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Conservatives aren’t stupid*

Richard Hanania likes to tell us:

It’s why people say I’m a conservative despite half my writing being about how conservatives are immoral, low IQ, and generally inferior to liberals.


Overall though, I can’t deny that my analysis generally makes liberals look smarter and more honest than conservatives. Yet the fact that I disagree with liberals about almost everything should therefore give my analysis more credibility.

The more straightforward interpretation is the same as when we say that criminals are stupid: Their average intelligence is quite low (about 90). So what is the difference between conservatives and leftists IQs? Let’s begin with the simplest possible approach: self-reported political ideology and IQ. We can just look in the GSS, that is, American survey data, and it looks like this:

This plot shows the mean IQ by self-reported political ideology (polviews). The IQ is scaled to the White non-Hispanic (for years 2000-present because they didn’t ask this question earlier). There’s a lot of up and down movement. Extreme liberals (recall, this means leftist in American English) used to be smart in 1970s, but declined in the 1980s, then rose again towards their current position, and now seems to be on the decline again. Extreme conservatives show a similar pattern, with a high point around 2000, which I guess might be Tea Party libertarian times. If we ignore the time tend, the gaps looks like this:

So essentially the differences are very slight except for the moderates, extremely conservative and “don’t know”. The gap between liberals and conservatives will thus depend on the size of the outlying group. But it’s quite small, so it doesn’t affect the means much:

As such, the IQ gap between liberals and conservatives is 1 IQ. Hardly worth caring about.

Obviously, this self-id political ideology glances over a lot of details. In practical politics, we might care more about actual voting patterns. So we can re-do this by voting pattern. Except that voting pattern data are terrible in GSS, as they provide a variable for each year of voting, and ask about the same one multiple times in different years, so I would have to do a lot of coding. Instead, let’s look at political party identification:

It appears all parties are on the decline, so people are identifying less with them I guess. Strong Republican shows a marked decline. Overall, though, the gaps are reversed of what we saw before:

Now it’s the Republicans that have the upper-hand, and the stronger Democrats who are low-lying. As these groups might be small, we can simplify like we did before:

So here there is a 2.5 IQ gap between the parties. Not much to be impressed over either. It is curious that the patterns are reversed depending on how we ask the question. Reminds us to be skeptical of small gaps as they can depend on seemingly irrelevant details of the methods. I would guess this one is from the fact that non-Whites vote heavily Democrat and though their ideology is not particularly liberal, they vote using the standard ethnic block voting pattern, thus voting against their own ideology, sort of.

I know some will ask, so here’s the trend for only White people. Same plots as before, just limited to Whites:

Now we are getting closer to what Hanania is getting at. White extreme liberals are getting close to 110 IQ on average. Reddit tier in other words. If we ignore year:

We see a relatively steady decline in IQ from extreme liberal to extreme conservative, ignoring the moderates. And if we simplify:

We see a gap of 4 IQ. Now the same for parties:

Strong Democrats are in the top, strong Republicans in the bottom. Ignoring year:

The gaps are rather small with about 2 IQ between strong Democrats and strong Republicans.

Simplifying it, the gaps become trivial and not even significant with this massive dataset. Thus to summarize:

  • Depending on whether we look at political ideology or political party, the gaps can reverse in the general population, but they aren’t large.
  • Non-White voters drag down the Democrats, so when looking at only Whites the left has a consistent lead in intelligence, but it’s pretty small. However, it is true that extreme liberal Whites are the smartest group with a mean of 107 IQ versus their counterparts extreme conservative Whites with a mean of 98.5, close to a 10 IQ gap.

Really, ideology is more complicated

Really, political ideology cannot so easily be summarized well by this 1-dimensional approach. I wrote about that at length in a prior post, so go read that. In particular, if we look at a 2-dimensional model of politics with dimensions for social liberalness vs. social conservatism, and economic freedom (liberalism in normal sense) vs. economic socialism, then the IQ patterns change into a more complex situation (work by Noah Carl):

Recent evidence indicates that cognitive ability has a monotonically positive relation to socially liberal beliefs and some measures of fiscally conservative beliefs, and that it has a non-monotonic relation to other measures of fiscally conservative beliefs. This study examines the relationship between cognitive ability and political beliefs in a recent, nationally representative sample of American adults. It finds that cognitive ability is positively associated with both socially liberal beliefs and fiscally conservative beliefs. The relationships with socially liberal beliefs are monotonically positive. In contrast, some of the relation- ships with fiscally conservative beliefs are non-monotonic: Americans of highest ability are less fiscally conservative than those of high ability. The association between cognitive ability and a dimension of fiscal conservatism is reduced substantially when controlling for socio-economic position.


So, intelligence correlates positively with wanting more freedom as in social freedoms (abortions, free speech etc.) and economic freedom (less government involvement), but these two political dimensions are negatively correlated. This brings forth the libertarian high IQ rarity pattern. Because the ideologies are negatively correlated, people who are high in both views are rare, but their IQs are particularly elevated. Noah notes that if you combine the political ideologies into a single component, this correlates .40 with IQ. That’s pretty high!

In fairness to Hanania, what he really means is that the elites of society are heavily leftist and increasingly so, and the conservative elites appear to be very stupid in many ways. Academia and elite leftist media are high IQ, but the conservative elite in the form of Trump appear pretty dumb, and are prone to dumb conspiracy theories. This is somewhat of an unfair comparison as of course conspiracy theories are very popular in the leftist media and academia, only they don’t get labelled as such (rather, it is Accepted Science). What these data suggest then is that there are a lot of conservative or Republican elites, but they aren’t the ones you hear about too much. Think Peter Thiel, Marc Andreessen types. Furthermore, the conservative elite seem to have no plan as to prevent the leftist takeover of their institutions. Their modus operandi seems to be that they love losing, as long as they can appear morally righteous to themselves while doing so. And when they win, it’s about things that don’t even help them, such as the recent victory with the Supreme Court (correctly) overruling the prior ruling on abortion. The result of this is that Blacks will have more children, and these will vote for the Democrats. What kind of victory is that? To be fair, it seems like the Supreme Court will also overrule the prior rulings on affirmative action i.e., structural race discrimination against Whites and men (and Asians). And that one would actually be of great help in reversing the leftist take-over of institutions, which is due in part to women.

We can also ask: what is the opposite of a libertarian? It would be an economic socialist, socially conservative. These are in fact many of the populist nationalist parties of Europe, and they do seem particularly dull. These are parties like the Danish People’s Party, who caters to old uneducated men and retirees who want more gibs. Some of these parties start out as libertarian parties but morph to follow their voters. The Danish People’s Party is an off-shoot of the prior Progress Party, which was extremely libertarian and thus unpopular with voters. Denmark now has 3 nationalist parties: a socially conservative, a centrist, and a libertarian version. We will see which one will do well in the next elections, all three are in parliament with the centrist version having the most seats (though this is due to leadership changes and in-fighting).