Friday, June 25, 2010

Libertarians are the smartest?

I would guess that libertarians are the most intelligent political category, but let's look and see.  I'll use two GSS questions to create categories. Participants were asked if they thought that marijuana should be illegal or illegal. They were also asked if the federal government spends too little, too much, or the right amount on improving education. There are six combinations possible. I label them as follows:

marijuana legal/spends too much = libertarian
marijuana illegal/spends too much = conservative
marijuana illegal/spends right amount = traditional moderate
marijuana legal/spends right amount = permissive moderate
marijuana illegal/doesn't spend enough = traditional liberal
marijuana legal/doesn't spend enough = permissive liberal

First, let's list the percent of the total white sample in each category (sample size = 2,440):


Libertarian 1.7
Conservative 4.6
Traditional Moderate 17.3
Permissive Moderate 5.4
Traditional Liberal 47.2
Permissive Liberal 23.8
The most popular category, by far, is of people who favor more federal spending on education, but who are against legalization of pot.  Libertarians and conservatives, as I have defined them, are rare.  Now let's look at mean IQs:

Mean IQs--whites only 

Libertarian 102.5
Conservative 101.8
Traditional Moderate 98.6*
Permissive Moderate 99.3
Traditional Liberal 100.3*
Permissive Liberal 103.0

* significantly lower mean IQ than permissive liberal

I guessed wrong: permissive liberals have a slightly higher mean than libertarians (although the difference is not statistically significant). People with extreme positions tend to be smarter.


  1. As usual, there is no room in sociopolitical research for the truly intelligent option:

    Leave it up to the laboratory of the states because, gosh, maybe its better to test our beliefs no matter how "extremely" held.

  2. Actually, you've just shown that people who believe marijuana should be legal are smarter than those who think it should be illegal.

    Which doesn't actually argue that marijuana should be legal; smarter people may underestimate the negative effects of pot because, well, *they* can handle it.

  3. Anonymous1:30 PM

    Spending on education probably correlates with IQ though? I would expect intelligent people to want spending on what they value. I'd expect people with a Libertarian outlook to be less Libertarian on education than many other things.

  4. Anonymous1:42 PM

    Why is it a forgone conclusion that the more intelligent you are, the more you want to spend OTHER people's money on education? Libertarians love education, they just want you to pay for your own.

  5. Anonymous9:30 AM

    Conservatives are not that smart. They are actually ignorant, anti-education and Christian fundamentalists. Conservatives use authority, faith and tradition whereas Libertarians and liberals use reason, logic and empiricism.

  6. Anonymous12:12 AM

    Wrong. People with extreme positions are dumber -FACT.
    People that judge on an issue by issue basis, looking at the facts and the best solution are the smartest. Extreme positions tend to be ideologically rooted and thus emotionally motivated and not based in critical thinking.


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