Sunday 29 November 2015

US academics: Lefty and Liberal because of high IQ?


There is a long academic tradition of regarding opponents as mentally disturbed. Such condemnatory revelation is done more in sorrow than malevolence, the investigators would have us believe. Academia has looked long and hard at Right wingers and pronounced them a pretty odd bunch, suffering from something called The Authoritarian Personality. Fascists is the more usual appellation, and their horrible opinions are calibrated on the F scale. What do Right wing academics say about Lefties? Not much, because there are few Right wing academics in social psychology.

One interpretation popular among Lefties is that the brighter you are, the more likely you are to be a Leftie. At the higher levels of intellect you see things as they really are: Socialist. There is a fair bit of data to support this position. The alternative explanation is that the brightest people want to run things and make money, and regard academia as a boring waste of time. Bright people look at the bitter way academics argue, all the more petulantly and virulently in obscure matters because “the stakes are so low” and escape into the real world. Very bright people tend to the Right, and in their pursuit of power and wealth simply don’t care what academics chatter about, because their mutterings don’t make any difference. The Brightest have left college to compete for the glittering prizes, and the lefties are the social incompetents who remain perpetual students, striking absurd postures about world events over which they have no influence.

At this point you might like to look at a previous post which sets out the general thesis that the Left gather together the very brightest people and the dullest, thus joining together in a U shaped curve the clever idealists who really believe in Leftism and the dull ones who only sign up because they are the beneficiaries. This last group are not bright, but know what is good for them.

Then go through the comments, and note that on 3rd October 2014 Noah Carl writes in to say: My reading of the literature is somewhat different to Solon's. I am currently working on a critical comment piece, which I intend to submit as a response.

Here, after the usual paper-journal delay, is Noah Carl’s interesting paper: Can intelligence explain the overrepresentation of liberals and leftists in American academia? Intelligence Volume 53, November–December 2015, Pages 181–193  doi:10.1016/j.intell.2015.10.008

The author says: It is well known that individuals with so-called liberal or leftist views are overrepresented in American academia. By bringing together data on American academics, the general population and a high-IQ population, the present study investigates how much of this overrepresentation can be explained by intelligence. It finds that intelligence can account for most of the disparity between academics and the general population on the issues of abortion, homosexuality and traditional gender roles. By contrast, it finds that intelligence cannot account for any of the disparity between academics and the general population on the issue of income inequality. But for methodological reasons, this finding is tentative. Furthermore, the paper finds that intelligence may account for less than half of the disparity on liberal versus conservative ideology, and much less than half the disparity on Democrat versus Republican identity. Following the analysis, eight alternative explanations for liberal and leftist overrepresentation are reviewed.

Overrepresentation of liberals and Democrats appears to be largest in the humanities, the social sciences, and the arts (particularly sociology, anthropology and the performing arts), and appears to be smallest in economics, business, computer science, engineering and military science. For example, the ratio of liberal to conservative English literature professors may be as high as 28:1, while the ratio of Democrat to Republican sociology professors may be as high as 44:1 . Overrepresentation in the physical sciences, the biological sciences and mathematics appears to be intermediate, though still considerable.

After reviewing the political affiliations of American law professors, Lindgren (2015) concluded that, “By some measures, in 1997 the most underrepresented racially defined groups were Non-Hispanic white Republicans and non-Hispanic white Protestants”. ” Similarly, when the psychologist Jonathan Haidt asked attendees at the 2011 meeting of the Society for Personality and Social Psychology to indicate their political affiliations via a show of hands, he counted only 3 conservatives and only 12 libertarians, but approximately 800 liberals (Duarte et al., 2014). The 23rd annual Commencement Speakers Survey carried out by Young America's Foundation documented a ratio of six liberal speakers for every one conservative speaker among the top 100 universities. And notably in 2014, invitations to at least six prominent commencement speakers' were met with protests on campus from liberal or leftist student groups, leading to the cancellation of four.(Strauss, 2014; Chotiner, 2014). It is important to keep in mind that American academia has probably not always been so skewed toward liberalism and leftism. Duarte et al., (2014) compiled historical figures on academic psychologists' partisan affiliations, which indicate that the ratio of Democrats to Republicans may have been as low as 2:1 or even parity in the 1920s.

High intelligence may explain Leftism for the following reasons: Academic advancement requires very high intelligence, and since few individuals with conservative or rightist views possess very high intelligence, such individuals are comparatively scarce within the academy. At present, there is a certain amount of circumstantial evidence for this hypothesis. Numerous studies have found that individuals with higher intelligence to be more socially liberal on issues such as gay marriage, abortion, working women, free speech and marijuana legalisation.

Americans with higher intelligence are apparently more likely to identify as liberal on a liberal/conservatism scale. And compared to Americans with only high intelligence, those with the highest intelligence are more likely to identify as Democrat, more likely to support welfare for the poor, and more likely to favour affirmative action for minorities. In addition, scholarly elites such as Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and Putnam fellows have donated to the Democratic Party far more often than they have donated to the Republican Party. However, there is also some circumstantial evidence against the hypothesis. In particular, several studies have found that individuals with higher intelligence tend to be more economically rightist in areas such as redistribution of income and government control of the economy.

Method: Fig. 1 illustrates the method used for assessing how much of the overrepresentation of liberals and leftists in American academia can be explained by intelligence. I first bring together data on the political beliefs of three separate populations: academics, the general population, and a high-IQ population. I then calculate the proportion of each population that identifies with various political positions (e.g., thinking of oneself as a liberal, supporting the Democratic Party). The extent of overrepresentation for any particular position is simply the percentage point difference between academics and the general population (i.e., the total length of the right-hand bar in Fig. 1). And the fraction of this overrepresentation that can be explained by intelligence is simply the percentage-point difference between the high-IQ population and the general population divided by the percentage-point difference between academics and the general population (i.e., the grey portion of the right-hand bar divided by the total length of the bar). In the hypothetical case of Fig. 1, there is a 10 percentage-point gap between academics and the general population of which 50% (i.e., 5 percentage points) can be explained by intelligence.


This is a crude variance estimate method, but at least is clear in how it is being calculated, and seems reasonable.

I define the high-IQ population as the roughly 4% of GSS respondents who scored 10 out of 10 in the vocabulary test. Note that a score of 10 equates to a mean IQ of ~128, which is just under two standard deviations above the population mean. This is in line with estimates for the average IQ of academics that have been reported in the literature, though it may understate the intelligence of academics in the physical sciences, whilst possibly overstating the intelligence of academics in the social sciences and humanities (see Dutton & Lynn, 2014). Gibson and Light (1967) tested 148 male academics at Cambridge University, and reported a mean IQ of ~128 among physicists, and of ~122 among social scientists.

So, given that method, here are some of the political views showing what proportion of those viewpoints might be accounted for by intelligence.


Here, in tabular form, are the striking differences between academics, the general public, and high IQ people.

Proportions backing various views


I have summarised Noah’s possible explanations very briefly, but the paper is particularly interesting on the more detailed arguments:

1 Self selection: Academics may be more Open to Experience in personality.

2 Self selection: Academics less interested in making money and raising children.

3 Self selection: scholars can cope with ambiguity, conservatives not.

4 After self selection, social pressure strengthens group think.

5 Self selection: Academics have weedy, feeble physiques, were probably fearful and bullied, hence want restorative “justice”.

6 Academics become more liberal through groupthink.

7 Academics have low pay relative to their educational level compared with independent professionals, resent them, want equality of influence.

8 Academics discriminate against any candidate with right wing inclinations.

Personally, I see all these as boiling down to two factors: self selection and social pressure.

Noah concludes: Intelligence can account for most of the disparity between academics and the general population on the issues of abortion, homosexuality and traditional gender roles. By contrast, intelligence cannot account for any of the disparity between academics and the general population on the issue of income inequality. Furthermore, intelligence may account for less than half of the disparity on liberal versus conservative ideology, and much less than half the disparity on Democrat versus Republican identity. Possible explanations for the remaining overrepresentation comprise: self-selection on personality, interests, cognitive style or preferences; social homophily and political typing; self-selection on strength and stature; individual conformity; status inconsistency; and discrimination.

In sum, this paper shows that intelligence is a large part of the answer, but not all of it. The paper also shows the very clear difference in political and social attitudes between academia and society as a whole. It does a great service in showing this yawning chasm of attitudes.

If you evaluate arguments by questioning the motives of the proponents (does the Left do this more frequently than the Right?) then academia is so biased that its findings should be set aside. Nothing these apparatchiks “find” can be trusted. They are Lefties, espousing Leftie causes, and they are a burden on the public purse. On the other hand, if all these disciplines have strong methods and a respect for facts, then the standard procedures of empirical science should prove sufficient to reveal errors in research, so science should self correct. On this, possibly too optimistic reading, there is no need to pack academia with Right wing scholars (and such affirmative action should be anathema to them anyway) because the truth will out in the end. In conclusion, we have to examine arguments regardless of motives, and seek to improve the accuracy and soundness of research. A topic for a blog, I think.




  1. I was thinking of looking at how IQ predicts political identification among the *general population* in the UK. It turns Deary and co. have a paper on exactly this topic:

    Green - 108.3
    Liberal Democrat - 108.2
    Conservative - 103.7
    Labour – 103
    Plaid Cymru - 102.5
    Scottish National - 102.2
    UKIP - 101.1
    British National Party - 98.4
    Did not vote/None of the above - 99.7

  2. The extreme ideological imbalance of Academia suggests groupthink/social conformism. Smart people are better at fitting in and saying the right things. Smart people here insisted that restrictive immigration was xenophobic. But now that this is not a strong majority position anymore they don't. If this was due to their intelligence you would expect them to be the first to understand the situation and reconsider. But it's clear that they are the last to do so.

  3. Smart people are better at understanding what is considered 'socially good', and doing just that. Since the left controls all means of propaganda (pre-k through college, the news media, hollywood) smart people are more likely to be left wing simply because they are better at following.

    1. In other words, ''they'' are nasty, implicit not-so-righteous mind, ;)

  4. Forty years ago I'd have doubted "at Cambridge University ... a mean IQ of ~128 among physicists". Then I moved there and met one physicist who was actually dim. Golly he was a stupid and ignorant fellow. It wouldn't need many like him to drag the mean down to 128. But he flourished: he clearly had some specialised ability that didn't show up on IQ tests.

  5. Liberals have their own definition of liberal. Liberals also have their own definition of conservative. Is it any wonder conservatives come off poorly in comparison?

    I am a conservative with a 140+ IQ. Trust me on this; You want a conservative designing your bridges, not a liberal.

  6. Agree that bridge design is a good real world test of ability

  7. back when academia had more WW II vet profs, we had fewer libs. vets got rarer, especially ex-enlisted vets. in the 1990s academia became a PC grab-ass left wing festival (especially in non-hard science areas).

    now, half of academia is a cottage industry for professional ethnics & LGBT grievance industries. such an environment is NOT fun for those who see it as pandering, & who see differing group success rates due to differing levels of ability & work, rather than due to prejudice or "micro-aggressions." (one who uses Ockham's razor rather than elaborate environmentalist views could have their eyes permanently raised upward from too much eye rolling:)

    few conservatives volunteer for such an environment. ah well, not many folks volunteer for the amish, either:)
    ex academic, joomby

    1. The problem is exactly here!!

      With very hasty conclusion that ''iq=intelligence'' (sss) not-so-wise people decide elaborate elegant explanations for a lot of incongruencies that supposed ''smartER ones'' to do.

      Why ''smarter ones'' are so naive*** blablabla

      Ockham razor is not a razor, is the fan of Kitana.

      Simplistic is not the same than synthetic.

      Indeed, neanderthal live,

      me smarter,
      u no smarter.

  8. PS - the liberal stranglehold on high IQ will eventually drop - in the US the liberal democratic party members are more & more those from traditionally lower-IQ groups (aka vibrant diverse persons of color). liberal IQ distribution will become more bimodal soon, with enough new underclass members to lower the mean:)

  9. I have seen some suggestions (not able to chase any papers down on this) that libertarians (left and right) tend to be brighter than liberals/conservatives.

    Within Psychology, liberals dominate and when I trained (in the 1980's and 1990's) I tended to dislike the 'rats and stats' side of Psychology, preferring the Social Psychology approach, which fitted with my left-wing politics.

    Since working as a Psychologist, however, I have drifted back to 'rats and stats' - how confident can we be about the work that we do, unless we base it on good, replicable research? Accompanying this focus on hard evidence has been disillusionment with my previous left-wing politics - to quote that good liberal Randy Newman (who is also a realist) in imaginary conversation with Kark Mark - "Karl, the world isn't fair, it wasn't and never will be.."

    But maybe this right-ward drift is just age and alcohol related brain-damage, making me less smart?

  10. ''Assuming porn star fertility is well below average (I guess??), does porn have eugenic effx by locking terrible people out of reproduction?''

    ''Sabisky'' talking about ''terrible people'' *****


    hbebê (baby) is disturbed amoral!!!!

  11. Slave narrative= iq-hbb

  12. In my experience, Lefties in academia tend to be weak at science and math, and therefore not very bright. They permeate places like Harvard because they hire each other regardless of merit....

    1. Often the case. Propositions are literary essays with historical allusions, but since Left position taken by 80% of social scientists that includes many with good statistical skills

  13. "I define the high-IQ population as the roughly 4% of GSS respondents who scored 10 out of 10 in the vocabulary test. Note that a score of 10 equates to a mean IQ of ~128, [...]"

    Ceiling effect.



  15. But what kind of question-begging is required in order to ascertain that high intelligence can "account for most" disparities on the issues of homosexuality, abortion, and "traditional gender roles" between liberal doyennes and the hoi polloi?

    I might allow that liberal academics-- here and there-- possess high IQ; but the mere possession is not an argument in favor of pet opinions. God save Luchino Visconti, but the unfalsifiable dogma that homosexuality simply cannot be maladaptive or unnatural is so screechingly irrational-- indeed, in most heterosexuals of good will simply so willfully uninformed (with so many Disneyfied clichés about the gay milieu substituting for unprejudiced observation)-- as to qualify in the eyes of any impartial Martian onlooker simply as another wearisome Medieval hysteria.

    Noah's points as given do have some interest, but his drift seems to be that only when academics fail to embrace libertarian bread-and-butter issues do they evidence irrationality.

    I'm only being a drive-by shooter here, not having read his article, but in the pride of unabashed ignorance I'm going to venture out on a philosophical limb and say that there can be no such explanatory power of high IQ to explain fashionably liberal social opinions, as such opinions can only ever be validated by some sort of persuasive argument-- and the arguments adduced in today's media, highbrow or otherwise, are mostly either Unitardian, Utilitardian, or else just out somewhere on the continuum between browbeating and brainwashing (Stalinitardian?).

    It's not enough to argue that "high IQ predicts being so over yesterday's boring gender roles because, like, boring gender roles are so like obviously OVER, poopyhead!" Not all high IQ types have talked themselves into liberal creationism yet; and reality, which has a kind of quotient of its own, remains (I would suggest) undeterred by academic majority consensus.


    1. The vast, vast majority of philosophers, perhaps since the Hellenistic times, were never real philosophers, that is, wises, and particularly, conceptual workers/actors of wisdom. The wise born philosopher and lives his gift, while many of the philosophers and especially the academic ones, only touch the surface and between other peripheral parts of wisdom.

      It seems very simple, but let's think again, as would the concept of philosophy.

      '' Search for wisdom. ''

      That simple, and yet so difficult. But the message is clear. And the truly wise do not waste time with the periphery, the essence is the core.

      The Greek philosopher who did not complain of the social structure of their society, in pre-Roman times, which justified slavery in the light of an alleged '' historical moral context ''. Great nonsense !!!

      For if philosophy is the search for understanding and act / react via wisdom, then it is impossible that you can use it in justification of any explicit exploitation of man against his '' similar '' or even against any being do not deserve, there is no justification.

      If philosophy is in search of wisdom and its subsequent use as transcendental approach, then it is impossible that it can continue binary primitivism, or may not be, and proclaim global inferiority compared to heterogeneous groups such as homosexuals. Yes, many homosexuals are maladaptive and many others will not. There is no doubt that in reproductive terms, homosexuality will be as compromising as well a severe mental disability for example. However, there are many other perspectives and if you are not, nor a mammal, but an insect that only eat and reproduce, then these other possibilities should be considered as well.

      The real philosophical thought, and if not especially through my attempt, personal and arrogant, to produce it, should seek from every pore of existence, as a possibility for social harmonization.

      We live in societies of the labels, quintessentially talking, expressing our animal, evolutionary and adaptive momentum. Labels are not more important than the essence, and this is where everyone will be more equal, because everyone will be in the same situation. The essence of being, of existence, the awareness of death, the human being.

      But still very very important.

      Now, we're dealing with psychopaths, then we could, especially from a moral perspective, determine such a group as essentially inferior, if the entire system, individual or group, has the same hierarchy of importance, the nucleus, its borders touching the surrounding space.

    2. Consider multiple perspectives, this is true philosophical thinking, the rest will be academic hyperlexia, elegantly hysterical.

      And again, it's not because most of the leftists are stupid, you conservatives, will be better.

      Yes, they are antagonistic groups (but by some perspectives), especially now, in our era depressing, but it's not like oil and water, has more water will then have less oil.

      Essentially speaking, you guys are are not the same intellectual inferiority, but also complementary. Both are dogmatic.

      The conservatism is correct in some parts of which are within the core of public existence, i.e., a group, breed, species: the reproduction of the species.

      Still, conservative domination for centuries and the best of evolution that can produce is this ***

      Let grossly summarize correctly but what it is is.

      Do you believe in mystical stories, which have not an drop of chance of being true. And with this trick, where the word God is used and abused constantly, you guys convince most of those low technical intelligence to reproduce. AMAZING !!! And their intellectual class is rickety and is always advocating absurd.

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  17. My problem with the paper is that the author notes the large differences by discipline and then does not connect that to the overall intelligence results. Especially given the differences by discipline do not line up with one's expectations about intelligence. (The author does point out he is using a narrow--i.e. verbal--version of intelligence: which may help explain the failure to account for such large discipline differences.)

  18. "On this, possibly too optimistic reading, there is no need to pack academia with Right wing scholars (and such affirmative action should be anathema to them anyway) because the truth will out in the end."
    Too optimistic. Narrowness of cognitive perspective can easily result in increased confirmation bias and, more to the point, all sorts of questions not being asked or considered. The social science on cognitive conformity is not re-assuring -- see Cass Sunstein's "Why Societies Need Dissent".

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