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New studies have shown a strong correlation between low intelligence and right-wing...

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dancer7 | Student, Undergraduate | Honors

Posted February 16, 2012 at 2:29 AM via web

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New studies have shown a strong correlation between low intelligence and right-wing politics.

From the linked article in a british Newspaper today...

Right-wingers tend to be less intelligent than left-wingers, and people with low childhood intelligence tend to grow up to have racist and anti-gay views, says a controversial new study. Conservative politics work almost as a 'gateway' into prejudice against others, say the Canadian academics.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2095549/Right-wingers-intelligent-left-wingers-says-controversial-study--conservative-politics-lead-people-racist.html

Gosh... what implications does this study have. What does it say about the Christian Conservatives and Tea Party here in America? Do you agree with the findings?

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 16, 2012 at 3:04 AM (Answer #2)

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I have serious doubts about this claim.  Mostly, this is because I am not at all sure that we have good ways of measuring intelligence.  I do not believe, for example, that the IQ gap between races means that whites are smarter than blacks.  If there truly is an IQ gap between conservatives and liberals, I would not believe that that proves that conservatives truly are less intelligent.  I simply don't believe that IQ has much connection to real intelligence.

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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 16, 2012 at 3:19 AM (Answer #3)

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Well, this would certainly explain why anyone would support Newt Gingrich in his run for President. However, I doubt that there is much truth to this interesting suggestion, since there are many highly intelligent people who support both liberal and conservative philosophies.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 16, 2012 at 4:06 AM (Answer #4)

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I don't think that this kind of thing helps us at all. Part of the reason we can't ever seem to accomplish anything is that we spend too much time arguing and calling each other names, and focusing on broad ideological issues rather than practical ideas.
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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 16, 2012 at 5:13 AM (Answer #5)

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I think perhaps Winston Churchill said it best with

If you're not a liberal at twenty you have no heart; if you're not a conservative at forty you have no brain.

Generally speaking, I think to the public many politicians (on either side) look like they suffer from a stupidity epidemic.  However, I can't imagine, scientifically or otherwise, that liberal- or conservative-ism can be linked to intelligence.

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted February 16, 2012 at 5:44 AM (Answer #6)

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My first thought is who funded the study, and my second thought is intelligent by what standard? There are plenty of smart people and plenty of dumb ones across the entire political spectrum. Each side of the spectrum views the other side as "wrong" or "stupid" in their view of the world and how it should operate. Because there are so many different kinds of intelligence, I can't imagine that any study should make a claim like the one above.

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 16, 2012 at 6:39 AM (Answer #7)

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I would completely discount the validity of the study you cite without seeing a great deal of supportive data. "The Daily Mail" is a British tabloid newspaper that has not been known for serious research and completely unbiased reporting of news. It has a conservative editorial philosophy but uses sensationalist headlines and stories to promote sales. This sounds like a case in point.

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frizzyperm | College Teacher | Valedictorian

Posted February 16, 2012 at 6:46 AM (Answer #8)

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I find it interesting that the data was not collected by the research team. The data comes from two large studies by the UK government; 15,000 people were widely tested at the age of 10 and then again at 30. It is an extremely extensive data set and has been used in many different studies. From the research paper...

We proposed and tested mediation models in which lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups. In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology.

A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on anti-homosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact.

To summarise their conclusion: intelligence as a child correlates strongly with socially liberal adult views. People with low IQ scores tend to be in favour of harsh punishments, more homophobic and more likely to be racist.

Obviously this report is causing an internet storm, but the data gives a correlation significant enough to warrant further research.

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e-martin | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted February 16, 2012 at 7:19 AM (Answer #9)

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There is so much potential bias built into the study and into the choice to publish the results, I have a hard time taking the results at face value. Yet, frizzyperm makes a compelling point about the methods of the study.

I personally am not at all surprised by these findings when related to racism, bigotry and other notions that are commonly already known as "small minded".

I am a liberal, but I hesitate to apply the label "small minded" to conservative policies, politics and politicians.

I feel there is a danger in generalizing too much here and engaging in a kind of vindicated-small-mindedness as a reaction to this kind of news.

Cheering this report as if it is generalizable fact and as if it serves as a sword in the hand of the saint is to engage in exactly the kind of "low IQ" thinking the study seems to attribute to racists, homophobes, etc.

It's probably best to be liberal in our understanding of what this data really means. Clearly, that's the smart thing to do.

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megan-bright | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted February 16, 2012 at 11:15 AM (Answer #10)

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There is a part of me that really wants to believe this study has merit. As I think about the many people who are easily misinformed and misguided by political policies and laws that they have very little understanding of because they neglected to do their own research, yet they spew hate and controversy by blindly believing certain powerful people.

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James Kelley | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

Posted February 27, 2012 at 3:18 AM (Answer #11)

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For me, the main problem here is that the article title ("Right-wingers are less intelligent than left wingers, says study") is inflammatory and doesn't accurately summarize what the study is all about. The study is much more than a simple comparison of the IQ scores (or some other measurement of intelligence) of two groups of people.

From what little of the study is actually quoted in the article, the most compelling statement for me is this one: "Conservative ideology represents a critical pathway through which childhood intelligence predicts racism in adulthood." This statement does not establish cause and effect or explain the reasoning for the predictive pattern; it simply lays out a pattern that, from what the article says, is statistically significant.

It would be worth looking at this study more closely and perhaps even comparing it to what other studies say. One such study is a Yale study referenced here -- http://www.salon.com/2012/02/24/the_ugly_delusions_of_the_educated_conservative/singleton/ -- and accessible here -- http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1871503&http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1871503.

In that study, Kahan and his group found that a person's level of education alone does not predict that person's stance on a particular issue (the issue in this study is global warming). They identified the importance of the interaction between the person's political views and their scientific/mathematic literacy. They suggest that what we might be seeing is not simply a grouping of people into the smart camp and dumb camp but rather "a conflict [within a single person] between two levels of rationality."

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buster101 | Elementary School Teacher | eNoter

Posted March 22, 2012 at 2:12 PM (Answer #12)

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A correlation between intelligence, political views and racial sterotyping?  Sounds like a stretch.  Political views and one's feelings toward other races would most likely be learned behaviors attributed to environmental background.  Racism would seem to stem from lower socioeconomic individuals.  While political views could also walk hand in hand with these views and education might counter them, IQ points would not seem to be an indicator of which political candidate an individual would support.  I'd have to see some pretty well documented research to believe it.

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diehlme | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted April 8, 2012 at 4:10 PM (Answer #13)

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I think it is easy to draw the wrong conclusions from this study for several reasons. First of them being that statistics are misused all the time. Without actually reading the study itself, it is hard to say if the numbers are even accurate. Other problems include... If the researchers were biased, if the person writing the article took the studies results out of context or misused the study in order to make an interesting article (which commonly happens in the media), how the survey framed the questions, how liberal/conservative is defined and quantitatively measured, etc...

If lower IQ scores are strongly correlated with being conservative, it does not mean that conservative ideologies are "Less Intelligent". There are also problems with lumping people into two broad categories. For instance, I consider myself a libertarian and am therefore socially liberal and fiscally conservative.

It just seems like this article was written in a very biased way and it therefore makes me incredibly skeptical about the claims being made.     

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diehlme | Student, Undergraduate | eNoter

Posted April 8, 2012 at 4:13 PM (Answer #14)

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I have serious doubts about this claim.  Mostly, this is because I am not at all sure that we have good ways of measuring intelligence.  I do not believe, for example, that the IQ gap between races means that whites are smarter than blacks.  If there truly is an IQ gap between conservatives and liberals, I would not believe that that proves that conservatives truly are less intelligent.  I simply don't believe that IQ has much connection to real intelligence.

 IQ does strongly correlate with Intelligence, which is why it has been around for so long and is still used today. It also correlates strongly with other measures of intelligence such as Spearman's 'g'.

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