refused to answer some of them. Which means Pew assessed me on the basis of incomplete information. And this time, it decided I was one of the “New Era Enterprisers,” which right off sort of makes me want to gag.

I ask you, does this sound like me?

This relatively young, economically conservative, Republican-leaning group tends to be relatively moderate on immigration and views about America’s engagement with the rest of the world. Most say U.S. involvement in the global economy is a good thing and that immigrants strengthen the nation. As is the case with other GOP-leaning groups, a majority of New Era Enterprisers reject the idea that racial discrimination is the main reason many black people are unable to get ahead. Nearly two-thirds favor societal acceptance of homosexuality. New Era Enterprisers are less critical about government than other Republican-leaning groups.

Really? “This relatively young, economically conservative, Republican-leaning group?” I try to picture that person, and I see John Dean before he started ratting out the Nixon White House. And if I were really a member of this group, I would have little memory of Howard Dean, much less John.

OK, yeah, I favor engagement in the world. But doesn’t that make me more of an old school postwar internationalist? More of a John McCain type? Or a Scoop Jackson, among the Democrats? And yeah, I’m less critical about government — but how does that put me in this group?

The only way it fits, overall, is that this category seems to be less ideological all around.

Pictured above and below are two of the questions I refused to answer. How could I?

Of course the country can do more to help the needy — such as passing single-payer. And it does NOT have to go further into debt to do it. False choice.

The one below is worse. I don’t think racial discrimination is “the main reason” many black Americans have trouble getting ahead. Nor would I for a second say that folks trapped in multigenerational poverty are “mostly responsible for their own condition.” There are many forces that can frustrate a poor person’s best efforts, and to say racism is “the main reason” is to blind yourself to all the others.

Anyway, I don’t have time to think about this any more. I need to run out and start a tech company and make a billion dollars. Because that, apparently, is the kind of young fella I am. A New Era Enterpriser. Sheesh…


17 thoughts on “This Pew typology quiz isn’t nearly as good as the old one

  1. Jeff Mobley

    I’ll admit, at first I thought I wouldn’t be as appalled by the questions as you were, Brad, because after all, the quiz says “pick the statement closest to your view”, and I find that I don’t always require the level of nuance that you seem to seek in such things.

    But man, those were some awful questions. More than once, I ended up picking what I knew was the “liberal” option because the wording of the “conservative” option was so outlandish.

    For example, I actually selected “Government often does a better job than people give it credit for” rather than “Government is almost wasteful and inefficient”, because I think that the former, as a literal sentence in English, is closer to being true than the latter.
    I think this for two reasons:
    1) “[A]lmost always” is a much higher threshold to clear than “often”.
    2) “…better…than people give it credit for” is as much about the government’s critics as it is about the governments actual performance.

    But I actually think that government waste and inefficiency are huge problems, and that waste and inefficiency are by nature inherent to government in ways that they aren’t necessarily inherent to private institutions. Did Pew really intend for a person who believes as I do to answer the question the way I did? I can’t say for sure, but I suspect not.

    For what it’s worth, I got “Core Conservative”, but I agree with Brad that the questions were terrible, and Brad, please pardon me for initially doubting you on that score.

  2. Claus2

    So is the whole survey set up the same as these two questions… with the correct answer being the bottom answer?

  3. Claus2

    ” I need to run out and start a tech company and make a billion dollars.”

    Just an observation, you seem to have your hands full trying to keep your blog going via 1995 standards.

    1. Jeff Mobley


      I’m not going to suggest that picking on Brad should be off limits or anything. I enjoy it occasionally.

      But let me just attempt to balance it a little with a sentiment that I’m sure most of us share, if we seldom express it:

      Thanks, Brad, for maintaining this blog and allowing us a pretty neat forum for discussion.

        1. Claus2

          You’d be miserable, you’ve already said you aren’t a numbers guy and don’t have any need to make that kind of money.

  4. Norm Ivey

    I struggled with the wording of MOST of the questions. They were forcing you to choose from the extremes rather than placing yourself on a continuum of views for each topic.

    I’m confident I can predict where Bud and Doug land…

  5. Doug Ross

    The questions are poorly written. But I answered them as written. I got New Era Enterprisers also.. so that pretty much confirms it is a waste of time.

    FYI, I didn’t choose this answer: “Immigrants today are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care” because it was missing a very important qualifier – “Illegal”. I have no problem with legal immigrants who contribute to our society.

    Also, this anyone who does not select this statement: “Homosexuality should be accepted by society ” should be publicly shamed or else crawl back under the rock they came out from.

  6. Mark Stewart

    This should come as no surprise to anyone: answering the last question about which “party” one identifies with throws the result. All they are therefore doing is confirming party character.

    If Pew wanted to understand how the electorate might be shifting through time, the party affiliation question is just a boat anchor that negates this possibility (i.e., they are only looking for shifts WITHIN the two parties, not across the full spectrum).

    I was either a New Era Enterpriser, or an Opportunity Democrat – depending solely on party affiliation. That’s not very helpful; especially when I took it a third time (yeah, I had some time to kill) and got Solid Liberal just by changing my answer to the first question.

  7. Simon

    To be fair, Opportunity Democrats and New Era Enterprisers are darn similar; plus the political landscape has changed dramatically in the past 5-7 years.
    For the most part, Opportunity Democrats agree with Solid Liberals on major issues. But Opportunity Democrats are less affluent, less politically engaged and less liberal – both in their attitudes on issues and in how they describe themselves politically. One area of difference between Opportunity Democrats and Solid Liberals is on corporate profits: 40% of Opportunity Democrats say most corporations make a “fair and reasonable amount of profit,” compared with 16% of Solid Liberals. And Opportunity Democrats stand out in their belief that most people can get ahead if they are willing to work hard.

    1. Brad Warthen Post author

      This is one of the things I love about writing for the Web.

      The stuff is always there.

      So someone can come along and resume a discussion from five years ago. Sometimes I jump back and join in; sometimes not. But it’s always cool that the stuff is always there…


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