Sunday, February 6, 2011

Blue State and Red State IQ is identical

The American left often congratulates itself on being smarter than the right. On the surface, this claim sounds plausible, since academics are disproportionally Democrat, and since some of the states most associated with poor educational outcomes (such as Mississippi) are solidly Republican.

The first problem with this line of argumentation is that it is lazy. The assumption is that if smart people vote Democrat, that in out of itself proves Democrats are right, without needing to prove the Republicans wrong in substance. However, like everyone else, the educated vote based on class interests, cultural identification and the ideological atmosphere of college, not just cold rational analysis of policy differences.

Second, there is actually no scientific evidence for the claim that Democrats are smarter, since no American political science database of voting to my knowledge collects IQ-data. Data on education and voting shows that Democrats and Republicans have identical average years of education. Democrats are over-represented among the most educated but also among the least educated, while Republicans have the middle.

Third, these voting patterns are constantly shifting, and differ across countries (and even within U.S states). As late as 1988 the educated voted overwhelmingly Republican. Through friends in Sweden have access to a high-quality dataset of IQ and voting, which confirms that Swedish Social Democrat voters have lower test scores than Swedish conservative voters. The fundamental arguments between pro-market and pro-government are the same in Europe and the United States. But the American left would never accept that the European right has superior arguments just because their voters have higher IQ than the European left (nor should anyone accept this premise). Yet the same liberals try to bully people in the U.S to vote for them based on the claim that Democrats are smarter than Republicans.

To make things worse, unlike Europe the American left have not taken the time to demonstrate their claim using actual test-score data. Democrats instead simple assume that they are smarter than everyone else!

This theory can ultimately only be evaluated using individual level data. The next best thing is analyzing proxies for state I.Q. Let me caution that this is problematic. Regarding income Andrew Gelman and others have shown the paradox that while Democrat States are on average richer than Republican States, Democrat voters are on average poorer than Republican voters.

Part of the explanation is that in Red states the poor vote Democrat and the rich Republican. Uneducated whites in the South, the demographic group the media likes to paint as bigoted Republicans, actually went close to 45% for Obama, perhaps because they earn little and didn't mind a little redistribution. McCain's margin in the South came from educated whites, a detail the media prefers to ignore since it contradicts their stereotypes.

I will use this paper in the prestigious journal Intelligence to get estimates of state I.Q, based on NAEP test scores.

If you just glance at the list, you might get the impression that the Blue states are indeed smarter than the Red states. I define Red states based on the 2004 Bush map, so New Hampshire is defined as blue and New Mexico as Red.

4 out of the top 5 are Democrat:

1. Massachusetts (D)
2. New Hampshire (D)
3. North Dakota (R)
4. Vermont (D)
5. Minnesota (D)

And 3 out of the 5 bottom states are Republican. Although the author doesn't include the District of Columbia, which would have had the bottom slot if included.

46. New Mexico (R)
47. Hawaii (D)
48. California (D)
49. Louisiana (R)
50. Mississippi (R)

However, looking more carefully at the list, the results are not that consistent. Red Midwestern and Mountain states such as the Dakotas, Montana, Kansas, Nebraska, Wyoming and Idaho do quite well. Meanwhile, large blue states such as California, Maryland and Illinois have unimpressive scores. So let's just estimate the average for all the Red states, and all the Blue states, weighted by the population of each state.

The result is not really surprising: The average I.Q level of Blue and Red States is identical: Blue States have an average IQ of 99.5 and Red States have an average I.Q of 99.4.

It would be strange if we found large differences, since we know from exit polls that Republican voters are on average no less educated than Democrat voters, and since I.Q and education are strongly correlated.

If the District of Columbia is included, the Red States would score slightly higher than the Blue states (although with I.Q a 1 point difference is meaningless).

Unless Democrats can produce a micro-study of adult voters that demonstrates that Democrat voters have significantly higher I.Q than Republican voters, they should respect the state of science and stop spreading the myth that they are smarter than everyone else.


Here is the full list of states and estimated IQ:

1. Massachusetts 104.3
2. New Hampshire 104.2
3. North Dakota 103.8
4. Vermont 103.8
5. Minnesota 103.7
6. Maine 103.4
7. Montana 103.4
8. Iowa 103.2
9. Connecticut 103.1
10. Wisconsin 102.9
11. Kansas 102.8
12. New Jersey 102.8
13. South Dakota 102.8
14. Wyoming 102.4
15. Nebraska 102.3
16. Virginia 101.9
17. Washington 101.9
18. Ohio 101.8
19. Indiana 101.7
20. Colorado 101.6
21. Pennsylva. 101.5
22. Idaho 101.4
23. Oregon 101.2
24. Utah 101.1
25. Missouri 101
26. New York 100.7
27. Michigan 100.5
28. Delaware 100.4
29. N. Carolina 100.2
30. Texas 100
31. Illinois 99.9
32. Maryland 99.7
33. Rhode Island99.5
34. Kentucky 99.4
35. Oklahoma 99.3
36. Alaska 99
37. W. Virginia 98.7
38. Florida 98.4
39. S. Carolina 98.4
40. Georgia 98
41. Tennessee 97.7
42. Arkansas 97.5
43. Arizona 97.4
44. Nevada 96.5
45. Alabama 95.7
46. New Mexico 95.7
47. Hawaii 95.6
48. California 95.5
49. Louisiana 95.3
50. Mississippi 94.2


  1. Do the respective averages among red states and blue states take into account the differences in population size? Judging from this list, a lot of the bigger blue states have lower average IQs than then smaller ones. California's low score is quite notable, and Texas' average is quite respectable for a red state whose demographics and a political culture are not too dissimilar from states like Alabama and Tennessee. My guess is that taking population size into account would bring down the average for blue states moreso than red states.

  2. Yes my calculations are already population weighted, using 2009 census data.

  3. I think the higher intelligence/education article is always a fun bit of hypocrisy. Just look at coverage of the tea party. At first they were ignored because it was just a bunch of racist, ignorant hicks, unlike the highly educated elites in the Democratic party. Then when actual data came out showing that tea partiers were mostly well-educated and had above-average income, it was fake populism by the rich elite who just wanted to keep their fat paychecks.

    Not that the right is particularly clean on these issues, either. I do find the different tactics interesting, though.

  4. Data on education and voting shows that Democrats and Republicans have identical average years of education. Democrats are over-represented among the most educated but also among the least educated, while Republicans have the middle.

    Then it stands to reason that white Democrats have many more years of education than white Republicans when you consider that non-whites are both more likely to vote democratic and average out to having less years of education.

    I think when people say "Democrats are smarter than Republicans" what they really mean is that white Democrates are smarter than white Republicans.

  5. I remember Audacious Epigone used GSS data to extract the IQ of conservatives and liberals(based on proxy political views) and compared them to their WORDSUM score and got the same result. More or less the same.

    I would expect the population of people who vote (who actually determine if a state is red or blue) would be different than the state as a whole. Poor people don't vote as much and skew Democrat everywhere.

  6. I don't recall any actual people on the left claiming to be smarter, but I do hear a lot of people on the right claiming they do. These "elites" are then dragging the dimwitted lower classes into a deviously planned Socialist state to enslave or eat them or something. Given this, it would seem that the "elites" likely ARE smarter and the dimwitted they carry along with them tend to lower the average score.

    In all seriousness though, I think that Democrat voters likely have a much broader range of IQs than Republican voters and a study on which way 120+ IQs vote might be more meaningful. I tend to vote for neither if I can help it, so there's your first data point.

  7. I wonder whether the leftist claims in the US that they are smarter is particular for the US? In Sweden I have always heard the opposite, the "conservatives" (moderaterna) are proud to call themselves smarter and more successful than their leftist opponents. In contrast the left uses some "moral superiority" arguments to counter the economic violence/suppression from the right. Just curious if this is a US/Europe divide or maybe more likely, my sample is too small.

  8. No matter what statistics I look at, Mississippi is always last. haha

  9. What about variance/standard deviation? Is there a significant different for standard deviations between the red and blue?

  10. There is a theory, that has been proven untrue for many years, that if you give the wealthy and the corporations tax breaks they will spend and create jobs, etc. It just doesn't happen. It is a theory that people have been brainwashed to believe but it simply is not true. What actually happens is the corporations take all the jobs overseas and the rich get richer while the poor get poorer and middle class disappears. When the middle class finally figures this out it will be too late because they are poor and have no power left. That is the reality of Capitalism. It is time to go back to the forefathers ideals for this country and march on washington to take back our country before it is too late!

    1. Well the Republicans talk about not taxing the job creators and use it as an excuse to cut taxes for the rich and corporations, but the truth of the matter is 70% of businesses, in this country, employ 9 or fewer employees, and of that 70%, 60% employs 3 or fewer employees. So the majority of job creators, in this country, are middle class small business owners, not multi-billion dollar corporations, or corporate executives pulling in $10 million a year. So the Republican mantra of not taxing the job creators as a justification for lowering corporate taxes, income taxes on the top 1%, and cutting capital gains taxes doesn't work because they're focusing their efforts on the wrong class. The Republicans believe if you cut corporate taxes, the corporations will use the tax money they save to hire more people. That doesn't work in a time of economic depression. Businesses only hire employees if it's profitable for them to do so. If there's not enough demand for their product or service to justify hiring a new employee because of high unemployment causing a lack of money in the economy, businesses aren't going to hire people. It would cost them more than their tax savings to hire an employee when demand for their product or service is down due to a sluggish economy. That's a fact the Republicans can't comprehend. The Republicans consistently pride Reagan tax cuts as the reason the recession of the 70's and on into the 80's was fixed, but they negate the fact that Reagan used Keynesian principles of economics to stimulate the economy. He nearly tripled the national debt during his term in office, and a great deal of that money was spent into the private sector during the cold war military build up. Had he not spent the US economy out of a recession, we would never have gotten out of it. His tax cuts had nothing to do with it, and he did, in fact, increase taxes on the poor and middle class.

  11. Also, after having debated many conservatives on many issues on youtube, I would have to say liberals are, in fact, smarter. The Republicans, when they debate, start out with a talking point they got from Fox News. Then once you prove their talking point to be crap, they just call you names. The Republican voter base doesn't know anything about anything.

  12. The proof is in the pudding, and Republican pudding is quite ignorant on the whole. IQ may be the wrong metric here. Perhaps emotional intelligence and or awareness of the issues, for which the best measure would be who republicans support and then there you go back to the same place. Republicans are less informed, intelligent, aware (or whatever you want to call it) than Democrats.

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