World's Smallest Political Quiz

“Take the Quiz now and find out where you fit on the political map!” —World’s Smallest Political Quiz (Advocates for Self-Government)

I enjoyed taking this little quiz, then I played with it a little to see how it works. My own score was centrist with libertarian leanings, but I can see too many weaknesses in the design of this quiz to consider its results as accurate. This survey is a persuasive tool, not a measurement instrument. The poll would be more fair if it had several different versions of each question and served them up randomly. Of course, I’m glad that has the right to put up on its website any kind of survey or persuasive document it wants. But this survey raises a lot of interesting questions about the power hidden in an interface.

If you answer “Y” to all 10 of the “Smallest Political Quiz” survey the questions, you get the highest “libertarian” score, and you are told:

Libertarians are self-governors in both personal and economic matters. They believe government’s only purpose is to protect people from coercion and violence. They value individual responsibility, and tolerate economic and social diversity.

You are also provided a link to “free information about libertarian ideas”. Note that the logo on the site is an arrow pointing towards a red dot indicating the highest possible libertarian score.

If you answer “no” to all questions, this is what you get:

Authoritarians want government to advance society and individuals through expert central planning. They often doubt whether self-government is practical. Left-authoritarians are also called socialists, while fascists are right-authoritarians.

And guess what… not only is there not a parallel link to “free information about authoritarian ideas,” but the authoritarians are not invited to partake of the “free information about authoritarian ides” (that line is missing in the results).

I remind my students that when they do usabilty testing, they shouldn’t ask loaded questions that encourage their subjects to praise them: “Is this website clear? Do you like the navigation?” Instead, they should ask neutral questions, “What strikes you most about this website?” or at least ask an equal number of questions that seem to be fishing for negative answers: “Is the website confusing?”