A new study came out recently looking at whether Republicans or Democrats are smarter (1). It showed that republicans are smarter than democrats and that this is true even after taking race out of the picture. Unsurprisingly, this study isn’t receiving the kind of attention that studies exposing the intellectual inferiority of religious and/or racist people get.
The study looked at several waves of participants from the General Social Survey. It included four seperate measures of intelligence. Probability knowledge was measured by asking participants to solve basic probability problems. Verbal intelligence was measured by asking participants to describe the ways in which various items were similar. A vocabulary test was also given. Finally, interviewers rated how well participants seemed to understand the questions they were being asked. This last measure is more subjective than the rest. But a person’s IQ test score is known to correlate with how intelligent other people think they are. Political identity was measured on an eight point scale. Participants could identify as a strong republican, a not strong republican, an independent near republican, an independent, an independent near democrat, a not strong democrat, a strong democrat, or other.
The study found that republicans scored better than democrats on all 4 measures of intelligence. The gap was largest when comparing strong republicans to strong democrats (3-5 points) and weakest when comparing everyone to the right and everyone to the left of independent (1-2.45 points). This study also contained a sub group analysis in which only white participants were compared. Restricting the analysis to whites lessened the gap some, and even eliminated it on some of the tests, but white republicans still came out as smarter than white democrats. The study also found that the association between being a Republicans and IQ was partially mediated by republicans having more money than democrats.
It isn’t surprising that the most ardent republicans and democrats are the smartest and dumbest of all the groups included in this study. A significant part of the republican world view is accepting social inequality as okay. This is a lot easier to do if you are the kind of person that will end up on top in an unequal world. If you are dumb on the other hand, and there fore are more likely to be the kind of person who land on the bottom of an unequal world, then you have more reason to support social equality. Consistent with this explanation is the fact that liberalism has been linked with low self esteem (3) and causing people to think poorly of themselves has been shown to decrease their tolerance for social inequality (4).
Noah Carl, the researcher who preformed this study, noted that socially conservative views, such as being anti abortion or gay marriage, have been linked to lower IQ by past studies. To explain the high IQ of republicans he therefore turns to socially liberal republicans. (Libertarians.) This is plausible. But I would also be interested in knowing the IQ of social moderates. It would be interesting to see a break down of the mean IQ of different kind of republicans.
It’s worth noting that, even though this study just came out, there is nothing about it on Google news. And I haven’t heard anything about it on social media. This contrasts sharply with the reaction to a study published in 2012 which found that childhood IQ negatively predicted racial prejudice later in life. This study was covered in the main stream media (4) and I still see liberals citing it two years later. Of course, the mean intelligence of people who believe something can’t tell you whether or not it’s true. But it’s amusing to see this study get ignored when it would no doubt be receiving significant attention if it found that democrats are smarter than republicans.
- Cognitive Ability and Party Identity in the United States by Noah Carl
- Conservatives are happier than liberals, but why? Political ideology, personality,and life satisfaction by Schlenker et al
- Mirror, mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest of them all? Thinking that one is attractive increases the tendency to support inequality by Belmi and Neal
- Intelligence Study Links Low I.Q. To Prejudice, Racism, Conservatism by Rebecca Searles