Sunday, December 21, 2008

Estimated average IQ of white voters by Presidential election, 1976-2004

++Addition++The Blogfather Steve Sailer weighs in. Remarking on the tendency of the winning candidate's supporters to have lower average IQs than the losing candidate's voters, he analogizes by way of late night comedians:
It's kind of like Jay Leno vs. David Letterman. Dave pitches his show at viewers with a 105 IQ, while Jay aims his show at 100 (I'm making these numbers up but I wouldn't be surprised if they were pretty accurate). Jay gets bigger ratings.
That gets under the skin of several of his readers. It seems accurate to me, though my perception is that it is not that Letterman's jokes are necessarily funnier, it's that his humor is aimed more directly at whiterpeople, who tend to be of above average intelligence, whereas Leno takes more of a shotgun approach.


Following are estimates for the average IQ of white voters by Presidential election, gleaned by converting from Wordsum scores from the GSS under the assumption that the average (mean) score for whites is equivalent to an IQ of 100, to complement the same that was previously done for all voters:

76, n=1542IQ

80, n=2303IQ

84, n=1757IQ

88, n=2070IQ

92, n=3347 IQ

96, n=1293IQ

00, n=1386IQ

04*, n=722IQ

The Republican IQ advantage (disadvantage) by election:

1976, Carter v Ford: 3.5
1980, Carter v Reagan: 2.4
1984, Mondale v Reagan: (0.9)
1988, Dukakis v Bush: (1.7)
1992, Clinton v Bush: (0.1)
1996, Clinton v Dole: 0.6
2000, Gore v Bush: (2.6)
2004, Kerry v Bush: (3.9)

Again, the sample sizes for "other" and to a lesser extent the third party candidates are too small to put much stake in (they remain virtually unchanged when shifting from all voters to white voters only, as third party voters are about as white as the GOP base is, what is often insinuated in national exit polls notwithstanding).

The trend is similar to what emerges when all voters are considered. Republican candidates are increasingly attracting less intelligent whites than Democrats are. The southern Democrats Carter and Clinton disturb the general trend, presumably by pulling more white support from the South than northern Democrats have been able to. The whiterpeople effect has really become pronounced since the turn of the millenium. I suspect when GSS data collection for '08 is made public, we will see the intelligence gap among white voters widen.

That might be unsettling to guys like Half Sigma or myself, but electorally it's not necessarily an ominous trend for the GOP. Stopped Clock makes a thoughtful case for why it is likely inevitable:
I see the declining Republican IQ as an unavoidable consequence of the increasing minority population of the US and the fact that the interests of minorities conflict most strongly with whites who are low on the income ladder rather than high. ...

This could mean that poor whites are doomed to become everybody's dumpster, and that a party with them as its base will have little room for growth. Or it could mean that the USA will turn into a nation of Alabamas, with 88% of the whites voting Republican and 90+% of the nonwhites voting Democratic. If there is even a modest flow of presently Dem-leaning whites back into the Republican party, it could hold back the Democrats' gains for quite a long time, perhaps long enough to allow differences of opinion to split apart the Democratic coalition. But it might not be possible for the Republicans to win a true majority of whites without adopting many party platform positions that are presently associated primarily with Democrats, such as a pro-choice abortion stance and whatever else happens to be the issue of the day.
The candidate whose white supporters were less intelligent than his opponent's were was victorious in six of the last eight elections (not including '08, for which GSS data has not yet been gathered). This is not surprising, as self-described moderates and independents are consistently shown to be less educated, less intelligent, and less affluent than partisans or conservatives and liberals are.

GSS variables used: WORDSUM, PRESXX, RACE(1)

* The GSS did not provide an "other" category for the '04 Presidential election.


Joyce said...

So where are these high-IQ Democrats I'm always hearing about? Why don't I ever meet one? Or find a comment on a message board by one? Or see one running for office? Or read a newspaper article by one?

Every Democrat I've ever met or heard of has been dumb as a post. Where are these alleged smart ones?

Anonymous said...

Now, be fair Joyce. The high-IQ Democrats are out there, all right. You've probably met some (or perhaps you met an anomalous bunch - always possible). They're using their big brains to think of clever ways of fooling themselves into believing their neomythology. A really good accounting of leftist goofiness (Pinker's The Blank Slate) talks in detail about how such high scorers can think such utter garbage.

Here's a personal note - once I had a conversation with a very bright lefty friend of mine. Was trying to figure out why he hated The Bell Curve so much. Before I read it, he hated it because "The policy recommendations are complete non sequiturs given the science!"

After I read it (and found that no such thing was the case), he hated it because "They don't include important evidence that doesn't support their thesis", a case in point being the famous study of the children of American servicemen born to German women in the 1940s (n= just over 100, I think)*. I pointed out that I had read of that study ... in The Bell Curve.

He said, "Yeah, they include the evidence, but they don't admit it defeats their thesis." I offered to go look up Herrnstein & Murray's response to the study, but he said that kind of bad science put him in such a bad mood he couldn't discuss it any further.

*(Upshot of the study is, if half black half white children grow up in an environment free of racism, like Germany in the 1940s, their IQs will equal those of white children, since we can be certain the black GIs that were fathering children with German women had average black IQs. So obviously not all leftists have two brain cells to rub together.)

The Undiscovered Jew said...

"The candidate whose white supporters were less intelligent than his opponent's were was victorious in six of the last eight elections (not including '08, for which GSS data has not yet been gathered)."

Part of the explanation could be that the winning candidate appears to have a dumber electorate simply because the winning candidate wins more absolute numbers of white voters.

Only 16% of whites have an IQ over 115. There are numerically speaking more absolute numbers of middling intelligence whites for the parties to fight over.

Also, the smarties usually think about politics more and already have their minds made up long before election day because the smarties are more partisan as GNXP has shown.

The more whites you win, the lower the IQ of your white electorate will seem because as the winning candidate wins more absolute numbers of white voters, the closer he will get to the US white IQ average of 101.

However, to the extent they are winning the high IQ white vote, I question whether the Democrats will be able to hold on to much of the high IQ white vote as the minority portion of the Democrat party grows.

High IQ whites don't have anything in common economically speaking with low IQ minorities. High IQ whites in my experience vote Democrat based on SWPL issues minorities don't care about such as the environment, gay rights, etc.

SWPL issues keep high IQ whites in the Democrat fold so long as the Democrats don't go too far left on economic issues and threaten the wallet. But it is hard for me to see how the Democrats can resist hard left economic policies forever as more low IQ minorities swell their ranks and demand payoffs.

Look at Gov Patterson in NY, he wants to raise taxes on SWPL goods like Yachts and income taxes but he also wants to increase welfare payments by 30%. It will be interesting to see if whites turn against Patterson in the polls because of his tax attack on SWPL luxury goods.

Stopped Clock said...

I should clarify that my claim that poor whites are hurt more by minority agendas than rich whites are is something that I myself am not really sure of. Nevertheless, here is my explanation for why I said it:

I think it can be said that the class warfare is pretty much over since there's been very little difference between the Republican and Democratic party positions on taxes and other economic issues for the past thirty years ... ever since Reagan took office no Democratic administration has attempted to raise income taxes back to anything approaching the levels they were at under Carter, and no Republican one has made anything more than token gestures to cut them further. Obama is planning to raise taxes on the upper middle class from 35% to 39%, but under Carter they would have been paying 71%. Other sources of taxes such as Social Security haven't really changed much either, as far as I know. (I thought Bush had a chance of winning the youth vote by privatizing Social Security and thus relieving today's young people of the responsibility of paying for their parents' retirement, but it never happened.) Obama is promising to cut taxes for the middle class, and McCain promised to cut them for everybody, though I never believed either of them.

Overall, I would say there isn't much difference between the two parties on economic issues. I haven't read What's the Matter with Kansas?, but I gather the central message of the book is that Republicans win the votes of poor white Christian conservatives by using "carrot-and-stick" promises such as planning to ban gay marriage and abortion and then never actually doing it because if they ever actually won the Culture War they'd have to start running on a rich-only platform and thus end up alienating the poor whites. And while I'm sure that this is to a great extent true, I think the Culture War isn't the only reason that poor whites tend to vote Republican.

Crime may be a much bigger factor. Murder rates doubled immediately after the death penalty was abolished around 1965 and stayed high until it was reinstated again twenty years later. Around 2000 the murder rate returned to the 1950 level for the first time -- but the capital punishment rate had also returned to its 1950 level, and the prison population had risen even higher than that, outraging white liberals who are more afraid of the police than they are of criminals. Whites who live in high-crime areas tend to favor the Republican tough-on-crime approach, and also tend to be poorer than whites for whom the presence or absence of the death penalty has no real bearing on their life. I would hypothesize that white support for the death penalty and harsher crime penalties decreases just as steadily with income as does, counterintuitively, the probability of actually being imprisoned or executed. The GSS says that I'm wrong, and that in fact support for the death penalty increases slightly with income, but the GSS seems to be a compilation of responses dating back to 1972, so perhaps as many as half of them date from a time when people were thinking less logically about crime control and fewer lower-class whites were Republicans. (Although race doesn't seem to have much of an effect on this question.)

And of course there's affirmative action. I would think that poor whites are more likely to be victims of Affirmative Action because they're more likely to work with lots of low-performing minorities, but on the other hand, anecdotally it would seem that the gap in competence between whites and NAMs gets rapidly wider the further up the income ladder one goes.

I need to look at those rich-poor gap graphs some more. Also the GSS.

Audacious Epigone said...


Oh c'mon, you're surely being facetious. There are pundits like Matthew Yglesias out there. And have you spent any time on a college campus recently? You might be confusing common sense or empirical-mindedness with raw intelligence!


I've had variations of that conversation more times than I can count. Whenever I'm able to turn the conversation to something regarding opinions on who the greatest thinker/social policy writer of our time is, I always say Charles Murray (if I said Steve Sailer I'd unfortunately just get blank stares or polite, ignorant smiles). If he's not recognized, I'll talk about his work on welfare reform, and back them in that way. But most polite people who are familiar with him immediately think Bell Curve, and the sirens go off.


Yes, as I tried to point out in the post, I think you're correct. Moderates/independents are less intelligent than political or ideological partisans are, and the winner gets most of them.

Too bad we don't have GSS data to cross tab with an exit poll question that is always asked: "When did you decide who to vote for?" I share your presumption that a solid correlation would be discovered.


Gelman and co argue that class still matters. I think that's overblown, with race being more important, especially in states with lots of racial diversity, the class effect appearing largely because of the fact that it's impossible to separate race from class when NAMs and whites are in the equation.

Re: crime and white voter behavior, at the state level you're right, but geographic location (urban/suburban/rural) is hard to extract from that. DC's whites vote overwhelmingly Democrat, even though they're at greater risk of becoming crime victims than a white guy living in western Nebraska is.

Audacious Epigone said...


Re: FICA and Medicare tax rates, the percentage and the ceiling have both risen pretty steadily in the case of the former (if memory serves FICA started around 1% or so back in the New Deal days--now it's 6.2 up to $106k). The HI (Medicare), which has been around since the 60s, started at less than 1% (there's no ceiling on it).

The Undiscovered Jew said...


I think looking at past exit polls that record income and/or education levels would be a superior proxy for IQ than using Wordsum.

Wordsum measures verbal IQ, but wealthier white Republicans - especially men - likely score higher on visuospatial IQ than white Democrats.

If you use income and education level as a proxy for IQ instead of Wordsum I suspect the winner-loser IQ gap will be much narrower than these Wordsum results suggest because income/education will better measure both visuospatial and verbal IQ.

But the overall trend of the loser having a higher voter IQ average than the winner will likely still hold if you use income and education level because of what you said about having to win over moderates.

agnostic said...

What is it with this visuospatial crap? The best single predictor of visual IQ is -- verbal IQ. Not income, education, or whatever else.

Just because verbal IQ shows that hunters are stupider than non-hunters, and that Republicans are getting dumber, we suddenly think it doesn't tell us pretty much what visual IQ tells us -- i.e., how smart a person is.

Notice, btw, how no one moaned about using WORDSUM in any IQ-related post before (going back to at least 2006 in the Steveosphere). Only when we start taking a look at proles in red states -- who, being working class, are more likely to be Democrats anyway!

Audacious Epigone said...


Yeah, that needs to be said.

The potential problem is that the good doesn't quite measure up to the perfect. The fallacy tends to be the presumption that a strong proxy is misleading rather than highly suggestive for what would be seen if the actual attribute being proxied for was measured.

That should be the default if there is no reason to suspect systematic differences (ie, black guys are faster than white guys in the 100m dash on the track because black guys are faster in the 100m on the asphalt parking lot, versus presuming that black guys are faster at the 1600m than whites guys are because blacks run the 100m faster). I'm not aware of any reasons for suspecting systematic differences in Wordsum scores versus IQ scores, with the minor exception of gender differences.

mike said...

These differences don't mean anything without the standard deviations of each variable. How many clear 95% confidence intervals? 99%?

Audacious Epigone said...


What variables are you referring to? I set the IQ conversion based on SDs for wordsum scores, with one SD being a little over 2 points on the vocab test. I didn't run correlations, just averages (means) with the sample sizes stated. I'm not sure exactly what you're asking for.

Do you want the Pearson chi-squared p-values for each election? They run from 0.0 to 0.09, depending on election. You may have to spell it out in simple vernacular--I'm not a statistician!

dave in boca said...

Nothing about the methodology, but the Anderson Campaign's high IQ interests me personally as I was John A's Middle East advisor during his run for the Oval Office, and the solid high-single-digit vote JA got finally helped end the disaster that was James Earl Carter [though sadly, that specimen of meddlesome moronhood still intrudes on our national consciousness with his inappropriate observations as regularly---and thoughtfully---as a cuckoo clock sounds the hours in Swiss chalets].

The smartest smarty-pants were the Naderites who in 2000 prevented a total buffoon from winning the race---thank you Ralph, from a true fan who is grateful that what you did to Gore is what Anderson helped do to Carter!

The smartest guys were the edge of the wedge...!

Anonymous said...

"Every Democrat I've ever met or heard of has been dumb as a post. Where are these alleged smart ones?"
I don't believe you. Try looking in Fairfax County, Virginia, which has the highest median household income in the country and the highest percent of people with graduate degrees. Fairfax voted 60% for Obama. Ditto just about every other affluent, educated region of the country outside the south.
Or is it just that you flatter yourself that people with opinions different from yours are stupid? I must admit I tend to do the same when I hear blowhard radio talkshow hosts (you know the ones, I'm sure) and I can't help concluding that their followers are, well, dumb as a...