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Conservatism and Stupidity

From a new study:

Conservatism and cognitive ability are negatively correlated. The evidence is based on 1254 community college students and 1600 foreign students seeking entry to United States’ universities. At the individual level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with SAT, Vocabulary, and Analogy test scores. At the national level of analysis, conservatism scores correlate negatively with measures of education (e.g., gross enrollment at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels) and performance on mathematics and reading assessments from the PISA (Programme for International Student Assessment) project. They also correlate with components of the Failed States Index and several other measures of economic and political development of nations. Conservatism scores have higher correlations with economic and political measures than estimated IQ scores.

In other words, if you have low cognitive ability, a low SAT score, poor vocabulary, less than average education, are lacking in math or reading skills, or live in a place with a bad economy or politics, then you’re probably a conservative.

UPDATE: In fairness, here’s an article that points out some possible problems with this study.



  1. Morrius wrote:

    Facts have a well-known liberal bias.

    Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 5:32 am | Permalink
  2. I just wonder, can we turn the cliche around? Liberals have a factual bias? … Wait, maybe not. That could be taken several ways.

    Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Permalink
  3. starluna wrote:

    I will admit that I am biased towards facts. Probably why I can’t call myself a liberal. More of a progressive. The interesting thing is that facts can change if you change the circumstances that give rise to the facts.

    Saturday, May 30, 2009 at 3:36 pm | Permalink
  4. untravel wrote:

    I thought I should mention that while I criticized what I took to be the underlying premises of the study (graciously linked to in the update), my criticism was only based on the abstract and the outline, not the study itself. So it could be that the study’s author took into account those sorts of problems.

    Normally, I would be inclined to agree with its conclusions. (On my own blog, a search for the tags “conservatives” and “stupidity” would get a ton of results.) It’s just that badly constructed scientific studies are a pet peeve of mine, and so I probably wound up sounding more critical than necessary.

    And it IS pretty funny…

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 4:44 am | Permalink
  5. starluna wrote:

    I got a hold of the full text. I’ve only gotten about halfway through the method. It’s a pretty sound study, as these goes. They are using standard methods and measures. If you want to argue anything, you could dispute whether the tests for IQ actually measure intelligence, which is an important shortcomings in all studies like these.

    Sunday, May 31, 2009 at 6:50 am | Permalink
  6. Sammy wrote:

    Anecdotally speaking, I’ve known many stupid conservatives and liberals alike, as well as the opposite. However, I would have to say that it’s the conservatives who are mostly likely to automatically (and immediately) buy into any argument that “proves” a conservative viewpoint, without follow-up to check on facts.

    And when face with facts, I’ve found liberals more likely to acquiesce, while I’ve found conservatives to merely change the subject or deny that the facts are accurate (liberal media, et al).

    Monday, June 1, 2009 at 4:48 pm | Permalink
  7. Sammy wrote:

    Of course, one could say a sign of intelligence is the willingness to question and to change one’s mind. That is not a trait I have seen in many conservatives. To be fair, it’s also not a trait I’ve seen in anyone who is far left or far right.

    Moderation – it’s not just for diet.

    Monday, June 1, 2009 at 4:57 pm | Permalink
  8. Iron Knee wrote:

    Sammy, I think you make a very good point — the real problem is extremism, not conservatism. I think being an extremist makes you stupid, no matter if it is political, religious, or whatever-kind-you-like extremism.

    Monday, June 1, 2009 at 6:02 pm | Permalink

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