Liberals vs. conservatives, smart vs. dull

By Razib Khan | November 26, 2011 1:57 pm

One of the things I’m interested in is the perception by some that self-identified conservatives can mobilize better as a collective unit on the American political scene. To test that proposition I often poke around the General Social Survey. For example, it seems to be a common assumption among many liberals that women tend to be more supportive of abortion rights than men. This isn’t born out by the GSS data. There’s no sex difference. Until you correct for ideology. It turns out that among liberals women are more supportive of abortion rights…while among conservatives men are more supportive of abortion rights! If people socialize only with their own ideological subset then the perception of the relationship between sex and ideological opinions will differ a great deal.

Below I decided to attempt to ascertain differences between liberals and conservatives on “hot button” issues as a function of intelligence. I used WORDSUM to probe this. I classed those who scored 0-5 as dull, those who scored 6-8 as not dull, and those who scored 9 and 10 as smart. I also limited the sample to the year 2000 and later, and only non-Hispanic whites.

I’ll give you the results without comment.


Liberals Conservatives
Abortion for any reason acceptable
Yes Yes
Dull 46 29
Not Dull 65 27
Smart 79 26
Homosexual relations
Always wrong Always wrong
Dull 52 78
Not Dull 15 70
Smart 7 57
Ban Bible prayer in schools
Approve Approve
Dull 39 28
Not Dull 65 36
Smart 85 54
Allow anti-religionist to speak
Yes Yes
Dull 73 69
Not Dull 93 82
Smart 99 96
Humans developed from animals
Yes Yes
Dull 53 44
Not Dull 79 33
Smart 94 51
Belief in God
Atheist & agnostic Atheist & agnostic
Dull 6 5
Not Dull 21 4
Smart 31 9
Trade took away American jobs
Yes Yes
Dull 29 39
Not Dull 36 41
Smart 11 11
College educated
Yes Yes
Dull 11 16
Not Dull 40 33
Smart 72 59
  • Randall Parker

    Interesting results Razib. Thanks for the analysis.

    So then a lower percentage of smart conservatives went to college as compared to smart liberals. I am guessing controlling for sex would reduce that gap somewhat. Women are more liberal and spend more time in school.

    Gotta say, atheists and agnostics are really outliers, even at higher levels of smartness. Right wing atheists and agnostics are especially outliers. I wonder what genetic variants help give us outliers a greater capacity for skepticism and rationality. My guess is we are being selected against.

  • Dwight E. Howell

    Those you selected as being smart appear to be atheistic/progressives and support atheistic progressive causes such as the all powerful nanny state and one world government. It may also be that those who are deemed smart or not dull are also most closely tied into institutions of higher education which are dominated by people who are progressives/neosocialist and share a common set of beliefs.

    How does this match up with your own personal beliefs? From whom did you acquire those beliefs.

    I do agree with the previous poster that this group has undergone massive selection against in the past. Isn’t passing reproduction now and is apt to undergo a major contraction in the future at the hands of the followers of Allah. What is most peculiar about this is that the progressive neosocialists of the west are aiding the devote to acquire the power to terminate them.

    This is not rational but is demonstrable fact.

    I have drawn two tentative conclusions about this.

    It is interesting to note that both groups seem to want an all powerful world government. I suppose it could be that the two groups have more in common than it seems and that the biological bases of the drive for an uber state is the same.

    It may be that genes which in isolation enhance reproductive success diminish it in combination.

  • ziel

    That only 11% of both liberal and conservative smart people think that trade “took away American jobs” is I think quite telling.

  • Razib Khan

    #2, don’t ramble so much. if you want to, you can start a blog :-)

  • Razib Khan

    #3, the upper classes are united in their economic class interests…to some extent….

  • LAG

    I get the correlation you try to make to IQ, but what you’re really saying is that people who take liberal positions have greater verbal facility. I guess my response is, so what?

    And please don’t tell me you’ve proven liberals are smarter.

  • Razib Khan

    but what you’re really saying is that people who take liberal positions have greater verbal facility.

    no. i didn’t say that. don’t put words into my mouth, or i’ll ban you (though other data do point to that).

  • Eugenick

    What about libertarians? I predict they are be smarter than both conservatives and liberals.

  • ziel

    What about libertarians? I predict they are be smarter than both conservatives and liberals.

    Yes, and no doubt .0011% of them would agree that “trade took away American jobs” :)

  • LAG

    I see you’re open to discussion. So ban me. I’ll survive. But logically your claim that you didn’t say it, just used it to underscore you thesis, is a distinction without a difference.

  • Chris

    @10 LAG
    Don’t take it personally. Razib is confrontational with many of the responders. Many times he gets very upset over someone’s simple misunderstanding. Either he thinks it’s a personal attack on him or he just doesn’t like people with an IQ lower than his.

  • Razib Khan

    #11, shut the fuck up. i’m usually gentle with the obviously low IQ or ignorant. my frustration is generally with the lazy or presumptuous.


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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


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