The 2004 IQ Wars: So Much For The Candidates—What About The Voters?

The tenth anniversary of The Bell Curve has passed almost unnoticed by the media (except on VDARE.COM—click here for my thoughts and here for Peter Brimelow's).

But the topic of IQ is hotter than ever—largely because liberals, no matter how much they publicly denounce the concept as discredited racist nonsense, just can't stop privately obsessing over how much higher their IQs must be than the IQ of those cretinous conservatives.

Tom Brokaw asked Senator John Kerry (who, after watching a Bush press conference, had grumbled to an aide: "I can't believe I'm losing to this idiot") about my investigative report in VDARE.COM "This Just In—Kerry's IQ Likely Lower than Bush's!"

My findings bothered Kerry so much that, after the cameras were turned off, the candidate rationalized to Brokaw: "I must have been drinking the night before I took that military aptitude test."

(The whole story is in my new American Conservative essay "Bush's Brain.")

Since the election, the Internet has been swamped by that phony-baloney table of average IQs by state that I debunked in VDARE.COM way back in May—you know, the one where blue states have average IQs as high as 113 and red states have average IQs as low as 85.

Last spring, I rather regretted that I had shot it down so quickly. Its popularity proved my longstanding contention that liberals are utter hypocrites about IQ.

Well, I shouldn't have underestimated the shamelessness of Democrats. The week of the election, one website received 540,000 visitors the first day it put up the hoax chart. It must have achieved several million hits since.

Because a lie travels around the world before the truth can get its boots on, my debunking has been somewhat less popular. [VDARE.COM note: But they're reading Sailer in Japan!]

But even my site received 100,000 visitors in a week. I even made the U.K.'s Guardianwhich back in 2001, by the way, fell for the ludicrous "Lovenstein Institute" hoax that Jimmy Carter's IQ was 175 while George H. W. Bush's was 98.

The Establishment press won't print scientific discussions of IQ. So lies and nonsense about this inherently fascinating topic flourish on the Internet.

Everyone familiar with IQ testing scoffed at the validity of the hoax data that claiming the average IQ in Connecticut was 113 and in Utah was 87. To see why, it's important to understand how IQ tests are scored.

The mean is typically set at 100 and the standard deviation is 15. This implies that Utah's average person would fall 26/15ths (or 1.73) standard deviations lower than the average person in Connecticut.

Using the Normdist function in Microsoft Excel, you can easily put this on a percentile basis. This hoax data therefore implies that a Utah resident of average intelligence (50th percentile) would be only at the 4th percentile in Connecticut. The average person in Connecticut (50th percentile) would suddenly be at the 96th percentile if he moved to Utah.

When phrased like that, the numbers appear obviously wrong. But the public is kept in such ignorance about IQ by the politically-correct media that most people can't tell when their chain is being yanked.

Further, the whole notion of determining which party's voters are smarter by looking at state averages is ridiculous. You need to look at the individual voter data, and for that, you need exit poll numbers. I'm not the most trusting consumer of exit polls, but for all their flaws, they are much better than looking at state averages.

For example, Georgia, which voted Republican, is a fairly low IQ state. But that doesn't mean its Republicans are dumber than its Democrats. The main drags on Georgia's average IQ are its Democrats—bluntly, its blacks, given the long-established fact that blacks score systematically lower than whites.

Two questions on exit polls are known to correlate positively with IQ:

  • Income; and

Income. Not surprisingly, given Bush's tax-cut agenda, voters with incomes over $100,000 went for Bush over Kerry 58-41.

Education. In 2000, the self-reported educational level of the average Bush and Gore voters was virtually identical. In the 2002 House races, Republican voters did quite a bit better with the well-educated, winning 58-40 among college graduates and even winning a majority among those who had undertaken some graduate study. (The latter's ranks are inflated by Democratic-voting public school teachers who have done post-grad work in the easy field of Education.)

But in 2004, as you may have noticed, Bush ran a pretty dumbscale campaign. The Democrats normally win by a landslide among high school dropouts. This time, however, Bush wrestled Kerry to a draw among that segment. Bush ended up with an average voter with only a month and a half less schooling overall than Kerry's typical supporter.

Yet for Bush to do worse than Kerry on the education level of his voters is a poor performance for a Republican candidate. According to the massive General Social Surveys, Republicans generally tend to have more schooling and more verbal intelligence than Democrats. Professor James Lindgren of Northwestern writes:

"In the 1994-2002 General Social Surveys (GSS), Republicans have over 6/10ths of a year more education on average than Democrats. Republicans also have a higher final mean educational degree. Further, Republicans scored better than Democrats on two word tests in the GSS—a short vocabulary test and a modified analogies test.

"If one breaks down the data by party affiliation and political orientation, the most highly educated group is conservative Republicans, who also score highest on the vocabulary and analogical reasoning tests. Liberal Democrats score only insignificantly lower than conservative Republicans.

"The least educated subgroups are moderate and conservative Democrats, who also score at the bottom (or very near the bottom) on vocabulary and analogy tests."

Of course, this higher education level would imply that Republicans on average are more intelligent than Democrats.

Personally, I suspect that this year Bush lost a lot of support among extremely well-informed and intelligent conservatives, such as the Joint Chiefs of Staff and VDARE.COM readers.

But they apparently are in the minority…for now.

Although trying to answer the question of who has smarter voters based on state averages is the wrong way to approach the problem, the data still have intrinsic interest.

So, as an antidote to the hoax, I've found two sets of honest average IQ data by state.

  • Thanks to Professor Henry Harpending of the University of Utah's famed anthropology department, I have obtained the state means from what might be the closest thing to a national sample of IQ scores ever: the post-Sputnik 1960 Project Talent study of 366,000 9th-12th grade students. (Washington D.C., Alaska, South Dakota, South Carolina, and Puerto Rico don't have good data.)

Unfortunately, these numbers are 44 years old. Nonetheless, they still correlate reasonably with public school 8th graders' achievement test scores on the 2003 National Assessment of Educational Progress (here are the 2003 scores).

In Harpending's data, of the top 10 smartest states, in 2000, Bush and Gore each won five. So we're back to my original conclusion: red states and blue states are similar in average IQ, as are, on average, Republican and Democratic voters. 

  • Additionally, Prof. Helmuth Nyborg, of Aarhus University in Denmark and head of the International Research Unit for Psychoneuroendocrinology, sent me a database from "the Vietnam Veteran study of fairly representative 38 year old vets (white 85%, black 12%, Hispanics 3%, some Native Americans and Islanders) studied in 1985/86 with a large number of cognitive tests."

It's sorted by birth state, not where the vets were living in the 1980s.

The sample size is a couple of orders of magnitude smaller than Project TALENT's, so be wary of smaller states with less than 50 respondents. Also, there are no doubt selection biases caused by the fact that these are Vietnam Vets. But it's still useful to have.

(Click here for consolidated table.)

Some comments:

  • Ironically, Utah, which was next to last in the hoax table, has the highest average score. But this is being driven mostly by a 110 average from only 26 Vietnam Vets.

  • Montana's second place score seems perfectly legitimate—the state still scores well in the NAEP tests today.

  • Sorry, all you Massachusetts-hating conservatives, but that arch-liberal state's high ranking seems rock solid. The state was first settled by the Puritans, who were a self-selected intellectual elite. It has maintained its strong intellectual standing ever since.

  • I don't know where Washington D.C. would fall today. It has the highest percentages of college and graduate degree holders, but also the lowest NAEP scores for public school students, by far. Like a lot of highly inegalitarian places, it votes very Democratic.

Personally, I really don't think these kinds of tables will tell you which party deserves to win elections. But clearly, more honest discussions of IQ in the establishment media would be a good idea.

Until we get them, however, VDARE.COM will carry on alone!

Three cheers for the internet!

[Steve Sailer [email him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative. His website features his daily blog.]