July 07, 2004

Presidential IQs

"The Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, Pennsylvania detailed its findings of a four month study of the intelligence quotient of President George W. Bush.

"Since 1973, the Lovenstein Institute has published it's (sic) research to the education community on each new president, which includes the famous "IQ" report among others.

"According to statements in the report, there have been twelve presidents over the past 50 years, from F. D. Roosevelt to G. W. Bush who were all rated based on scholarly achievements, writings that they alone produced without aid of staff, their ability to speak with clarity, and several other psychological factors which were then scored in the Swanson/Crain system of intelligence ranking.

"The study determined the following IQs of each president as accurate to within five percentage points:

147 .. Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
132 .. Harry Truman (D)
122 .. Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
174 .. John F. Kennedy (D)
126 .. Lyndon B. Johnson (D)
155 .. Richard M. Nixon (R)
121 .. Gerald Ford (R)
175 .. James E. Carter (D)
105 .. Ronald Reagan (R)
098 .. George HW Bush (R)
182 .. William J. Clinton (D)
091 .. George W. Bush (R)"

Now, I'm sure many of you buy into this, and it went around e-mail circles in 2001. Many people assume on face value that Democrats are smarter than Republicans and that Bush is a complete fucking idiot.

Unfortunately, this list would mean Clinton is smarter than Albert Einstein, who had an IQ of 160. Carter and Kennedy would be as well. The Republicans average 115.5, the Democrats average 156. The lowest Republican is 91, the lowest Democrat is 126. In other words, every Democrat except LBJ (and, depending on the scale, maybe Truman) can join Mensa, and of the Republicans only Nixon can. Clearly a bias.

The study is also wrong because in another part. "All the Presidents prior to George W. Bush had a least one book under their belt, and most had written several white papers during their education or early careers. Not so with President Bush," Dr. Lovenstein said. "He has no published works or writings, which made it more difficult to arrive at an assessment. We relied more heavily on transcripts of his unscripted public speaking." This is demonstrably false since Bush wrote a Charge to Keep prior to winning office.

Further, there is no such thing as the Lovenstein Institute, in Scranton or anywhere else. There is no such thing as the "Swanson/Crain" IQ scale. There is no Dr. Lovenstein associated with this non-study. Of course, since the fake came out, a website has sprung up to push the study, but there is no institute behind it, and the doctors it cites are fakes. It's basically an anti-Bush site.

The original e-mail going around was a joke. It was supposed to be an article in the Pennsylvania Court Observer, said to have a circulation of five readers. Dr. Lovenstein was said to reside at his mobile home in Scranton. It was obviously a joke. As the joke made it from e-mail to e-mail, people eliminated the jokier aspects and it seemed to be a legitimate study. Obviously it's a fake, though, since the Institute, Doctors and method of study are all suspect. There is no Swanson-Crain scale, and "estimating" IQ is extremely difficult, especially since formal tests themselves have their limitations.

The Guardian (London), Southland Times (New Zealand), and Doonesbury all reacted to the study like it was real. At least two have retracted their articles (Doonesbury retracted his strip).

So for all you casual readers:
Please do not spread this information as anything but a joke.

Of course it's also funny, because apparently the IQ experts can't do math. FDR was not President in the last 50 years, not even counting from 2001. They also had a typo or a grammatical error, confusing it's and its.

The real IQs are somewhat different. Starting with GWB, who is probably somewhere around 120 - the same league as JFK (estimated 119). According to Matarazzo the average high school grad has a 105 IQ, the average college grad is 115, the average MBA or advanced degree holder is 125. It's not unreasonable to put Bush in there, since he does hold an MBA. He also took the flight pilot exam for military entrance, which is actually very difficult to qualify for and to pass - but then there's the potential for foul play or malfeasance.

JFK, according to his biographer, "stumbled through Latin, French, mathematics, and English but made respectable marks in physics and history." He graduated 65th in his high school class of 110. Of course, when you're talking public speaking ability it's a whole new ball game. GW scored 1206 on the SAT (it was rescaled successively in the 1970s onward, so most of took different SATs than Bush and Gore) placing him in the top 16% of college entrants. The SAT is an imperfect test of IQ, but the 84th percentile rounds out to 115 IQ. Not exactly a moron, then.

In alternative history, Gore got 1355 on his SAT, and has an IQ of 134 (senior year of high school IQ test). If we (somewhat loosely) use the ratio of Gore's SAT to Gore's IQ, then GW comes out to 119 - or JFK's IQ.

So when you are thinking presidential intelligence, JFK and GWB are about the same.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Woohoo! I'm smarter than Gore! All right!

July 07, 2004 7:45 PM  

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