The Political Spectrum

by Fred Elbel

The political spectrum is a representation of differing political positions in relation to each another. A familiar representation is the traditional horizontal axis representing left - moderate - right.

A more complex spectrum developed by Dickenson shows how various political positions relate to each other:1

Dickenson's Political Spectrum


The following graphic contrasts Left vs Right values and perspectives:

Left vs Right


Definitions for terms describing political positions, such as "progressive," "liberal," and "conservative" are not universally accepted. Political scientist and philosopher W.B. Gallie calls them contested concepts:3


the political spectrum you are taught



1. What are ‘Liberals,’ What are ‘Progressives,’ and Why the Difference Matters, Crissie Brown, PoliticsUSA, June 15, 2013.
2. Political spectrum, Rational Wiki.
3. Contested Concepts in Cognitive Social Science, Alan Schwartz, University of California, Berkeley, May 1992.



Here is more information on the political spectrum in context of today's political environment: