I thought it would be fun to write up some poll questions and see the answers. These answers reflect what I hear all the time. They aren’t strawmen because I’ve heard people who sincerely espouse them all.
There are no points or score of anything like that, because this is too complex to fit on a linear scale. Just write down your answers, list them in the comments, and waste a bunch of time arguing about them.
Here we go.
1) The military is…
A) Necessary to defend our country, but much larger than it needs to be. Its funding should be cut by 10-30% to help fund health care, infrastructure, and programs for the needy.
B) Essential. The world is a dangerous place, and we need a large military to assert our interests globally. Funding should be kept roughly where it is, though it would be nice if there were less waste and more efficiency. Maybe the military should even be a little larger than it is now.
C) An overblown military-industrial complex perpetuated by bloodthirsty hawks, killer of women and children, provoking the entire world to rebel against our imperialist designs. Say no to War, say no to Imperialism.
D) Too large, and indicative of the runaway expansionary policies of big government. The military should be cut, just like every other sector of government.
E) Uhhh… I think that we should really consider… (waffling, bringing up complex tangential points, hyper-analysis and hesitation that doesn’t amount to a concrete answer.)
F) I don’t know.
2) The best way to deal with the economy is…
A) To put the bankers in jail, where they belong, let banks fail, and give the people their due share. We need to tax and regulate out-of-control corporations so that the ultra-rich don’t exploit us. The People are tired of being kicked around by the ultra-wealthy.
B) Carefully manage the economy by lowering interest rates and increasing the money supply to stimulate growth.
C) Stop lowering interest rates, let the market do its thing, and get the government’s grubby hands out of the economy. And oh, we obviously need to go back to the gold standard. Impose “austerity” (they used to call it “economy”) to lower our debt, which is unsustainable.
D) Keep an eye on the economy, don’t artificially lower interest rates, regulate corporations with a light hand if need be, neither let the free market have total free rein nor print money like it’s going out of style. Impose some degree of austerity to lower our public debt, which is unsustainable.
E) None of these answers describe me. My real answer is special and very lengthy, but doesn’t make any concrete policy suggestions. Basically, I don’t know anything about economics but want to sound smart.
F) I’m not an economist, and I admit I don’t know much about economics. Next question.
A) Is dominated by corrupt politicians. These scumbags are controlled by lobbyists and the elite. Their choices don’t reflect the common good. “Democracy” in America is not very democratic at all. The people need our say, and we aren’t getting it. Get rid of these clowns and replace them with direct democracy.
B) Is more or less fine as it is. It’s not perfect, and I have some quibbles with it, but by and large the system works, as it has for hundreds of years.
C) Is a wonderful thing. We should appreciate the benefits of democracy, enjoy how free our country is, and stop taking democracy for granted.
D) Is dominated by the rich and powerful and is therefore unjust. We need a strong leader who really cares about the People and does what it takes to ensure that the plutocracy stops exploiting the working class, even if it means suspending democratic processes for the good of the proletariat.
E) Threatens freedom. We need to place a priority on freedom and not so much on mob rule. Popular rule often compromises individual freedoms. Government needs to be much smaller, to let us live in peace, and observe the non-aggression principle. We also need much lower taxes.
F) Was a terrible idea from the start. The whole thing should be thrown into the wood chipper.
G) No idea.
A) Is the bedrock on which our nation was built. Social justice should be our major priority. All people are created equal. I particularly think we should be concerned about equal rights for minorities, women, the disabled, transgendered, and other oppressed groups. The world the way it is now is just plain unfair.
B) Should be maintained under the law, but we shouldn’t get too carried away. I believe in equality of opportunity, but not in social engineering everyone to be perfectly equal at all times. Redistributing too much wealth would just turn us into Communists, but I think that the rich can afford to fork over enough cash for some basic services like health care.
C) What is this equality you speak of?
D) This poll seems so serious. I would rather make a funny joke to lighten the mood. Why are you so obsessed with all this stuff?
A) Are pretty handy for blowing up terrorists. Terrorists go boom.
B) Demonstrate how our freedoms are being compromised by leaders with no checks on their power. You could be next.
C) Seem like a useful tool for surveillance and precision strikes, but we need to carefully introduce legislation to ensure that these technologies aren’t abused in the future.
D) I don’t care.
A) Are lawful and should not be restricted.
B) Are used to kill dozens of people in blood-soaked shooting sprees. We need to introduce new gun legislation that puts restrictions on high-capacity magazines and assault rifles. Assault rifles have no reasonable use in hunting. It doesn’t take an AK-47 to take down a deer.
C) Can be dangerous, but due to the 2nd Amendment, we shouldn’t regulate them too harshly. Instead of focusing on the guns themselves, we need to be a more responsible society and reach out to people who seem disturbed.
D) Don’t care.
A) Contributes valuable diversity and human capital to our country. Everyone has the right to be here. The right to choose where you live is a fundamental human right.
B) Is necessary because there are so many jobs Americans won’t do. Who is going to work in the fields, if we don’t have immigrants?
C) Is destroying our culture.
D) Is too contentious. I don’t have an opinion.
A) Is good for getting you high. Rolling technique is important.
B) I’m alright with it, but don’t usually smoke.
C) Is a drug that turns people into lazy slobs.
D) Is a dangerous drug and needs to remain illegal.
E) I’ve never seen a marijuana before.
A) Deserve the same rights as everyone else, including the right to marry and to adopt.
B) Should not be married. Marriage is between a man and a woman.
C) Why does the government have the authority to grant marriage licenses, again?
D) It makes no difference to me.
10) The death penalty…
A) Is barbaric and should be banned.
B) Costs too much to carry out, and should be suspended for that reason.
C) Is a necessary deterrent. It can be expensive, but it’s worth it.
D) We need to remove the barriers that make it so expensive for the state to execute the worst criminals. Let ‘em fry.
E) I’m not sure.
11) “Human biodiversity”…
A) Never heard of it.
B) Is a code-word for racism.
C) Is a fact. Different ethnicities have different relative qualities, and varying averages make an aggregate difference.
D) The idea makes me uncomfortable.
12) Evolutionary psychology…
A) Don’t know much about it.
B) Makes some good points, but there’s a lot more to people than evpsych just-so stories. Look deeper.
C) Determines the primary contours of our psychology, and the rest of just icing on the cake.
D) More research is needed before we can say anything conclusive.
13) Authority and hierarchy…
A) Is a way for a bunch of old white men to masturbate in the mirror.
B) Has its place, especially in the workplace, but it shouldn’t be omnipresent in society. Many bosses are assholes.
C) Is the foundation on which a healthy society should be built.
D) No opinion.
A) Is a meaningless measure. It only measures how well you can do on IQ tests, and that’s it.
B) Probably matters somewhat, but it makes me uncomfortable to think about.
C) Exists, and makes a huge difference in all areas of life.
D) I don’t know.
A) Should stay out of society’s business. Freedom is the most important.
B) Should stay out of our private lives, but provide a social safety net.
C) Done well, can lead a country to greatness.
D) I’m not sure.