More on politics and IQ

Further to my recent comments on IQ, someone has drawn my attention to a 2014 article by Noah Carl.  Carl recently came to attention for his articles on Leftism among academics. I had some comments on that on March 5 and on March 17.  Carl is clearly something of a bad boy from a Leftist perspective.  The 2014 journal article is as follows:

Cognitive ability and party identity in the United States (2014)

Noah Carl


Carl (2014) analysed data from the U.S. General Social Survey (GSS), and found that individuals who identify as Republican have slightly higher verbal intelligence than those who identify as Democrat. An important qualification was that the measure of verbal intelligence used was relatively crude, namely a 10-word vocabulary test. This study examines three other measures of cognitive ability from the GSS: a test of probability knowledge, a test of verbal reasoning, and an assessment by the interviewer of how well the respondent understood the survey questions. In all three cases, individuals who identify as Republican score slightly higher than those who identify as Democrat; the unadjusted differences are 1-3 IQ points, 2-4 IQ points and 2-3 IQ points, respectively. Path analyses indicate that the associations between cognitive ability and party identity are largely but not totally accounted for by socio-economic position: individuals with higher cognitive ability tend to have better socio-economic positions, and individuals with better socio-economic positions are more likely to identify as Republican. These results are consistent with Carl's (2014) hypothesis that higher intelligence among classically liberal Republicans compensates for lower intelligence among socially conservative Republicans.


So what are we to make of it?  Let us first compare it with two papers by the indefatigable Ian Deary.  Deary has access to some very well sampled British databases so is in a position to report highly generalizable results:


Childhood intelligence predicts voter turnout, voting preferences, and political involvement in adulthood: The 1970 British Cohort Study (2008)

Ian J. Deary


Little is known about the association between measured intelligence and how people participate in democratic processes. In the 1970 British Cohort Study, we examined the association between childhood intelligence and, at age 34: whether and how people voted in the 2001 UK general election; how they intended to vote; and whether they had taken part in other political activities. People with higher childhood intelligence were more likely to vote in the 2001 election (38% increased prevalence per SD increase in intelligence), and were more likely to vote for the Green Party and the Liberal Democrats (49% and 47% increased prevalence per SD increase in intelligence, respectively). The intelligence-Green party voting association was largely accounted for by occupational social class, the intelligence-Liberal Democrat voting association was not. Similar associations between intelligence and preference for the Green Party or Liberal Democrats were found as regards voting intentions, but neither of these associations was accounted for by occupational social class. People with higher childhood intelligence were more likely to take part in rallies and demonstrations, and to sign petitions, and expressed a greater interest in politics (40%, 65%, 33%, and 58% increased prevalence per SD increase in intelligence, respectively).



Bright Children Become Enlightened Adults (2008)

Ian J. Deary


We examined the prospective association between general intelligence (g) at age 10 and liberal and antitraditional social attitudes at age 30 in a large (N = 7,070), representative sample of the British population born in 1970. Statistical analyses identified a general latent trait underlying attitudes that are antiracist, proworking women, socially liberal, and trusting in the democratic political system. There was a strong association between higher g at age 10 and more liberal and antitraditional attitudes at age 30; this association was mediated partly via educational qualifications, but not at all via occupational social class. Very similar results were obtained for men and women. People in less professional occupations-and whose parents had been in less professional occupations-were less trusting of the democratic political system. This study confirms social attitudes as a major, novel field of adult human activity that is related to childhood intelligence differences.



So in the first Deary study above we find that high IQ British voters did lean Left but they leant towards minority Leftist parties, not the major Leftist party, the Labour party.  The Labour party has some repellent union associations so may have been seen as unattractive for that reason.  The two minor parties, however, come across as high-minded.

The second study looked at the correlates of attitudes rather than vote.  And ever since LaPiere in the 1930s we have known that attitudes are at best only weakly related to behaviour.  Deary found greater social liberalism among high IQ people.

And so we come to Carl's 2014 American study. GOP identifiers were found to be slightly brighter on average than Democrat identifiers.

It is of course perfectly possible and reasonable that trends in Britain might not be reflected in the USA -- and vice versa.  That would seem to be the case here. But note that in no case is the major Leftist party favoured. But the association between vote and IQ was in any case weak so IQ is clearly a very minor factor in determining vote.  As I have often argued, it is a miserable personality that makes you Leftist.  See, for instance,  here

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