Here’s an important lesson about diversity and tolerance — and a surprise or two

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By Christopher Elliott

Here’s an important lesson about diversity and tolerance that I’m sure you’ll find useful as a consumer.

No, I’m not talking about the surprise outcome of the presidential election — at least not directly.

This lesson was learned a little closer to home. Actually, it happened at home.

For most of this month, I’ve been visiting with my parents, who retired to Prescott, Ariz. My kids, ages 10, 11 and 14, joined me. (By the way, if you’ve never been to Northern Arizona, please add it to your bucket list. Amazing place.)

Our stay coincided with the presidential election, and it had about the same effect on our family as it did on my extended family on this website, and on America. It divided us.

To give you an idea of how far apart we were, picture this: My father, a former minister who listens to Rush Limbaugh and watches Fox News, bickering about the controversial election results with his son, the Berkeley-educated consumer advocate who routinely makes the free market a punchline in his posts.

Not exactly a picture of domestic tranquility, is it?

So one morning, while Dad was lecturing me about the folly of my idealism and I was explaining that if his theology was true, he would be held personally accountable for his Donald Trump vote, my level-headed teenager stepped in and asked if we could take a test.

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“Let’s see where you really stand on the issues,” he said.

Neither of us is a big fan of standardized tests, and we were having way too much fun with the name-calling (“You’re ignorant!” “No, you’re ignorant!”). But what were we going to do, ignore the young man?

We agreed to take the quiz.

It’s called the Political Compass Test, and it’s a brief online quiz that measures your political and economic views. Here are a few details on how it works, but I would recommend reading this only after you’ve taken the test, which I hope you will.

First, let’s take a look at the presidential candidates in the last election:


Interestingly, that Saturday Night Live joke about Hillary being the Republican was not so far from the truth. But that’s neither here nor there.


After we calmed down, my son Aren went first. Here are his scores:I wasn’t surprised. Aren’s political views are still developing as he explores new ideas in school. I expect he’ll drift further to the left — or right — as he matures.

On the political spectrum, that makes Aren closest to Gandhi.


Next, I asked my mother to take the test. Here’s how she fared.


Again, no surprise. My mother voted Democratic in the last election. She probably believed — as most of us did — that Hillary represented progressive ideas. But according to the political compass, Jill Stein better reflected her views.

Next, I asked my father. His results were shocking.


He could scarcely believe it, too. He was only a notch away from another candidate who almost got the Democratic nomination — and far, far away from his Republican heroes.


At that point, we put the test-taking on “pause.” I offered my father a home-grown litmus test, quizzing him on a variety of issues. What did he think of government regulation, for example? As I carefully peeled away some of the partisan rhetoric and drilled down to the issues, I began to realize that the test was more or less correct. Dad was a left-leaning centrist.

For the record, my father thinks the test is “rigged.” (I dismissed this as rhetoric.)

What does this have to do with you? And why publish this kind of political analysis on a consumer advocacy site?

Because we often think of companies and customers as being far apart on many issues. Just read the comments on this site. Customers are always asking for the world. Companies are always greedy. There is no common ground.

But that’s wrong. I think if you ignore the grandstanding and the false labels and look at what people actually believe, we’re not so far apart. (Here’s how to fix your own consumer problems.)

If we could have this attitude as consumers — that we agree on more things than we disagree, as opposed to “us vs. them” — I think we could avoid a lot of the unpleasantness that has not only defined our political landscape but also framed the customer service picture for the last few years. (Related: Consumers to businesses: Thanks for nothing!)

We can do better.

I know, because since taking this test, my father and I have agreed to agree on a lot more things. We just had a terrific discussion about the importance of regulating pharmaceutical prices. He is no laissez-faire capitalist, despite his protests.

Oh, I took the test, too.


Your turn. Please take the test and share your results.

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Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is the founder of Elliott Advocacy, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that empowers consumers to solve their problems and helps those who can't. He's the author of numerous books on consumer advocacy and writes three nationally syndicated columns. He also publishes the Elliott Report, a news site for consumers, and Elliott Confidential, a critically acclaimed newsletter about customer service. If you have a consumer problem you can't solve, contact him directly through his advocacy website. You can also follow him on X, Facebook, and LinkedIn, or sign up for his daily newsletter. He is based in Panamá City.

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