Saturday, January 31, 2004

Taking the test 

Daniel Drezner and Andrew Sullivan (links adjacent) have directed the blogosphere to this Presidential Match Guide, which asks you for your views on most of the big issues of the day, and then asks you to weigh the importance of those issues to you. It then generates a list of the leading candidates for President, including Bush, ranked by your preference for them based on their positions on those issues and yours, weighted for their importance to your selection. This is an interesting exercise for me, because it is exactly the sort of left-brain decision matrix that I like to do when I am buying a car or hunting for a house (recognizing that the design of the questions and the interpretation of the candidates' actual -- as opposed to stated -- positions on the issues is crucially important to the value of the model).

It is also challenging to me, because I went out on a limb and wrote a long litany of my basic policy preferences and political beliefs in the "unofficial version" of our annual holiday letter, and most of them are captured, more or less, in the Match Guide. As I said in the holiday letter, I am pro tax cuts, welfare for the poor (but against welfare for the not-poor), fiscal responsibility, free trade, “corporate greed,” the war on terror, regime change, choice both for schools and reproduction, and against “family values,” capital punishment, the anti-globalization movement, animal rights and the plaintiffs’ bar.

A friend of mine who has migrated from voting for Bush in 2000 to supporting anybody but Bush today claimed that if I really held these beliefs I would support any Democrat against Bush. I objected, pointing out that a simple counting of these issues would line up about half in the Bush column and half in the column of some theoretical Democrat. But what would happen if we weighted the issues? Well, the Match Guide does that, though the questions chosen do not line up precisely with the topics in the TigerHawk holiday letter.

So how did I do? The Match Guide revealed that my preferred candidates, ranked according to the weighted results of its test, are Bush (100), Lieberman (99), Kerry (89), Clark (87), Dean (85), Edwards (79), Sharpton (74) and Kucinich (56). Since this result is, with regard to the first two candidates and the last two candidates, basically how I feel in my gut, the test at least randomly generates a result consistent with my political views. It doesn't account for engaging charisma or essential creepiness, though. If somebody were to condemn me to an evening shooting the breeze with one of these guys over a beer, I would pick Edwards in a heartbeat, followed by Lieberman. I'm guessing that Bush would bore me to tears. Rumsfeld or Rice, though, would be a barrel of laughs.

In any case, my vote will count for nothing since I live in the heart of blue state country, so I will probably register my objection to the Christian right with a vote for the Libertarian.


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