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Psychology Today: Liberals are Smarter

Political ideology

We can’t say we’re surprised but according to an article in the journal Psychology Today, Liberals are smarter than Conservatives (no separate testing was done for Tea Party members).

Now I’m certain this article is going to raise the hackles of those on the right, but read the story to conclusion and then make a comment.

From the article, which was published in March, these gems:

It is difficult to define a whole school of political ideology precisely, but one may reasonably define liberalism (as opposed to conservatism) in the contemporary United States as the genuine concern for the welfare of genetically unrelated others and the willingness to contribute larger proportions of private resources for the welfare of such others. In the modern political and economic context, this willingness usually translates into paying higher proportions of individual incomes in taxes toward the government and its social welfare programs. Liberals usually support such social welfare programs and higher taxes to finance them, and conservatives usually oppose them.

Analyses of large representative samples, from both the United States and the United Kingdom, confirm this prediction. In both countries, more intelligent children are more likely to grow up to be liberals than less intelligent children. For example, among the American sample, those who identify themselves as “very liberal” in early adulthood have a mean childhood IQ of 106.4, whereas those who identify themselves as “very conservative” in early adulthood have a mean childhood IQ of 94.8.

Even though past studies show that women are more liberal than men, and blacks are more liberal than whites, the effect of childhood intelligence on adult political ideology is twice as large as the effect of either sex or race. So it appears that, as the Hypothesis predicts, more intelligent individuals are more likely to espouse the value of liberalism than less intelligent individuals, possibly because liberalism is evolutionarily novel and conservatism is evolutionarily familiar.

The primary means that citizens of capitalist democracies contribute their private resources for the welfare of the genetically unrelated others is paying taxes to the government for its social welfare programs. The fact that conservatives have been shown to give more money to charities than liberals is not inconsistent with the prediction from the Hypothesis; in fact, it supports the prediction. Individuals can normally choose and select the beneficiaries of their charity donations. For example, they can choose to give money to the victims of the earthquake in Haiti, because they want to help them, but not to give money to the victims of the earthquake in Chile, because they don’t want to help them. In contrast, citizens do not have any control over whom the money they pay in taxes benefit. They cannot individually choose to pay taxes to fund Medicare, because they want to help elderly white people, but not AFDC, because they don’t want to help poor black single mothers. This may precisely be why conservatives choose to give more money to individual charities of their choice while opposing higher taxes.

Incidentally, this finding substantiates one of the persistent complaints among conservatives. Conservatives often complain that liberals control the media or the show business or the academia or some other social institutions. The Hypothesis explains why conservatives are correct in their complaints. Liberals do control the media, or the show business, or the academia, among other institutions, because, apart from a few areas in life (such as business) where countervailing circumstances may prevail, liberals control all institutions. They control the institutions because liberals are on average more intelligent than conservatives and thus they are more likely to attain the highest status in any area of (evolutionarily novel) modern life.


Now while all this is interesting, let’s be honest. They are plenty of dumb liberals out there and lots of smart conservatives as well.  And there are people of both political ideals who do dumb things (Eliot Spitzer, Anthony Weiner for example).  But what I believe this article and this post is really designed to do is measure the sense of humor liberals and conservatives have.  Let’s not take these conclusions too seriously 😉


  1. junior junior August 23, 2011

    Conservatives are more generous with their charitable contributions and live happier lives.

    • Kathy Findley Kathy Findley August 23, 2011

      That is such crap.

      • Kathy Findley Kathy Findley August 23, 2011

        Warren Buffet and Bill Gates have given more to Charity than anyone is history and they are LIBERALS. True story.

      • Curt Doolittle Curt Doolittle August 29, 2011

        Libertarians are smarter than liberals. Republicans are smarter than democrats. Libertarians the thought leadership of the conservative movement. Liberals and progressives have the space on the curve below libertarians and below conservatives. In other words, liberals are the thought leadership for the proles and the working class, and libertarians and classical liberal conservatives are the thought leadership for the middle classes.

        Statistically, liberals are a minority (less than 18%), and libertarians are a minority (less than 10% but climbing). If conservatives and libertarians (the individual spectrum) are compared to progressives and liberals (the collective spectrum) the numbers are in the conservative favor. It’s the fact that libertarians do not self identify as conservatives, yet vote Republican that skew the numbers. This is one of the reasons why Republicans test smarter than Democrats – because libertarians vote republican not libertarian, just as liberals vote democrat not ‘socialist’ – because it’s not in their interest as a minority to waste their vote.

        The republican economic program, which is a combination of conservative sentiments and libertarian economics and philosophy, simply appeals to more, smarter people.

        Libertarians promote individual achievement. Liberals promote redistribution of other people’s production. Liberals tend to be verbal (and female) and conservatives tend to be spatial-temporal (and male). Liberals tend not to be historians, but exerperientialists, and conservatives tend to be historians. This reflects research into Time Preference, in which liberals have a shorter (higher) time horizon, and conservatives nave a longer (lower) time horizon, and these conflicts are immutable. In Jonathan Haidt’s work, which expands Machiavelli’s and Pareto’s works, liberals only consider two of the five social sentiments, while conservatives value all five equally. To some degree this is an expression of the ancient battle of the sexes.

        The reason for the survey data’s (correct) conclusion that many very bright people develop redistributive and authoritarian philosophies was developed by Schumpeter, who said that these people PROFIT both materially and in social status by giving away that which they do not produce. They’re today’s church. Schumpeter said that Marx was wrong: that totalitarianism would not be brought about by the proletariat, but by ‘intellectuals’ who would use their privilege to undermine the system of capitalism that made their privilege possible, and that they would do it in exchange for social status.

        The change in political tenor in the country is due to three factors: 1) immigration first of catholics, then of the third world. 2) the concentration of these people in urban areas where urbanites perceive a lower cost of production due to low opportunity costs. 3) the south’s abandonment of it’s civil war era bias against the republican party, changing conservative democrats into republicans. The parties had more philosophical breadth during the southern ‘rejection’ but now that the parties are roughly ideologically opposite, it is not possible to create a compromise position.

        Now, this whole discussion tends to ignore the moderate but conservative-leaning majority who actually determine the outcome of elections.

        And it should be noted that no civilization in history has survived urbanization and immigration. (The reason is too complicated for a blog posting.) A fact that is OK with liberals and horrid to conservatives.

      • Curt Doolittle Curt Doolittle August 29, 2011

        No, it’s just data. Conservatives are happier.

    • rhiannon rhiannon September 12, 2011

      Very interesting! And I have to agree, liberals do tend to be more intelligent. Conservatives seem uneducated and, well, just plain greedy.

      • Robert Lauten Robert Lauten September 12, 2011

        If Liberals are smarter, then they would do the following,

        (1.) Re-register Republican and vote in the June 2012 Republican Presidential Primary. The smarter Liberal would want the lesser of the 8 evil Republican candidates to win California’s Republican Presidential Primary, (assuming that the Liberal’s enthusiasm for Obama is less than it was in 2010).

        (2.) If the smarter Liberal’s enthusiasm for Barack Hussein Obama is equal to or greater today than it was in 2010 then the smarter Liberal would want the Republican Candidate with the lowest probability to defeat Obama to win California’s Republican Presidential Primary.

        At 5:00 PM today, Monday, CNN will broadcast the Republican Presidential Debate.
        Smart Liberals will watch the debate, (don’t throw your shoe at the computer monitor, – it’s not the physical person).

  2. Curt Doolittle Curt Doolittle August 29, 2011

    Lets be clear which institutions we’re talking about. Liberals dominante those institutions that sell other people’s money to the proletariat. Conservatives dominate those institutions that produce goods and services.

    • Dan Chmielewski Dan Chmielewski August 29, 2011

      Curt – thanks for commenting, but what survey are you citing? No attribution….

  3. MikeM128 MikeM128 August 29, 2011

    Only problem with all those smarts, someone forgot to give them common sense.

Comments are closed.