In France. (Lecteurs francophones peuvent procéder directement au test ici). For those who don’t know French—and even for those do—this is a multiple choice questionnaire developed six or seven years ago by former students at Sciences Po, to determine where one is situated on the French political spectrum. There are questions on twelve key issues, with some of the choices complex and only slight nuances of difference between them, so as to identify precisely which political party or current within a party—of a list of some 25—most closely articulates one’s views (and with a runner-up). So the algorithm is sophisticated. N.B. It does not speak to how one may actually vote, just which parties one is politically closest to. The test’s satisfaction level has been very high (see ‘Les taux de satisfaction’ tab), particularly for those supporting the major parties of government (it’s the lowest for those shown to be closest to the Front National, no doubt because many who turn out to be frontistes don’t want to admit it to themselves, or don’t otherwise identify with the FN and its leadership; which indicates that a certain number of mainstream right voters—mainly UMP—are in fact programmatically closest to the FN). When I first took the test, in 2006, it accurately stated my partisan preferences and likewise with friends to whom I sent the link. That same year I told the students (mainly French) in one of my Master’s level classes about the Politest and gave the link. The following week several of them said that they had taken it, along with family and friends, and found it to be dead on accurate. So it’s a pretty good test.
I’ve translated the questions into English for non-Francophones (a detailed explanation of what led me to do this follows at the end). To open the test, click here. At the bottom, click on ‘Faire le test’. Check one response for each question.
TAXES (1 /12)
1. There should be a tax cut for everyone when government has the means to do so and a tax increase for everyone when this is necessary.
2. There should be an across-the-board tax cut to enable business and individuals to invest more money in the economy and in order to create more jobs.
3. There should be a tax cut for lower-income persons and a tax increase for the rich or on business, in the interest of social solidarity and to finance public services.
GLOBALIZATION (2 / 12)
1. Globalization should be regulated. International institutions (or even national governments) should impose rules to better protect the rights of working people, the environment, and sensitive sectors of the economies of each country (for example, agriculture or culture).
2. All customs barriers should be abolished, as well as subsidies and national regulations that distort competition, so that competition between firms throughout the world may take place in all areas and without impediment. It is by these means that optimal economic efficiency will be realized and which will be in the interest of all.
3. Globalization can be an opportunity. It enables firms to find new markets. Jobs that are lost due to outsourcing and plant closings are generally compensated for by those that are created elsewhere in the economy, which are higher skilled and raise living standards. But government should help those who lose out due to globalization.
4. Globalization of the economy aggravates the exploitation and pollution of poor countries, and brings about outsourcing and plant closings that destroy jobs in rich countries. International institutions that are truly democratic should protect the rights of people (and not multinationals). The profits of business that are generated by globalization should be taxed in order to help poor countries develop.
5. Globalization is an opportunity, as the opening up of borders gives firms access to new markets and which enables them to create jobs. “Barriers” that prevent goods and services from circulating freely should thus be brought down. But in order for national firms to fully benefit from this, they should be freed to the utmost from regulatory constraints that place them at a disadvantage vis-à-vis foreign competitors.
POVERTY AND EXCLUSION (3 / 12)
1. Rather than having people depend too much on public assistance (or in tempting them to profit from the system) they should be made responsible [for their own fate], so they will depend more on themselves and less on government in order to get out of the situation they find themselves in.
2. Government should come to the aid of the poorest members of society, though they should not become too dependent on government.
3. Government should do what is necessary so that each person receives what he or she needs to live decently.
PUBLIC SERVICES AND THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT (4 / 12)
1. Government should focus its efforts on the principal missions of public service and share other missions with the private sector (such as health insurance, postal service, universities…), in order to lower their cost and increase efficiency.
2. Public sector employment should be increased and with much more money allocated to public services, so that each user, whatever his or her means, has access to quality public services (health, education, culture, water, energy, communication, public transportation…). Public services have a social mission and must not seek to make a profit.
3. All public services have a social mission—not to leave anyone by the wayside—that private enterprise cannot assume. They should have sufficient means to serve the public, but government should also seek to make them more efficient.
4. To insure their mission but without representing too heavy a burden for government, public services should become both more efficient and less costly. Some of them (the postal service or rail transport, for example) can be made to compete with private firms and even be partially privatized (though where government maintains majority control), which will motivate public services to improve.
5. Government should focus only on its three veritable missions, which are the police, justice, and national defense. All the rest can be given over to the private sector, whose methods of management are much more efficient.
BUSINESS (5 / 12)
1. Laws benefiting working people (e.g. health care, pensions, collective bargaining, paid vacations and maternity leave) should be imposed on business, and indemnities paid to laid off employees by profitable companies should be increased.
2. Government should give business total freedom by doing away with the various taxes and regulations that impose handicaps on their development.
3. Priority should be given to aiding small business, by lowering their taxes and lessening regulations, and government should not interfere in labor-management relations.
4. The profits of companies should benefit employees before they do shareholders. Moreover, there should be a law that forbids mass layoffs by profitable companies, under penalty of being requisitioned by the state and to the benefit of the employees.
5. The tax burden on business should be lessened and regulations reduced, so that companies will create more jobs and be more competitive.
RELIGION (6 / 12)
1. Whether or not one is religiously observant, one must not neglect the moral values conveyed by religion.
2. One must tolerate all types of religious practices so long as they are freely consented to, even when they may be shocking to some.
3. Religious morality should be combated, as it prevents people from living and thinking freely.
4. Religion may sometimes be incompatible with personal freedom but it can, at the same time, offer answers to the profound questions of human existence.
5. The message of religion is primordial, as it helps us distinguish good from bad in our lives.
HOMOSEXUALITY (7 /12)
1. LGBT parenting should be recognized, with gay couples enjoying the same rights as heterosexual couples, and who should be able to openly live their homosexuality as they wish.
2. Homosexuality is dangerous for society. Anything that encourages it should be opposed.
3. The attitude of society toward gays needs to change so as to do away with discrimination that they may be subjected to, but gay marriage should not be authorized nor should gay couples be allowed to adopt children.
4. There should be total equality of rights for gays, who should be able to live normally, marry, and adopt and raise children.
5. If homosexuality in itself does not pose a problem, it may do so when it is openly displayed. The traditional couple—with a father and a mother raising children—should be defended.
ABORTION (8 / 12)
1. The right of abortion should be guaranteed but women should also be made aware that abortion is not a trivial act.
2. Women should be able to have abortions but only in cases of rape or if their health in is danger.
3. The right of women to freely have abortions must be defended.
4. Abortion should be illegal. To abort an unborn child is a crime.
DRUGS (9 / 12)
1. The legalization of cannabis would be a serious error. The use of all drugs must be opposed.
2. Soft drugs should be legalized. The consumption of hard drugs should be decriminalized.
3. Cannabis should be legalized, though, as with alcohol, it should be consumed only in moderation.
4. The issue of drugs is complex; the viewpoints of specialists should be accorded particular consideration.
DELINQUENCY/CRIME (10 / 12)
1. Each person is responsible for his or her acts and has it within his or her power to decide not to engage in delinquency. To deter people from committing delinquent acts, the punishment they risk should be truly dissuasive (i.e. sufficiently severe).
2. Delinquency often develops in difficult contexts (unemployment, ghettos, family problems, difficulties in integrating into society…) but context does not explain everything. In order to effectively counter delinquency the right balance between dissuasive punishment and preventive measures (i.e. getting at the causes) should be sought.
3. Delinquency is above all the result of difficult contexts (unemployment, ghettos, family problems, difficulties in integrating into society…). In order to obtain lasting results in countering delinquency, tackling its causes should be given priority.
VOTING RIGHTS AND NATIONALITY (11 / 12)
1. All foreigners who have lived in France for a long time, regardless of where they come from, should have the right to vote at least in local elections. The acquisition of French citizenship should also be facilitated for them.
2. Only French citizens should have the right to vote, and, except in special cases, one cannot be French without having at least one French parent. The mere fact of having been born in France should not lead to the automatic acquisition of French citizenship.
3. Only French citizens should have the right to vote. All persons who were born in France and live here, whatever their origin, should have French citizenship.
4. All foreigners resident in France should have the right to vote, whatever their nationality.
5. Only French citizens should have the right to vote. The only immigrants who should be able to become French citizens are those who have demonstrated their attachment to France in making an effort to integrate, and who have applied for French citizenship on their own volition (and including children born in France to foreign non-naturalized parents).
IMMIGRATION (12 / 12)
1. Integration works when immigrants feel that they not only have rights but also responsibilities. It is also important to fight against illegal immigration.
2. Problems linked to immigration do not come from immigrants themselves but rather from the various contexts (economic, social, historic…) in which immigration occurs. The first order of business is to make sure the rights of immigrants are respected, whether the immigrants are legal or not.
3. To facilitate the integration of immigrants it is necessary to fight against unemployment—which hinders their integration—and to make sure that the rights of immigrants are respected in countering discrimination of which they may be victims.
4. In order for the integration of immigrants to succeed they must not suffer from discrimination but, at the same time, they should respect the values of the host country.
5. Some immigrants will always remain foreigners. They should therefore return to their home countries, for our good and for theirs.
OPTIONAL QUESTION — THE MOST IMPORTANT THING FOR YOU IN FEELING CLOSE TO A PARTY OR POLITICAL PERSONALITY IS SHARING THE SAME CONVICTIONS ON:
1. Economic issues.
2. Social and moral issues.
3. The idea one has of France, Europe, or the world.
4. None of these in particular.
OTHER ISSUES NOT MENTIONED IN THE PRECEDING LIST:
1. Defense of the environment, and particularly ending nuclear power.
2. Defense of rural life.
3. Defense of republican equality (i.e., refusing special treatment based on the specificities of regions or individuals, such as Corsica, homosexuals, those who practice such and such a religion, etc).
4. None of these in particular.
If you need help interpreting the result, ask me here (or send an email) and I’ll let you know. Now for the detailed explanation of what led me to translate the test.
One day in 2005 or thereabouts I was watching a political talk show and in which one of the guests was a well-known American journalist in town and regular on TV and radio (he had carved out a niche for himself as a great explainer of America to the French, but also as an observer of the latter, writing humoristically about the natives and their us et coutumes with his œil américain; his books sold well, which I found mystifying). During the show this journalist asserted that the French equivalent of the US Democratic party was the UDF—the centrist party led by François Bayrou and that had long been allied with the right (and never with the Socialists)—and that there was no significant electoral force in American politics on the left side of the political spectrum such as it existed in France. Hearing this almost caused me to fall out of my chair. To equate the US Democratic party with the UDF betrayed an ignorance of the latter—a party with Christian Democratic roots, a moderately conservative sensibility, and mainly provincial bourgeois voting base—and of the former as well. There was, moreover, the implication here that mainstream American Democrats in France would gravitate toward the UDF—which, despite its claimed centrism, was marked in the public mind as moderate right—over the dominant party of the moderate left, the Socialists. It had, in fact, long been my hypothesis that American Democratic party voters would find their natural political home in France to be the Parti Socialiste—and with left-wing Dems leaning toward the left-wing of the PS (now Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s Parti de Gauche) or Jean-Pierre Chevènement’s MRC—, and with Republicans naturally identifying with the UMP. In other words, that the American liberal-conservative/Democrat-Republican cleavage would find a near precise correspondence in France with the left and right. Now with the Politest, I could test the hypothesis.
So I translated the questionnaire into English and e-mailed it, along with the Politest link, to friends and relatives in the US, who could follow the translation while taking the test, and requested that they report the results back to me. My hypothesis was confirmed, based on the fifteen or so responses I received. Liberals were identified primarily with the PS or center-left PRG, those more to the left with the “gauche du PS” or MRC, and the Republican or two in my sample with the UMP (a couple of the results were unexpected, e.g. a relative of the older generation and from the American heartland, a yellow dog Democrat but with unprogressive views on several issues—her kids accuse her of being a secret Republican—, turned out to be closest to Chevènement’s MRC, followed by the Communist party! provoking both stupefaction and hilarity).
A few qualifications, though. For several of my liberal, Democrat-voting friends, the test result specified that though they were closest to the PS no party entirely reflected their views. I interpreted this as signifying some political-cultural differences between Americans and the French, notably with the cult of the state and Jacobin reflexes one finds on the French left, which even big government sympathizing American liberals do not entirely relate to. Mainstream American Democrats are more libéral—in the classical economic sense—than mainstream French Socialists (though the gap here has narrowed over time; and there have long been leading social-libéral PS politicians—e.g. Michel Rocard, DSK—with whom American liberals could identify). At a dinner-debate in March 2007 of the Paris chapter of Democrats Abroad—on the subject of the French presidential campaign, and in which I was one of the speakers—the question was posed to the 80 or so present—a certain number of whom had acquired French citizenship—as to which candidate they were supporting. Ségolène Royal came in first but a significant number of hands went up for Sarkozy and François Bayrou (Democrats Abroad members, most of whom are high-income professionals, tend toward the center, particularly on the economy; and it should be noted that a certain number of PS voters in the 2007 election defected to Bayrou, and even Sarkozy). I could understand the appeal of Sarkozy at the time for Americans, in view of his atypical profile and pro-Americanism. In this regard, I noted in the 1990s through the 2002 election the attraction of some American Democrats in France—including myself, to a certain extent—to Alain Madelin, a solidly right-wing politician but whose economic libéralisme—the alpha and omega of his discourse—, pro-Americanism, and sunny optimism were a breath of fresh air in this country. But the interest here was with the personalities of Sarkozy and Madelin, not with their parties or larger political families (e.g. I would be most surprised if US Democrats in France who liked Sarkozy also feel the same way about Jean-François Copé, let alone the UMP as a whole).
A new hypothesis: with the mutation of the residue of François Bayrou’s erstwhile UDF into the MoDem—which loudly proclaims its centrism, is not allied with the UMP (and is shed of the ex-UDF’s right-leaning elements), and has made local electoral deals with the PS—, it is possible that some moderate US Democrats may identify with this over the Socialists (and particularly as the incriminating UDF label is now gone). Personal disclosure: in the 2007 legislative election, I voted for the MoDem candidate in the first round in my safe UMP constituency (a throw-away vote, and mainly because I was more impressed with the candidate personality-wise than the PS one).
Another hypothesis: with the rise of the Tea Party phenomenon in the US Republican party, I asserted last year on this blog that present-day conservative GOPers would likely find their political home in France in the Front National, which provoked objections from some Republican readers (see here and the comments thread here). In my post on Le Pen and America (here) last November, where I reiterated my affirmation, I announced that I would test it by linking to the Politest and with the translation, where Tea Partiers could take it, but there was a notice on the Politest site saying that it was out of commission until spring 2012. Now it’s back up. I noted that some of the questions have been revised and updated, as well as the list of parties and party currents (as political parties in France are constantly merging, splitting, and/or changing their names). I have revised the translation as a consequence (and I have taken liberties in the translation of a few of the questions, in the interest of clarity for Americans). I took the test a couple of times acting out as a Tea Party Republican: one configuration shows FN, another the UMP “droite populaire” (the UMP’s borderline frontiste caucus) followed by Philippe de Villiers’s MPF (also borderline frontiste). Tea Partiers can take it and see for themselves.
I took the Politest again for myself. In the interest of transparency—and as I have nothing to hide in terms of my political views—my results were the same as six years ago: PS followed by PRG.