Liberals and low IQ believe in astrology more

By Razib Khan | September 22, 2007 5:17 pm

The Inducivist is always digging into the GSS and coming back with interesting stuff. For example, he reports:
Percent who believe astrology is very or sort of scientific
43.3% Extremely liberal
32.2% Liberal
31.4% Slightly liberal
25.9% Moderate
25.9% Slightly conservative
26.1% Conservative
25.0% Extremely conservative


What’s going on here? I think what’s showing up isn’t really ideology, but the fact that political ideology has a strong correlation with adherence to theologically conservative Christianity. The Christian church has spent 2,000 years fighting magic, which it often characterizes as the work of the devil or demons. When it isn’t arguing that magic is due to demonic powers, it is denying the existence of magic at all. The idea that the stars can control one’s fate is ancient, it was one of the major spurs toward the development of astronomy. But Christianity has generally taken a dim view of this field because of the perception that it interferes with the omnipotence of the One True God. Nevertheless, once the theological constraint is removed it seems many people “naturally” switch back to default modes of theorizing about the world, and astrology seems to be one of those appealing models. I have noted earlier that in Europe the decline in Christianity has resulted in the rise of atheism, but an even greater increase has occurred in the segment of the population which espouses neither atheism nor Christianity.
Now, here is what was found in relation to IQ & astrology:
Mean IQ by view on astrology
It’s very scientific 90.1
It’s sort of scientific 96.5
It’s not scientific at all 101.2
I doubt this is a function of reasoned thought about the nature of astrology as much as the likelihood that higher IQ individuals are more likely to trust the scientific consensus because of a greater interest in and comprehension of science as a whole.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Culture
  • John Roth

    It may also be a reflection of the fact that more intelligent people know what science is about as a process, not just what the “scientific consensus” is.
    From that viewpoint, it’s quite clear that astrology is not a science. Astrology existed long before the scientific method, and any unprejudiced study of the subject would show that it’s in absolutely no shape to form testable hypotheses for anything except the most trivial questions.
    There are lots of things that are not sciences that, nonetheless, work.
    John Roth

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    It may also be a reflection of the fact that more intelligent people know what science is about as a process, not just what the “scientific consensus” is.
    i’m skeptical. i have many smart friends from non-science backgrounds (with IQs north of 120) and they regularly fall into the trap that science is about facts and not the method. but it might have some effects.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Many conservatives believe astrology is real, however they’ll say, “I don’t believe in astrology.” This doesn’t mean they think it’s woo or fairy tales, but rather that it is an evil condemned by the Bible. I doubt the poll takes this unusual Christian usage of language into account.

  • Grackle

    2,000 years fighting magic?
    No, fighting other brands of magic. Religions tend to despise the magic of other religions, although not always.
    And they haven’t always been fighting. In Leviticus, there is the sacrifice of two goats, one to Yahveh, one to Azazel. A little later in the same book they’re told to stop sacrifices to demons, so at one time Azazel deserved his due, and the next thing you know he didn’t.

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    No, fighting other brands of magic.
    good point. ‘white magic’ implies miracles. also, the ‘christianization’ of northern europe entailed a lot of sanctification of and co-opting of local customs & traditions, including fertility rites. so one assumes that the tendency to believe that prayer is scientific would be inverted from this perhaps….

  • Douglas Knight

    Inspired by John Roth’s comment, I wonder how much is intelligence correlating with simply knowing that scientists are against astrology.

  • Jason Malloy

    I looked at this in February on backchannel. Republicans had higher IQs, were more ‘proscience’ in values, and did better on science questions. But the two parties had different biases; Republicans unsurprisingly subscribed to more nonsense about evolution and global warming. Democrats were prone to think of all natural interventions as harmful. The kind of bias we see throughout Europe:

    “… 82 percent of U.K. shoppers said they would never buy a genetically altered banana, even if proven to be safe, even if doing so allowed the elimination of pesticides and other potentially harmful agricultural chemicals–a major advantage, supporters say, of biotech crops. Public aversion to DNA-altered foods exists throughout Europe, where most such fruits and vegetables are banned.”

    Anyway here are the numbers:
    IQ by party (whites only):
    STRONG DEMOCRAT 6.06
    NOT STR DEMOCRAT 6.12
    IND,NEAR DEM 6.51
    INDEPENDENT 5.79
    IND,NEAR REP 6.42
    NOT STR REPUBLICAN 6.33
    STRONG REPUBLICAN 6.56
    OTHER PARTY 6.77
    “Scientists always seem to be prying into things that they
    really ought to stay out of”
    1-agree 2-disagree
    STRONG DEMOCRAT 1.56
    NOT STR DEMOCRAT 1.62
    IND,NEAR DEM 1.65
    INDEPENDENT 1.65
    IND,NEAR REP 1.74
    NOT STR REPUBLICAN 1.69
    STRONG REPUBLICAN 1.69
    OTHER PARTY 1.60
    “Human beings developed from earlier species of animals”
    1-Definitely True 4-Definitely False
    STRONG DEMOCRAT 2.65
    NOT STR DEMOCRAT 2.59
    IND,NEAR DEM 2.50
    INDEPENDENT 2.76
    IND,NEAR REP 2.78
    NOT STR REPUBLICAN 2.84
    STRONG REPUBLICAN 3.08
    OTHER PARTY 2.51
    “Astrology – the study of star signs – has some scientific
    truth.”
    1-Definitely True 4-Definitely False
    STRONG DEMOCRAT 2.52
    NOT STR DEMOCRAT 2.48
    IND,NEAR DEM 2.57
    INDEPENDENT 2.53
    IND,NEAR REP 2.75
    NOT STR REPUBLICAN 2.66
    STRONG REPUBLICAN 2.79
    OTHER PARTY 2.81
    “All radioactivity is made by humans.”
    1-Definitely True 4-Definitely False
    STRONG DEMOCRAT 2.71
    NOT STR DEMOCRAT 2.80
    IND,NEAR DEM 3.03
    INDEPENDENT 2.77
    IND,NEAR REP 3.00
    NOT STR REPUBLICAN 2.89
    STRONG REPUBLICAN 2.96
    OTHER PARTY 3.18
    “Antibiotics kill bacteria, but not viruses.”
    1-Definitely True 4-Definitely False
    STRONG DEMOCRAT 2.05
    NOT STR DEMOCRAT 1.98
    IND,NEAR DEM 1.97
    INDEPENDENT 2.00
    IND,NEAR REP 2.09
    NOT STR REPUBLICAN 2.00
    STRONG REPUBLICAN 1.92
    OTHER PARTY 1.94
    “All man-made chemicals can cause cancer if you eat enough of
    them.”
    1-Definitely True 4-Definitely False
    STRONG DEMOCRAT 2.52
    NOT STR DEMOCRAT 2.47
    IND,NEAR DEM 2.51
    INDEPENDENT 2.47
    IND,NEAR REP 2.56
    NOT STR REPUBLICAN 2.60
    STRONG REPUBLICAN 2.67
    OTHER PARTY 2.68
    “We believe too often in science, and not enough in feelings
    and faith.”
    1-Strongly Agree 5-Strongly Disagree
    STRONG DEMOCRAT 2.56
    NOT STR DEMOCRAT 2.54
    IND,NEAR DEM 2.52
    INDEPENDENT 2.52
    IND,NEAR REP 2.56
    NOT STR REPUBLICAN 2.59
    STRONG REPUBLICAN 2.53
    OTHER PARTY 2.80
    “If someone is exposed to any amount of radioactivity, they
    are certain to die as a result.”
    1-Definitely True 4-Definitely False
    STRONG DEMOCRAT 2.84
    NOT STR DEMOCRAT 2.89
    IND,NEAR DEM 2.98
    INDEPENDENT 2.86
    IND,NEAR REP 3.05
    NOT STR REPUBLICAN 3.05
    STRONG REPUBLICAN 3.11
    OTHER PARTY 3.11
    “The greenhouse effect is caused by a hole in the earth’s
    atmosphere.”
    1-Definitely True 4-Definitely False
    STRONG DEMOCRAT 2.30
    NOT STR DEMOCRAT 2.19
    IND,NEAR DEM 2.29
    INDEPENDENT 2.17
    IND,NEAR REP 2.24
    NOT STR REPUBLICAN 2.30
    STRONG REPUBLICAN 2.42
    OTHER PARTY 2.44
    “All pesticides and chemicals used on food crops cause cancer
    in humans.”
    1-Definitely True 4-Definitely False
    STRONG DEMOCRAT 2.61
    NOT STR DEMOCRAT 2.62
    IND,NEAR DEM 2.68
    INDEPENDENT 2.70
    IND,NEAR REP 2.79
    NOT STR REPUBLICAN 2.79
    STRONG REPUBLICAN 2.89
    OTHER PARTY 2.78

  • Joshua Zelinsky

    Just because someone is liberal doesn’t mean they reject pseudoscience. I’d go as far as to suggest that certain pseudosciences are more common with liberals. Anecdotally at least, liberals seem much more likely to support not just astrology but also homeopathy and anti-vaccination nonsense(although it seems like the conservatives are picking up now on the anti-vaccination thing for what should be obvious reasons). Unfortunately, neither end of the political spectrum is immune to pseudoscience.

  • natural cynic

    Nancy Reagan [and presumably St. Ronnie too]

  • http://www.propithecus-verreauxi.com Rich Lawler

    Part of the problem is that in polls which pit “liberal” versus “conservative”, usually “conservative” has a relatively more circumscribed definition in the public mindset, whereas “liberal”, like “invertebrate” really means “everything else.” This can skew such polls since, sadly, there are a lot of folks out there who believe in astrology, but since these folks feel that “conservative” refers to a particular set of criteria, they might be apt to label themselves as “liberal” because they disagree with one or more of the so-called conservative criteria. At the crux of it, when people hear “conservative” they think “Republican”, whereas when people hear “liberal” they don’t think “democrat” they think “not Republican.”
    Obviously, I think both the terms, liberal and conservative, are fuzzy sets but I suspect that the above issue also helps explain these results.
    I also agree with Razib that being intelligent (which tends to correlate with a high IQ) will not always predict whether an individual understands how science works.

  • Jason Malloy

    Here are the definitely + probably true %s for Rep and Dem:
    STRONG DEMOCRAT 57%
    NOT STR DEMOCRAT 58%
    IND,NEAR DEM 53.4%
    INDEPENDENT 56.6%
    IND,NEAR REP 45.9%
    NOT STR REPUBLICAN 49%
    STRONG REPUBLICAN 43.2%
    OTHER PARTY 40.6%

  • http://www.propithecus-verreauxi.com Rich Lawler

    Jason, I should have read your comments before posting on Razib’s. My bad.

  • Jason Malloy

    Hey, you’ve got a cool cv & monkey tattoos, so no prob. :)

  • ebohlman

    It would be interested to see these results stratified by gender. There are gender differences in political orientation (with women being more likely to identify as liberal) and Michael Shermer concluded that while men and women were equally superstitious, they tended to be superstitious about different things.
    Even if it isn’t mostly gender-based, I suspect liberals and conservatives are going to have different patterns of pseudoscientific beliefs, with some people more popular in one crowd than the other. For example, a lot of those questions about synthetic chemicals and radioactivity are essentially measures of Romantic ideology, and in the West it’s currently the liberals who hold what remains of Romanticism (it wasn’t always that way). Similarly, it’s currently the Right who holds ideologies that would lead to the embrace of pseudoscience regarding sex, race and evolution (at least in the US; I always find it interesting that abortion is a politically devisive topic in the US but not most of Europe, whereas with GMOs it’s the opposite).

  • http://scienceblogs.com/gnxp razib

    women and blacks are more likely to believe that astrology is scientific
    http://inductivist.blogspot.com/2007/09/more-on-astrology-reader-suggested-in.html
    Percent who think astrology is very, or sort of, scientific
    Women 36.1
    Men 27.8
    And while we’re at it:
    Blacks 49.4
    Whites 28.4

  • bob

    http://sda.berkeley.edu/cgi-bin32/hsda?harcsda+gss06
    the variable of interest is ASTROSCI
    in a multiple regression, sex, race, age, SES, and party each show significant associations

  • Sandgroper

    The really really liberal ones with the like really totally low IQ believe in both like Western and Chinese astrology because it’s like uncool not to be multi-cultural. You know, the ones who say “HI, my name is Cassandra and I’m a Pisces born in the year of the Fire Dragon.”
    Of course the ones born in the years of the Rat and the Pig tend not to say that too much.

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About Razib Khan

I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. In relation to nationality I'm a American Northwesterner, in politics I'm a reactionary, and as for religion I have none (I'm an atheist). If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com

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