Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Smarties fear nuclear power less than dummies do

In the comments of the previous post, a reader asserts a common perception (or misperception, apparently) concerning green luddites:
I'm glad to learn that the (self-described) "smarties" are now in favor of all that nuclear stuff they used to decry. I wonder if Hallmark makes a "I was stupid 'cause I was smart--I'm sorry!" card.

With the popularity among "smarties" of Red & Green anti-vivisection, anti-science, and anti-technology the "Scientists often pry into things they ought to leave alone" should have elicited close to 90% not 5.1%.
The GSS asked a couple of questions concerning the potential dangers of nuclear power generation--one about those posed to a respondent's family, the other posed to the environment in general--in 1993 and again in 1994. Responses are on a 5-point scale that I've inverted for ease of viewing. A 1 indicates the belief that the perils of nuclear power are minimal, a 5 that nuclear power is extremely dangerous. Respondents are broken up into five categories; Really Smarts (wordsum score of 9-10, comprising 13% of the population), Pretty Smarts (7-8, 26%), Normals (6, 22%), Pretty Dumbs (4-5, 27%), and Really Dumbs (0-3, 12%). The average (mean) response for members of each group is shown. One standard deviation for the question regarding the respondent's family is 1.10 and 1.04 for the question pertaining to the environment in general:

Really Smarts2.943.15
Pretty Smarts3.123.32
Pretty Dumbs3.483.63
Really Dumbs3.683.82

The tendency is clear--the more intelligent a person is, the less likely he is to fear nuclear power. The notion that hostile sentiments toward nuclear power disproportionately come from (or at least previously came from) affluent SWPLs is incorrect. That the most vociferous opponents are high-IQ types claiming to represent many other high-IQ types of the same mind may still be accurate, as that seems to be the case for protest movements in general (in addition to being sharp, it is my impression that they also tend to be underachieving leftists with little social prestige). But in aggregate, smarties are more technologically progressive than the masses are.

GSS variables used: WORDSUM(0-3)(4-5)(6)(7-8)(9-10), NUKEFAM, NUKEGEN


sykes.1 said...

Frankly, the trend is very weak. There is no substantial difference between the really smart and really dumb regardless of statistical significance. Opposition to nuclear power is still substantial, which will make conversion to nonfossil fuels very difficult if not impossible.

Xenophon Hendrix said...

Yes, it's a bummer that the difference between the smartest and the stupidest in nuke fear is only about two-thirds of a standard deviation. If I'm thinking straight, the difference in IQ is somewhat more than two standard deviations, right?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for revealing the truth! I'm pleased to discover the stupidies form the majority of the membership (probably) and followers (certainly) of the Sierra Club, PETA and the rest of the anti-science, anti-technology political factions. I'm pleased: I'd dismissed them as ignorant and ill-informed despite their apparent intelligence. Now I know they're ignorant and ill-informed because they're stupid!

Audacious Epigone said...


Necessity will be the answer to that difficulty, I hope.


The gap is more than one half a standard deviation, so it's not inconsequential. But it is not of the same magnitude as the spread in aptitude. And the difference between the Really Smarts and Really Dumbs is about 3 standard deviations.