November 15, 2004

State IQ Stats A Hoax

The state charts showing that Kerry states supposedly have higher IQs than Bush states (113 for CT, 85 for MS, etc.) is a hoax. It was proven a hoax when it first appeared in May. Here's the real breakdown. Notice how the top state, New Hampshire, which was already clearly the best state before looking at this breakdown, was decided this year by only a few percentage points for Kerry and in 2000 by only a few percentage points for Bush.

Notice also that the single most heavily Democratic 'state' (well, not a state at all, but rather DC with electoral votes) is almost at the bottom nationally, with 95 keeping it just above MS and SC. Overall, since it only varies by 10 points, there's not a lot to draw from this about whether one side or the other is conclusively smarter, better, faster, stronger or prettier.

Of course, that ten point margin isn't even very reliable, for a number of reasons: 1) the entire population of a state doesn't vote the same way, 2) there's no such thing as an entire state population (even just the adults) taking the same scale IQ test, 3) these are based on ACT and SAT scores, which are both self-selected (so states with broad participation in SATs are going to appear dumber, which is true to experience) and not directly comparable to intelligence. Overall, there's not a lot to be gleaned from this other than the fact that a couple of people who wanted Kerry to win are experiencing the political version of teenage angst: "we're just too smart to be loved in our own time" syndrome.

The old ranking chart, it's worth noting, fell almost as heavily on state average income lines as it did on supposed IQ lines. In fact, whoever made up the scores back in May appears to have based it on his, her or their opinion of the financial situation of each state. At $26,979 CT was the richest state and made the top of the list, while MS, the poorest state at $14,088, was placed at the bottom. The hoax was little more than an indirect dig at poor people (though not entirely incorrect, as MS actually is at the bottom in the correct chart).

The hoax is reminiscent of the Lovenstein Institute hoax, wherein some wishful thinking Democrat elevated the IQs of Clinton, JFK and Carter to god-like scores of 182, 174 and 175, respectively. Those scores are above and beyond the likes of even Albert Einstein (160) and rival Galileo and Marilyn Vos-Savant at the heights of pure genius. Reagan was given a 105, GHW Bush the piddly 98 and GW Bush a clearly-stupid 91. The numbers are bogus, since the average MBA (Bush has one from Harvard) has an IQ of 125, and Bush scored safely above average on his SAT.

Of course, there's no such thing as the Lovenstein Institute (besides a phony website erected afterwards to give the hoax an air of credibility), and the IQ scale it was based on - the Swanson-Crain - doesn't exist except in the fevered imagination of some net-bound Bush-prankster. The original hoax was clearly a joke, that's why it doesn't match up to reality; the doctor supposedly behind the test reported from his trailer home in Scranton. As it made its way around the e-mail circuit somebody dropped the self-mocking parts and tailored it to just mock Bush.

So who really is smarter, Democratic or Republican voters? Well, that's easier asked than answered. People don't vote based on education alone, and there's no rule saying the smartest and dumbest can't vote together - which is in fact one noticeable trend. From FDR through Clinton, the least educated voters (high school and below) voted reliably Democratic except for 1972 (a landslide where the GOP performed well in the South) and 1988 (a year Republicans did well in the South, too). But until the 2002 mid-term elections, the Democrats took a larger share most years of the postgraduate vote than Republicans (which obviously changed for that election to favor the GOP). So somehow the least and most educated voters were both favoring Democrats. Of course, in 2000 Bush successfully won over the high school or less voters for the GOP's third time ever since before FDR.

Steve Sailer of the American Conservative (effectively a Buchanan mouthpiece with no love for Bush) gives some excellent statistics here. The 2000 election is a good example of the most and least educated combining, when those who had attempted postgraduate work went for Gore along with high school dropouts. Bush won those in between - and he also won a statistically negligible amount overall of more educated voters. This plays into a larger theory of mine (clearly won out by historical political contributions) where the richest and poorest vote Democrat and the middle class votes Republican.

This historical trend dates back to the founding of the GOP (a political faction that many modern Democrats like to claim as their own), where one especially blunt statesman, Charles Francis Adams, remarked that the Republican Party comprised "the industrious farmers and mechanics, the independent men in comfortable circumstances in all the various walks of life" while the Democrats drew support from the very rich and "the most degraded or the least intelligent of the population of the cities." While obviously he's overplaying the situation and mocking the Democrats since he's a member of the Republican Party, the overall trend is strikingly similar.

There is a way we can approximate the educational trend for 2004 without simply using the tripartite theory (least educated-D, middle-R, most-educated-D). We can tally it up and average it overall. Bringing back Sailer, we'll remember that Bush voters had a more or less insignificant edge in education in 2000.

"In 2004, Bush’s majority was more downscale. If you assume that high-school dropouts averaged 10 years of schooling, high-school grads 12 years, those who attended college but didn’t graduate 14 years, college grads 16, and postgrads 18, then Kerry voters claimed 14.64 years of education and Bush voters 14.48 years or only about six weeks less schooling."

Sailer also estimates, based on educational comparisons, that Bush is actually smarter than Kerry. Most superficially, Bush got his MBA from Harvard and Kerry got his JD from Boston College. That's awfully vague, even though there's probably a very clear difference in average IQs between Harvard and BC postgraduates, but they both went to Yale so we'll discount this one as unforgivably vague. More concretely, Kerry posted online his test score for OCS he took in 1966, on which Kerry achieved an average score, Sailer tells us. Bush too the USAF Officer Qualifying Test and scored rather above average. The tests are not the same and we shouldn't asume they are, but in relatively comparable tests, Bush scored better than Kerry. Both men took these tests before doing postgraduate work.

What's most interesting is also from Sailer's approximation of why Bush, who by any fair account is well-educated and of above-average intelligence, would shy away from his Ivy League roots. After all, Yale and Harvard are the best schools around, right?

"In the president’s lone losing race, his 1978 run for Congress from West Texas, the victor stressed Bush’s two Ivy League degrees. Bush resolved never to allow himself to be outdumbed again. And the Democrats haven’t outsmarted him since."

As is obvious when you hear Bush in interviews and radio addresses, he is a better speaker than his debate performances and various public speeches suggest. One expert, who sadly I cannot find online right now, suggested that it was intentional and that Bush dumbs himself down both to be the underdog and because it makes him more approachable. Rather than coming off as arrogant or as the New England, upper-crust blueblood that he is, Bush tailors himself to seem more Western, more populist, and more average.

Of course, the trained observer notices he's still VERY New England blueblood. He calls his mother "Mother" instead of mom or "my mother." This is immediately obvious to almost anyone outside New England and most in it. Second, his penchant for nicknaming everyone is not a Texas thing, it's rich New England - Buffy, Muffy and Chip are just the easiest stereotypes. Third, he has several ways to wave at others, and one of them might be described as foppish or dandy; it looks a little whimsical and at-ease, not wimpy though certainly not what people would call masculine. And most apparently is the War On "Terra." That is not a Texas thing; that is New England, which is why his father says it almost the exact same way. Of course, he also has more tailored waves to look masculine and cowboy, but every so often the blueblood stereotype slips back in.

Why would he hide from it? His family traces back to royalty, to the Puritans, to a number of early US Presidents, and to a history of colonial and revolutionary America. He has businessmen, professors, merchants, Kings, Governors, Senators and a President in his family line. He was born in New Haven, CT, spent many years of his life in Kennebunkport, ME, was educated in Andover, NH, went to college at Yale in CT, business school at Harvard in MA, and his family is Episcopalian, a dominant Protestant denomination for New England. That's why he hides from it.

The stigma of being from New England - a place I personally love and root for - hurt him elsewhere. He's smart about being dumb. The election is not about who's smartest, and neither are the debates. The debates are about whom you want to vote for, not who's going to become your study buddy. He realized that he could come across as too New England, too disconnected from the average person. Most people don't want to vote for a New Englander any more than a New Englander wants to vote for a Texan.

So the evidence overall suggests a few things. First, there is no substantial difference in the intelligence or education of the two parties, especially with the GOP winning postgraduate voters in 2002. There's a trend that the top and bottom voted D while the rest all voted R, but that can be easily overplayed. Second, Bush himself isn't an idiot, as exemplified by his SAT, OQT, bachelor's degree and MBA.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting, although any Democrat or far-leftist that I know would simply say that Bush cheated or that his daddy bought his grades(who would by a "C"?)

I think that Bush's bumpkin image is further proof that actors make good presidents.

December 09, 2004 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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December 17, 2004 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


December 17, 2004 4:22 PM  

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