Beyond Left vs Right: 14 Types of Ideological Bias

Note: This piece originally appeared on

Authoritarianism versus libertarianism, nationalism versus globalism, traditionalism versus progressivism — ideological bias in politics (and beyond) is no longer just about left versus right.

Sometimes people get mad about the AllSides Media Bias Chart.

“How can you put Jacobin and the New York Times (both rated Left) in the same category?!” they say. “There’s no way Breitbart is the same as the National Review (both rated Right)!”

We stand by our ratings, but the angry tweeters have a point — of course the AllSides left-to-right media bias spectrum doesn’t tell the full story about political ideology. Our scale is a simplified representation of a complex array of beliefs and ideas — there are plenty of shades of grey in between. Just because a writer or media outlet is rated Left, doesn’t mean you can predict their views on all issues. Our ratings should be viewed as a doorway to starting a conversation and understanding biases and issues more completely.

Politics is not always about left versus right, Republican versus Democrat, conservative versus liberal. We can often feel pressure to take sides on issues, when in reality our views are often too complex to take a “party-line” stance. You may be a right-winger who believes in universal health care, or a left-winger who is a strong gun rights supporter. This is because where you (or a media outlet) stand on a political issue or policy often comes down to where your political bias lies on the following value scales.

14 Types of Ideological Bias

Authoritarian versus Libertarian. Policy positions often deal with the trade-off between authority and liberty. What personal freedoms should we be willing to give up to create order and flourishing in society? Many, some, none at all? Which ones? To what degree should we follow a strict adherence to authority, specifically the authority of the government?

The social and economic issues that fall along the authority-liberty matrix are many: border control, abortion, marijuana legalization, plastic bag bans, occupational licensing, building permits, gun ownership — these are just a few examples of issues where your stance may be biased toward authority or liberty.

Individualist vs Collectivist. How do we balance individual interests with what’s good for the group? Is the individual the most basic unit of society, the unit for which we should maximize freedom? Or is the most basic unit of society the family, or some other group? How do we balance tendencies that often feel at odds?

Individualism and collectivism tie closely into issues of authority and liberty. An individualist may not want to give up personal freedoms to benefit the collective, while someone who values collectivism more may be willing to do so.

Secular vs Religious. Should the government uphold morality as outlined in religious texts, such as the Bible? Is morality relative, or universal? Should a single religion be shared and practiced amongst members of a nation, or are religious beliefs unnecessary for a moral society that maximizes human flourishing?

Whether you are secular or religious may impact your positions on social policies, such as abortion or same-sex marriage.

Traditionalist vs Progressive. Traditionalists tend to believe prevailing norms and structures were the result of hard-won wisdom that has been handed down and should be preserved. Progressives may believe some traditions are outdated or no longer necessary, and that in order for humanity to move forward, we must dismantle or change those norms.

Traditionalism and progressivism can be seen across many social issues in particular. Do we need more women in positions of economic and political power, or are women happier and better suited to home and community life? Do children have better outcomes in life when their mother stays home, or is it okay to send children to daycare? Should children have both a mother and a father, or are different family formations okay?

Elitist vs Populist. Populists may view members of the political, economic, cultural or media establishment (“the elite”) as self-serving, corrupt, powerful figures who disregard or act in opposition to the concerns of everyday people. Populist groups may be based on class, ethnic, or national lines. Because major institutions of power are concentrated in American coastal cities, we often hear about the conflicting values and ideologies between “coastal elites” and “rural/middle America” — another way of framing elitism v. populism.

Rural vs Urban. Geography may impact or reflect political views. For example, rural gun owners are more likely than urban gun owners to say that owning a gun is essential to their own sense of freedom. In addition, the types of jobs concentrated in rural versus urban areas tend to differ — say, farmers versus financiers — which may signal or lead to differing ideologies, values, and stances on policy issues.

Nationalism/Localism vs Globalism. Localism and nationalism aren’t the same thing, but are somewhat interrelated because they both reject the integration of people, companies, and governments on a worldwide scale (globalism). Whether you see society as functioning better when governments plan, optimize for, and make decisions in the interests of local communities and nation states or on a global scale may determine your political bias in favor of or against globalism. Nationalists and localists reject decision-making that benefits global corporations or foreign capital rather than the citizenry, and say globalization erodes local identity and culture. Proponents of globalism say it offers economic benefits such as access to more goods and services and lower rates of poverty, and social benefits, such as sharing of cultures.

A multitude of issues are encompassed in this debate. Are we best suited when we support policies that take care of our communities and neighbors first? Should we take into account what is best for people who are not members of our tribe or group when making policies and decisions? Should we operate in a borderless way, and treat the entire world as a sphere for political and economic influence?

Ideological Bias Beyond Left v. Right

Political ideologies don’t always fit neatly into left/right boxes. Yet in politics today, many people feel forced to take sides artificially, whereas their actual views are much more complex. For example, you can be a right-wing globalist, left-wing localist, left-wing traditionalist, or right-wing progressive. Maybe you are socially liberal, but fiscally conservative. Or perhaps you’re socially conservative, but fiscally liberal.

People should consider what they actually believe on each of these issues, rather than picking a side — left or right — and then taking the default positions typically associated with each.

Our balanced newsfeed and media bias ratings aim to help with this. Our bias ratings provide a framework and starting point for understanding political bias, but our goal is not necessarily to be “accurate” — that’s impossible, as bias is ultimately subjective. Just because a writer or media outlet is on the Right, doesn’t mean you can predict their views on all issues. Our tools are simply meant to help you to easily identify different perspectives, so you can get the full story, dig deeper, and decide the truth for yourself.

Julie Mastrine is the Director of Marketing at AllSides. She has a Lean Right bias.