Skip to main content

In a statistical analysis I did last night, there appears to be a strong correlation between estimated intelligence and presidential candidate preference, computed by state.  Guess which candidate is favored by the states with the highest average intelligence?

Folks from states which favor Obama seem to be significantly more intelligent than those from states which favor McCain.

The Disclaimer:

This is an unprofessionally-produced statistical analysis I have thrown together using data from online sources (current as of September 24).  Here's how I did it:

The Data:

I took the estimated average IQs from a table at which computed intelligence from SAT scores by state (utilizing a table at  The averages are well above 100 because they are derived from college-bound SAT scores.

Then, from RealClear Politics I created the following variables:

1 - solid McCain
2 - leaning McCain
3 - toss up
4 - leaning Obama
5 - solid Obama

So, Texas (solidly pro-McCain) is a 1, North Carolina is a 2, Florida (a toss up) is a 3, Oregon is a 4, and Massachusetts (solidly pro-Obama) is a 5.

The actual data table I created is at the end of this diary.

The Results:

A Spearman Rank Correlation produced a probability of 0.005, which is generally considered a highly significant correlation.  (It means that the probability that the relationship found between estimated IQ and candidate preference was due to chance was 1 in 200.)

The Conclusion:

It strongly suggests that states with more intelligent citizenry (by virtue of being better educated) are more likely to favor Obama than McCain.

The Discussion:

There’s some problematic history to such claims.  A few years ago, a series of "studies" purported to show that states with more intelligent inhabitants were much more likely to vote for Kerry than for Bush: for example,  Unfortunately, the estimated IQs were never found to be valid and were largely dismissed as fraudulent.

In 2006, conservative Steve Sailer, founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and movie critic for The American Conservative, published new figures based upon the work of Michael McDaniel, a professor of business at my old alma mater, Old Dominion University.  He computed an insignificant probability (-0.12) that there was a correlation between average state IQ and voting for Bush over Kerry, thus claiming to debunk the notion that intelligence and voting patterns were related.  

Why is my analysis different from Sailer's?  I can’t say.  I’m not a statistician; I'm a clinical psychologist (very familiar with IQ tests in an assessment context), and while I have some basic knowledge of statistics (and used rather complex canonical models for my thesis and dissertation), I’ve done no such analyses in many years.  I’m certain a competent statistician or research designer would find shortcomings in my design, and challenge my conclusion.  I'm certain questions may be raised regarding the validity of candidate preferences from RealClear, the actual relationship between SAT scores and estimates of IQ, and the appropriateness of the Spearman statistic.  But, for now, I’m just putting it out there to provoke some discussion, perhaps to compel others to do more serious work addressing the issue.

And asking. . . is anyone really surprised?

The Data: State, IQ, preference
    Alabama, 106, 1
    Alaska, 109, 1
    Arizona, 107, 1
    Arkansas, 106, 1
    California, 109, 5
    Colorado, 109.5, 4
    Connecticut, 109, 5
    Delaware, 107, 5
    Washington DC, 99, 5
    Florida, 107, 3
    Georgia, 105, 1
    Hawaii, 109.5, 5
    Idaho, 109, 1
    Illinois, 109.5, 5
    Indiana, 109, 3
    Iowa, 111, 5
    Kansas, 109.5, 1
    Kentucky, 105, 1
    Louisiana, 104, 1
    Maine, 111, 5
    Maryland, 110, 5
    Massachusetts, 111, 5
    Michigan, 109, 3
    Minnesota, 111, 3
    Mississippi, 101, 1
    Missouri, 109.5, 2
    Montana, 110, 1
    Nebraska, 110, 1
    Nevada, 109.5, 3
    New Hampshire, 112, 3
    New Jersey, 110, 4
    New Mexico, 105, 4
    New York, 112, 5
    North Carolina, 104, 2
    North Dakota, 109, 1
    Ohio, 109, 3
    Oklahoma, 110, 1
    Oregon, 113, 4
    Pennsylvania, 109, 3
    Rhode Island, 108, 5
    South Carolina, 102, 1
    South Dakota, 109.5, 1
    Tennessee, 105, 1
    Texas, 106, 1
    Utah, 109.5, 1
    Vermont, 112, 5
    Virginia, 107, 3
    Washington, 112, 4
    West Virginia, 109.5, 1
    Wisconsin, 112, 3
    Wyoming, 109.5, 1

Originally posted to Sue Deaunym on Thu Sep 25, 2008 at 06:28 AM PDT.


I'm tellin' you my stats show Obama supporters are smarter than McCain supporters. You're tellin' me. . .

75%43 votes
5%3 votes
1%1 votes
1%1 votes
7%4 votes
8%5 votes

| 57 votes | Vote | Results

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

  •  what do you really think? (0+ / 0-)
  •  Of all the nice things people say about (0+ / 0-)

    McClown, nobody ever seems to praise his intellect, grasp of subject etc.  

    Since Nixon, repugs have insisted on stupidity as a qualification for prez.

  •  Don't conflate SAT scores with intelligence (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I think this is interesting work, but I take strong issue with your uncritical use of SAT scores as measures of "intelligence."

    Numbers are like people . . . Torture them enough and they'll tell you anything.

    by Actuary4Change on Thu Sep 25, 2008 at 06:37:06 AM PDT

    •  Let me guess (0+ / 0-)

      Did you get stellar grades throughout highschool? Did you receive a lower than average SAT score? Grades can measure motivation and work ethic as well as intelligence. Inate ability to understand complex issues and problems is IQ. Standardized tests, although imperfect, do correlate more closely with IQ scores than GPAs. Just saying...

      My candidate can beat the ever loving crap out of your candidate.

      by BetMyCitizenship on Thu Sep 25, 2008 at 06:41:41 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Don't assume. (0+ / 0-)

        My SAT scores were more impressive than my grades.

        I actually think that SAT scores reflect socio-economic status and ability to pay for a good test-prep course more than anything else, but then I'm not a particularly big fan of IQ tests either.

        Numbers are like people . . . Torture them enough and they'll tell you anything.

        by Actuary4Change on Thu Sep 25, 2008 at 07:20:50 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  actually, I did question the appropriateness (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Wee Mama

      of SATs as a measure of intelligence, citing that assumption as problematic in my discussion.  Your point, tho, is well taken.  It would be more appropriate to say presidential choice is correlated with educational success.

  •  actually, I did challenge the appropriateness (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    of SATs as a measure of intelligence, citing that as questionable in my discussion.  Your point, tho, is well taken.

  •  Vote for Obama or you are stupid! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    onanyes, Gorette, firendezyre4change

    Great campaign slogan actually.

  •  what was the actual correlation? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Wee Mama, Gorette

    What was the r value, please?  The significance level only tells me it is unlikely to be due to chance but says nothing explicitly about magnitude.

    As a clinical psychologist with a stats minor, I find your hypothesis interesting.  And thanks for the raw data!  

    Admittedly, SAT is only a moderate proxy for IQ (operationally defined by the Wechsler or Stanford-Binet), so perhaps some of your critics would prefer the conclusion that there is a correlation between academic skills and candidate selection.  (Of course, anyone who jumps to any cause-and-effect conclusion should really have a conversation with my intro psych students, who this very moment are taking their first exam -- and that topic is included!)

    Guess I oughta go back to proctoring.  ;)

  •  Pray the the GOP Doesn't Read This Diary (0+ / 0-)

    I can see the headline now:
    "Obama Supporters Claim That Americans Voting For McCain are "Stupid"

    and I'm not being sarcastic.  This diary is something a McCain operative would droll over.

    •  Well, I agree, and yet. . . (0+ / 0-)

      . . . I disagree.  I believe the GOP will get learn of this somehow, and find some way to make a stink over it.  But, then the message will get even more traction and visibility.  Which would please me greatly.

      On record: I've nowhere said McCain voters are "stupid."  I've only surmised that Obama voters are better educated, probably more intelligent.

      •  And You Think The GOP ... (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Wee Mama, Sue Deaunym

        ...would make that distinction?

        And you might be pleased that your article got more traction...but people WHOSE VOTES WE NEED might resent being called stupid. (and that IS how the GOP would frame it. And how the MSM would repeat it.)

        Remember the "bitter" comment by Obama? Made a lot of people mad, fueled the elitist meme. Feel free to wrap yourself in scholarly certitude; but me? I want those votes!

        •  good point! But. . . (0+ / 0-)

          I believe the folks who are claiming they intend to vote for McCain will never change their minds, no matter what he or Palin does, and speculation that they are less intelligent will indeed offend them.  But I suspect a big proportion of them will stay home.

          Independent and uncommitted voters, hearing that McCain supporters are less intelligent, might lean a bit more toward Obama.  

          And Obama supporters, armed with this information, will be careful to use small words and simple concepts in attempting to communicate with McCain followers.

    •  yes... (0+ / 0-)

      and McCain supporters are, for the most part...

      Never mind. ;-)

      When liberals saw 9-11, we wondered how we could make the country safe. When conservatives saw 9-11, they saw an investment opportunity.

      by onanyes on Thu Sep 25, 2008 at 07:23:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Did you (0+ / 0-)

    find out the percentage of those who took the SATs out of the entire voting population of the state? Or even the percentage of the state population as a whole who took the SATs? Point is that states with higher poverty, lower hs grad rates, etc., you'd find fewer college grads, fewer who took SATs. That would be, I think, a significant variable to take into account.

    Amazing what you did, however! Guess I'm agreeing, but saying it needs refining to be understood or perhaps even accurate.

    After living for 25 years in Massachusetts, now living in Florida, the difference would appear to be greater than 4 points!

    As I get older, I believe more and more that there is a significant ignorant (low intelligence and low informed) segment of the population that makes any progress difficult. Maybe about 30% of population? Ever listen to Cspan callers? Rest my case.

    "John McCain showed his personality this week and made some of us fearful." - George Will (Heh.)

    by Gorette on Thu Sep 25, 2008 at 07:32:43 AM PDT

  •  Brilliant (0+ / 0-)

    Since your numbers show my state to be the smartest state in the whole country, I am convinced of the brilliance of your analysis. Keep up the good work.

    This post is subject to Gershwin's Law: It ain't necessarily so.

    by mswaine on Thu Sep 25, 2008 at 07:52:17 AM PDT

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site