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Feb. 28 2010 - 1:44 pm | 2,853 views | 2 recommendations | 11 comments

Liberals and atheists are smarter than conservatives, study finds

Or at least have higher IQs — so draw your own conclusions. Here’s CNN:

Political, religious and sexual behaviors may be reflections of intelligence, a new study finds.

Evolutionary psychologist Satoshi Kanazawa at the the London School of Economics and Political Science correlated data on these behaviors with IQ from a large national U.S. sample and found that, on average, people who identified as liberal and atheist had higher IQs. This applied also to sexual exclusivity in men, but not in women. The findings will be published in the March 2010 issue of Social Psychology Quarterly.

Taboo as it may be to suggest one group of ideologues is smarter — on average, but not without exception — than another, the cold, hard evidence supporting this is significant. Just to clear up any doubt as to what “liberal” and “conservative” refer to, CNN adds:

The study takes the American view of liberal vs. conservative. It defines “liberal” in terms of concern for genetically nonrelated people and support for private resources that help those people. It does not look at other factors that play into American political beliefs, such as abortion, gun control and gay rights.

I usually don’t buy into this stuff, but there seems to be a good reason why smart people today are less likely to identify themselves as conservative. Conservatism at its core (Goldwater/Bill Buckley-type conservatism) is a perfectly legitimate and intellectually sound ideology, but modern conservatism (today defined by the likes of Reagan/Bush/Palin) has evolved into a predominantly anti-intellectual movement.

And to the extent that the liberal/conservative paradigm extends to the Democratic/Republican paradigm, this theory holds.

For starters, just look at the 2004 election. Even though John Kerry lost it, he won all 16 of the top 16 highest-IQ states. Bush, by comparison, won all 25 of the bottom 25. What is one to discern from that?

2008 exit polls show Obama resoundingly won Americans with college degrees, and crushed McCain among those with post-graduate degrees. He won economists, scientists, doctors, lawyers, professors… the list goes on. (OK, 2008 was an unusually Democratic year, but still.)

It’s no surprise that Sarah Palin’s ‘08 platform was mostly based on railing against intellectualism, and casting those people in coastal states who like to read as “elitists” and implying they weren’t “real Americans.”

Pew found this past summer that only 6 percent of scientists identify themselves as Republicans. Six percent. And only 9 percent identify themselves as “conservative.” Imagine that.

In colleges and universities across America, students overwhelmingly identify themselves as liberal over conservative. Why might that be?

The obvious caveat here is that there are many highly intelligent conservatives who just can’t identify with today’s Republican Party, which has been systematically alienating them and growing into an anti-intellectual movement. That’s what it comes down to. The Tea Party, which is in more ways than not a Republican Party appendage, is the perfect embodiment of this phenomenon.

As for religion, this is a more complex (and taboo) topic but on the most basic level it’s not beyond the pale that atheists have higher IQs.

Contrary to the amoral or nihilistic beings they’re often portrayed as, atheists are usually just self-conscious free thinkers who tend not to embrace what’s unprovable; lest they be be told what to believe. Religious people are, by definition, more willing to accept nebulous or intangible ideas about life and its meaning if it gives them comfort. What does that have to do with intelligence? Draw your own conclusions.


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  1. collapse expand

    No, no, no, Mr. Kapur. Not “Contrary to the amoral or nihilistic beings they’re often portrayed as”. Thats your rub. Wheres history to support you? The Republican party of today might be a little schizophrenic (all big tent parties basically are, they have to appeal to too many interests, so you could make the same argument about the Dems even if you think what they stand for is a bit more ‘coherent’ than the Repubs maybe). But history shows us those who thought they were smarter politically gave the world plenty of suffering (the fascists, the eugenics supporters, the Marxists, the Hitlers, the Maos, the Stalin). These folks all thought they were smarter and so tried to impose on humanity their digusting corrupt version of what we should be. And they were great failures all because they ignored God and said “I know better” and “If we only remake society my way, it’ll make things right”. What self delusion. If they had taken better advice (maybe “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding” Proverbs 3:5) instead of their own warped views of humanity, we’d all be better off today. So to summarize, even if you think supporters of one political party have a higher IQ than supporters of another, sure they might be data for that. But give me the more moral group anytime, not the parade of horribles I’ve accurately listed. Give me nothing remotely like their sorry bunch.

    • collapse expand

      Dear Jonathan R. Medina:

      For lack of a better way to say this, please stop stalking me. I don’t know why you insist on complaining about all my posts, but I don’t have time to read or reply to you.

      You can say what you want — it doesn’t bother me and I rarely read your comments anyway — but when I do I’m tired of having to correct the record for my readers every time you post misinformation or fatally flawed arguments. This time, Joanne Murphy did it for me.

      I’m also a bit creeped out by the fact that you’ve commented on nearly every one of my posts here and have not a single comment on anyone else’s at True/Slant.

      I appreciate the hits and I like opposing viewpoints but frankly you drag down the level of debate rather than raise it. I’d really appreciate it if you found another writer to cling to.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  2. collapse expand

    Oh please. You act as though no person who claimed to “believe in God” ever did anything bad! Hitler himself was a believer—The Nazi Iron Cross was inscribed with German for “God is with us.” Every maniac has always thought he had God on his side—from the modern Mideast to the bowels of medieval Europe. “God” does not give people morality—it is merely a reflection of the morality inherently in people. I find that most of the religious people who are good people would have bee good even without their faith; on the other hand the evil believers were not helped or made better by going to church (or temple or mosque). So in terms of absolute morality, religion is a wash.

  3. collapse expand

    Great evaluation of a touchy subject. One quote stands out to me though:

    “atheists are usually just self-conscious free thinkers who tend not to embrace what’s unprovable”

    Just for “intellectual”fun, it has always interested me that among atheists, a form OF religion, you can find the most intransigent

    thinking. Atheists spew venom at anyone who questions any evolutionary theory vs some “poor sap” that believes in any other religion. Yet weekly, monthly, yearly.. Million year swings are postulated after each unearthing of bones..

    So I have found (in my purely unscientific studies), your using the reference point; “atheists are usually just self-conscious free thinkers who tend not to embrace what’s unprovable” falls flat.

    Many a pseudo-intellectual stands teetering solidly on nebulous unproven mumbo jumbo. Article was great, just my twisted take.

    • collapse expand

      Atheism is not a form of religion. It’s not even close to any definition of a religion.

      Your post is meandering and inscrutable and makes me long for the clarity of dman7895…”stands teetering solidly” may be the highlight of the post.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
      • collapse expand

        Me put simpler.. me find it funny, sometimes people who wear the badge (oops sorry getting a little flowery here) of “intellectual” so proudly; have nebulous (woops) mixy-upsy beliefs as well. Me then go on to brilliantly state:

        “Atheists spew venom at anyone who questions any evolutionary theory vs some “poor sap” that believes in any other religion. Yet weekly, monthly, yearly.. Million year swings are postulated after each unearthing of bones..”

        Atheists and liberals? Did the liberal numbers have to get tossed into the mix to make the premise viable?
        (apologies jcalton for additional thought)

        In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    Well the findings of this study should be surprising to no one, except for those on the other side of the aisle. As you mentioned in your post it is an emerging theme being predicated by the right; this anti-intellectual movement. First they adopt and bastardize religion and now it has become the pursuit of idiocy, mis-information and ignorance. And the genius ploy of this stupidity campaign is that they not only have true representation, well a monopoly really (SP, Bachmann, Shimkus etc), but they have somehow managed to cleverly coalesce anti-intellectualism, pride and patriotism into this proverbial smoothie of intolerance and divisiveness. Despite their apparent retarded (not that kind, Sarah) mindset, no one can accuse the Republicans of not being great promoters, the likes of which Don King himself would envy. Unfortunately they have identified their electorate, made it seem as they were curtailing to their stupidity, all-the-while shaping those same people’s ideology and agenda. But back to the main point, the results of the study–yea duh.

  5. collapse expand

    You may be interested in our new review of American attitudes toward atheists in the latest issue of The Jury Expert: http://www.astcweb.org/public/publication/article.cfm/1/22/2/America-Hates-Atheists

    Rita Handrich, Editor
    The Jury Expert

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