Since he made his national debut at the Democratic National Convention in 2004, the debate over Barack Obama’s political ideology has been fierce and lasting. His DNC speech was seen as a unifying, nearly conservative message. His voting record in the Illinois state senate and US Senate was one of the most liberal in either body. He ran his 2008 campaign in a manner similar to his 2004 speech, with mostly broad strokes of “hope” and “change”. Since elected, his administration has seemed a curious mix of all sides on foreign, fiscal, and social policy. Many of his supporters, and even Obama himself, see him as a mainstream Republican, while his critics of course see him quite differently, some as a radical Marxist. So how can we tell for sure?
There are many tools to rate ideology on a scale to compare with others. I find the Political Compass to be particularly useful. It doesn’t cover specific current policy issues, but uses broad ideological questions to place a person a two-dimensional scale of economic and social freedom.
Unfortunately, their editorial about the 2012 election and placement of the candidates on the graph was frankly absurd, placing him in the exact same ideological range as Mitt Romney, and closer to far-right Constitution Party candidate than the ideological center. Madness. The fact that they place pro-choice, pro-legalization, pro-open borders, pro-gay marriage Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson in the exact center of the libertarian/authoritarian spectrum should tell you how reliable their editorial decisions were here.
But the survey itself is still useful. So I went through it, answering each question as honestly as I could to reflect the actual votes and policies of Senator and President Obama over the last 8 years, and came up with this result:
As the kids say: “BOOM!”
While Political Compass themselves rated him as a far-right authoritarian (obviously without using their own survey data), and some of his specific policies have been moderate (tax cuts, medical marijuana raids, etc), it’s clear from the actual questions within the Compass itself that President Obama is far left economically and moderately libertarian socially.
For comparison, my own Compass result:
If you’re interested, below the fold are screenshots of the survey pages showing the answers I chose to represent Obama policies and views as best I could. If you disagree with how I’ve represented him, feel free to share how you would have answered for him.