Liberals are Smarter than Conservatives, Study Says

Liberals are Smarter than Conservatives, Study Says

Share this

kanazawa IQ tests are about to be respectable again.

In 1994 Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray published a book on intelligence titled The Bell Curve. Because liberals nearly unaimously loathed the conclusions reached by the book’s authors, the book was called “a disservice to and abuse of science”, “a deliberate assault on efforts to improve the school performance of African-Americans”,  and “a genteel way of calling somebody a nigger.”

Panicked left wing activists and liberal ideologues dutifully trotted out myriad “scientists” who challenged the book, mostly on the grounds that IQ tests are useless.

Fast forward 16 years.

CNN’s Elizabeth Landau writes in Liberalism, Atheism, Male Sexuality Exclusivity Linked to IQ that a London economist and political scientist Satoshi Kanazawa (pictured) has determined that liberals are more intelligent than conservatives:

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

[Kanazawa] 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.

Landau interviewed George Washington University Leadership Professor, James Bailey, who said:

The adoption of some evolutionarily novel ideas makes some sense in terms of moving the species forward. It also makes perfect sense that more intelligent people — people with, sort of, more intellectual firepower — are likely to be the ones to do that.

But, Landau, notes,

[T]hese preferences may stem from a desire to show superiority or elitism, which also has to do with IQ. In fact, aligning oneself with “unconventional” philosophies such as liberalism or atheism may be “ways to communicate to everyone that you’re pretty smart,” Bailey said.

Defining Liberalism and Conservatism

Any study that purports to compare the average IQ levels of liberals and conservatives must first accurately define those terms. Here’s how Kanazawa defines “liberal”:

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. 

That’s a loaded definition if there ever was one.

Amazingly, Kanazawa bases his study on two erroneous assumptions about conservatives:

1)  They don’t care about people outside their family unit; and

2)  They don’t support private charity.

It is a silly stereotype to suggest that conservatives don’t care about people who are not related to them. Conservatives care about the welfare of strangers, they just don’t agree with liberals on how best to bring about that welfare. As a general rule, conservatives believe that over time the free market will operate to raise all boats. Stated another way, conservatives believe in helping the less fortunate, but believe the best and fairest way to help them is through voluntary, private charity, and not via government fiat. Liberals generally hold the opposite view believing that substantial government intervention in the free market is necessary to ensure equality.

Battle of Bias

So it appears that Kanazawa began his study with a bias. His work is based on the a priori premise that conservatives care less about strangers than liberals do. From there, he naturally proceeds to classify those who care about non-family members as liberals and those who are relatively unconcerned about the welfare of people outside their family unit as conservatives.

I have not yet read Ms. Kanazawa’s study and have relied only on Ms. Landau’s description of it so it’s only fair to assume that his methods of data collection and interpretation are sound. But it’s easy for me to give Kanazawa the benefit of the doubt because I start with my own a priori conclusion:

Human beings who care about other human beings are likely to be more intelligent than human beings who don’t care about other human beings.


If Kanazawa is right in his bias that liberals care more about strangers than conservatives do, then his study has merit. But if I am right in my bias that conservatives care about people every bit as much as liberals do, then his study is worthless.

By defining liberals as “people who care about strangers”, Mr. Kanazawa has stacked the deck in favor of a finding that liberals are more intelligent than conservatives.²


¹  Kanazawa cannot be pigeonholed politically and his views sometimes are to the right of John Birch. Listen to what he wrote for Psychology Today back in March 2008 during the Democratic primaries:

Imagine that, on September 11, 2001, when the Twin Towers came down, the President of the United States was not George W. Bush, but Ann Coulter. What would have happened then? On September 12, President Coulter would have ordered the US military forces to drop 35 nuclear bombs throughout the Middle East, killing all of our actual and potential enemy combatants, and their wives and children. On September 13, the war would have been over and won, without a single American life lost.

Yes, we need a woman in the White House, but not the one who’s running.

 ²  I am not questioning Mr. Kanazawa’s motives, here. His working definition of the word “liberal” is surely a byproduct of the demogogic times in which we live. However, as a social scientist he should have, as Nietzsche demanded, “questioned his premises.”

About Peter Pappas

Peter is a tax attorney and certified public acccountant with over 20 years experience helping taxpayers resolve their IRS and state tax problems.

He has represented thousands of taxpayers who have been experiencing difficulty dealing with the Internal Revenue Service or State tax officials.

He is a member of the American Association of Attorney-Certified Public Accountants, the Florida Bar Association and The Florida Institute of Certified Public Accountants and is admitted to practice before the United States Tax Court, the United States Supreme Court, U.S. District Courts - Middle District of Florida

Did you enjoy this article?

Subscribe by e-mail and get notified whenever new ones are published.



  1. It would appear that the large bloc of liberal voters who have historically had a difficult time graduating from high school are now among our brightest minds. What would we do without evolutionary psychologists?

  2. Menlo Bob,

    I have no doubt that liberals believe they are intellectually superior to conservatives, and just about everyone else, for that matter. Part of what it means to be a liberal is to condescend to the great unwashed masses that you are certain cannot survive without your assistance.