General Question

RareDenver's avatar

A study from a Canadian University suggests that people with lower intelligence tend to gravitate to right-wing politics and are more likely to be racist or homophobic. Care to share your thoughts on this?

Asked by RareDenver (13097 points ) August 19th, 2012
Observing members: 0 Composing members: 0

61 Answers

bookish1's avatar

My first reaction is, how do they measure intelligence, and what biases are built into how they measure that variable?

Goes to the kitchen to make popcorn.

ragingloli's avatar

It is obviously a far left wing extremist conspiracy to slander the true american patriots.
Do you not know that canadia is an evil far left socialist communist tyrannical dictatorship where people die on the streets because of marxist health care rationing?

Nullo's avatar

Sounds rather self-serving. Given that I know a lot of objectively intelligent people who vote rightwards and don’t believe in the legitimacy of homosexual relationships (“homophobic” is just a way to vilify a different opinion), I’d say that the distribution is either non-representative, entirely fallacious, or only across a very slight gradient.
I find lots of racists on both sides, but then I lump in Affirmative Action pushers and so forth among the racists.

Lightlyseared's avatar

There seems to be a lot of evidence to that effect…

marinelife's avatar

It seems simplistic. There are many intelligent Republicans. David Frum, journalist and blogger. Mitt Romney graduated from Harvard Business School and made hundreds of millions of dollars, Olympia Snow and Susan Collins, both former Senators from Maine. I could go on and on.

DrBill's avatar

through my own observations I have found that:
not all lower intelligence people are bigots,
but all bigots are of lower intelligence.

Sunny2's avatar

I know true right wingers who are extremely bright, valedictorians, doctorates. I just don’t share their approach to economics and politics. My focus is on people; theirs is on a righteous (to them) way to live your life. Theirs is one for all; mine is all for one.

nikipedia's avatar

I want to point out to those of you saying there are exceptions to this finding that in any study finding differences between two groups, the groups almost certainly overlap. In fact, the distribution of the groups will be mostly overlapping. So if the study’s findings are accurate, based on those findings we would predict that there would be some right-wing, racist, or homophobic people who are more intelligent than some left-wing not-bigots. What this finding means is that on average, if you compare the two groups, the average IQ is lower in the right-wing bigot group. Not that every IQ is lower in the right-wing bigot group.

@bookish1, I found the actual article here. They analyzed data from two studies, the National Child Development Study (NCDS) and British Cohort Study (BCS). Here is what they say about their intelligence inventories:

The NCDS included two measures of intelligence: verbal intelligence (similarities between words; 40 items) and nonverbal intelligence (similarities between shapes or symbols; 40 items; Douglas, 1964). The BCS included four measures of cognitive abilities (following Elliot, Murray, & Pearson, 1978): matrix abilities (drawing missing aspects of shapes; 28 items), digit recall (recalling digits from number series; 34 items), word definitions (identifying the meanings of words; 37 items), and word similarities (generating words that are semantically consistent with presented words; 42 items).

elbanditoroso's avatar

Actually this is not “new” news – this was published some months – maybe as much as a year ago.

I suspect that, on a large scale trend, it is probably true. But I would have to add so many exceptions and caveats and if/then scenarios that it really doesn’t matter.

In the end, individuals are individuals, and you can’t make assumptions about individuals based on the a survey of a group.

wundayatta's avatar

You needed a study to tell you this? It’s common knowledge. Why do you think right wingers mistrust academics so much?

ucme's avatar

So racists/bigots/homophobes are thick as pig shite…...who knew?

SavoirFaire's avatar

“I never meant to say that the Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.”
—John Stuart Mill (1866)

“The essence of the liberal outlook lies not in what opinions are held but in how they are held: instead of being held dogmatically, they are held tentatively, and with a consciousness that new evidence may at any moment lead to their abandonment. This is the way opinions are held in science, as opposed to the way in which they are held in theology.”
—Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (1950)

Thammuz's avatar

What’s new about this, again?

tom_g's avatar

@nikipedia: “I want to point out to those of you saying there are exceptions to this finding that in any study finding differences between two groups, the groups almost certainly overlap. In fact, the distribution of the groups will be mostly overlapping. So if the study’s findings are accurate, based on those findings we would predict that there would be some right-wing, racist, or homophobic people who are more intelligent than some left-wing not-bigots. What this finding means is that on average, if you compare the two groups, the average IQ is lower in the right-wing bigot group. Not that every IQ is lower in the right-wing bigot group.”

This.

Listing a few examples of “intelligent” conservatives or rejecting a study based on anecdotal experience is missing the point of statistics – and science in general.

Response moderated (Personal Attack)
Blackberry's avatar

Right wing bashing isn’t necessary, but my experience with people who identify as such usually have a difficult time backing up their arguments.

I keep giving them chances, but once that fox news talking point comes out about Europeans and Canadians flocking to America to get the best healthcare in the world, or Obama making America look weak by bowing to foreign officials, or America wanting to start a revolution because we are all so angry about gun laws and stripping away our second amendment rights etc…..I have no choice but to assume they’re misinformed.

Some people at least fully embrace it and have no problem admitting they’re slightly xenophobic, or have no problem with social darwinism, but that genuinely frightens me more than someone who is just misinformed.

Many parts of the belief system have too many flaws.

Jaxk's avatar

Makes me wonder where these guys fall on thier scatter graphs.

bkcunningham's avatar

If anyone is interested, these are some points a statistician and adjunct professor of Statistical Science at Cornell University makes about Bright Minds and Dark Attitudes.

digitalimpression's avatar

“The study, by academics at Brock University in Ontario, Canada, used information from two UK studies from 1958 and 1970”
Don’t you think they should have used some more current data? For fox sake..

If you buy into this sort of “study” you are probably a militant left-winger. Anyone with an ounce of critical thinking skill can see right through this crap.

Jaxk's avatar

@bkcunningham – Very interesting article.

It always amazes me the lenghts that liberals will go to, to prove they are superior. It’s a scientific study therefore, it is truth. If you disagree, it’s because you don’t believe in science. Garbage in garbage out.

RareDenver's avatar

@digitalimpression the studies were started in 1958 and 1970. The studies involved development from childhood to adult views. So they are not so out of date as might seem.

bkcunningham's avatar

I don’t think the “studies were started in 1958 and 1970,” @RareDenver. The study used data sets from those time periods.

RareDenver's avatar

@bkcunningham They gathered two large data sets from the UK, one started in 1958 (NCDS), the other in 1970 (BCS); about 16,000 individuals in total, roughly equal numbers of males and females. The quizzed the groups when they reached 11 and 10 years old on their “intelligence”; they then came back to these individuals when they were 33 and 30 and asked them about their “socially conservative ideology and racism.” Source

LostInParadise's avatar

Learning is inherently disruptive. To one degree or another, it requires a change in thinking. A conservative is by definition a person who is resistant to change. Conservatives gravitate to right wing politics. It comes as no surprise that conservatism correlates negatively with learning ability, as measured by intelligence tests.

bkcunningham's avatar

RIght, @RareDenver, the information and source you just quoted and linked is the source I linked criticizing the study, specifically the data sets. What I was trying to explain is the data sets from 1958 and 1970 – which tested IQs – weren’t done specifically for this study by Gordon Hodson and Michael Busseri, like it seems to me you indicated above. : )

RareDenver's avatar

@bkcunningham I’m aware they were not done for this study, this study just used data from those previous studies, apologies if I inadvertently indicated anything else.

fundevogel's avatar

The Republican party knows there are a lot of stupid people you can lead around by the nose if you capitalize on their bias and ignorance. Republican politicians (or enough of them anyway) are willing to pander to such ignorance and bigotry if it gets them votes.

Democrats used to do this (remember the dixiecrats?) but decided to move the party onto higher ground in the 60’s. Mostly.

If all you care about is getting votes its a sound strategy. Stupid people are easier to trick in that they are less informed and less motivated by logical arguments while being very susceptible to emotional appeals. And all told they probably make up a bigger segment of voters than smart people. Why wouldn’t the party want them? Stupid votes count just as much as smart ones in the voting booth.

bolwerk's avatar

There is nothing surprising about the idea that stupid are naturally going to gravitate toward right-wing opinions. However, notice that it doesn’t say all right-wingers are stupid. There are plenty of nominally intelligent authoritarians. What they tend to lack is not intelligence, but empathy. It’s why Mitt can shrug off leaving his suffering dog on the roof of a car. He doesn’t care about living things. Many of the crazed authoritarians coming out of the woodwork these days seem to even enjoy watching other living things suffer, or at least enjoy the power they have in causing it (Rick Perry?).

Nakedly right-wing authoritarians like the U.S. Republikans hold views that are so prima facie discredited that there is little use in discussing them; they’re stupid and insane enough that you can say they embraced pure irrationality. What is kind of, um, strange is seeing U.S. Democrats gloating about this. The Dems already have many of the unthinking characteristics of right-wing authoritarians. Obama is basically a conservative himself – whereas people like Paul Ryan are really too authoritarian to be mere conservatives. Obama is, again, high in intelligence but low in the empathy department. He may not have a Sarah Palin level of irrationality, but he is fairly right-wing.

Coloma's avatar

I consider ” intelligence”, regardless of education, to include a big picture mentality, and open mindedness. These two factors have more to do with intelligence than any academic pursuits IMO. If you are chronically stuck in a rigid, black/white polarity, have no interest in self examination, examination of how you have come to your beliefs, an understanding that there are many “right” ways of doing things, well….yes, I do consider these issues to be reflective or a general, overall, lack of true “intelligence.”

“Intelligence” is always forward thinking, not a prisoner of conditioning and always ready to concede that there may be a better way to be, think and comport oneself.
Intelligent people are able to easily say ” I don;t know” or ” maybe you are right.”
Truly ignorant people NEVER consider that they might be wrong! lol

digitalimpression's avatar

- In big bold title letters: “Right-wingers are less intelligent than left wingers, says study”
– Then, as a header bullet: “Children with low intelligence grow up to be prejudiced”.
– Then at the verrrrrrrrryyyyy bottom of the article…. “Clearly, however, all socially conservative people are not prejudiced, and all prejudiced persons are not conservative.”

If you can’t decipher something from that curious arrangement, you probably think this study was a completely unbiased and legitimate project.

Where are the stats on the actual study? Are we supposed to just assume that right-wingers are stupid (as many have already done in this thread..going so far as to claim it provides leverage for collecting votes; obviously right-wingers are sheep)? Or are we talking about an overall difference of a few IQ points?

Where is the actual data to support this study? Well, that’s what I wanted to find out. What I found was the actual study entitled “Bright minds and dark attitudes” (Gordon Hodson and Michael A. Busseri) in pdf format. After reading it through I discovered that the above linked article is just as dubious as the information in the study itself. Makes sense.

This is the reason I hate it when people bring up “studies”.. For a large majority of the population (both left and right and everything in between) things that are written in bold print on the internet must be true. No further investigation is needed.

“I read an article about stupid conservative people!”

“Left-Wingers are smarter!”

“Liberal people don’t hate gay people!”

… and the buzz continues.. swirling through the population like the flu.

Next will come the buzz that “Left’s moral superiority fails intelligence test” because it is in bold print on the internet…

- 7 billion people on earth.
– 15,000 in the study
– 9,300 of those are stupid racist, homophobes.
– 5,250 of those are smart racist, homophobes.
– All right-wingers are dumb.
Logical?

bolwerk's avatar

@digitalimpression: This is mainly measuring tendency, which is what the media isn’t really explaining (or understanding itself). In social sciences, construct-criterion relationship of 30% or so is considered quite large, however. And a 30% relationship between being a right-wing wacko and being stupid is probably lowballing.

Also, if I remember this study correctly (maybe I’m mixing it up with another study), it was a meta-analysis looking at numerous studies relating cognitive ability and reasoning back to right-wing though. In other words, it was fairly damning.

Seiryuu's avatar

The article itself is on SagePub, but you need a subscription to view it…

So all you lucky ducks with university affiliations can view it if you’re curious.

digitalimpression's avatar

@bolwerk I guess you’ll have to refresh yourself on this particular study.

@Seiryuu The study is freely available to those who really want to find it.

Seiryuu's avatar

@digitalimpression I think I have the entire article on my computer.

Of course there’s the whole copyright issue to worry about so I can’t really share with you guys…

ragingloli's avatar

I think that falls under fair use, especially since it is a scientific study, not a pirated movie.

Roby's avatar

Actually it is the other way around. Case in Point: Obama was elected by left wingers. That should debunk that study and say who’s racist. The black folk elected Obama because he was ½ black.

nikipedia's avatar

@digitalimpression, can I please point out that the inflammatory headlines in bold were written by journalists, not scientists. If a journalist writes something asinine about a scientific study, that in no way undermines the scientific study.

If anyone would like a pdf of the scientific article, please send me a message with your email address and I will mail you a pdf.

WillWorkForChocolate's avatar

UGH, this again? /facepalm

I think it’s biased and proves that low IQs come from the left, also. There are always going to be stories from the left about how stupid the right is. Never going to change. People of higher intelligence could stop regurgitating it, however.

Seiryuu's avatar

@ragingloli If you say so. Here it is, for all interested persons.

I claim no responsibility for this.

_Whitetigress's avatar

“people with lower intelligence tend to gravitate to right-wing politics”

I mean, were talking about a group of citizens who live life mainly on a belief_reality_system.

I don’t know if it’s so much intelligence that they are lacking, as it is the inability to want to be open minded about certain situations. Hitler was intelligent, he was also highly manipulative and ignorant at the same time.

wundayatta's avatar

Just because the study is pretty shoddy doesn’t mean its conclusions aren’t accurate.

bkcunningham's avatar

Exactly, @wundayatta. Never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

Response moderated (Off-Topic)
noraasnave's avatar

It sounds like some people really BELIEVE in this article, and it is biasing their judgement…that damn belief-based reality.

Seiryuu's avatar

@noraasnave that’s why there are references. It is a controversial study and quite provocative, but I think one should consult what the authors have consulted and see if those are… biased. I have become a tad cynical of conservatives due to some other site and I will admit that there are certain transgressions that I let slide from more liberal parties, but I still look at this with a critical eye.
Another part to consult is the methods section of the paper as they detail how the experiment was done and the discussion section for any errors.

wundayatta's avatar

@bkcunningham You misunderstand. The study looks pretty bogus to me. But just because people make mistakes and do a bad analysis, doesn’t mean that their conclusions aren’t accurate. People can be right for all the wrong reasons.

Of course, I never met a conservative who let facts get in the way of the story they wanted to tell. They are very successful in doing this. So perhaps, if you can’t beat them, you should join them.

digitalimpression's avatar

@nikipedia
Your point supports my premise. People will take what they want to take out of a study… journalists included.

@wundayatta
An accurate, shoddy study. Sounds…. well… shoddy.

I get your point though. You’re right. It doesn’t mean anything is inaccurate about the study. What I question about the method is their initial hypothesis.. I find it difficult to believe they were unbiased based on that initial proposition. They set out to pat themselves on the back and damned if they weren’t going to succeed.

trailsillustrated's avatar

Duh self explanatory.

nikipedia's avatar

@digitalimpression, no. You are absolutely incorrect. Your point, in your words was:

If you can’t decipher something from that curious arrangement, you probably think this study was a completely unbiased and legitimate project.
Where are the stats on the actual study? Are we supposed to just assume that right-wingers are stupid (as many have already done in this thread..going so far as to claim it provides leverage for collecting votes; obviously right-wingers are sheep)? Or are we talking about an overall difference of a few IQ points?
Where is the actual data to support this study? Well, that’s what I wanted to find out. What I found was the actual study entitled “Bright minds and dark attitudes” (Gordon Hodson and Michael A. Busseri) in pdf format. After reading it through I discovered that the above linked article is just as dubious as the information in the study itself. Makes sense.
This is the reason I hate it when people bring up “studies”.. For a large majority of the population (both left and right and everything in between) things that are written in bold print on the internet must be true. No further investigation is needed.

Are you confused about what point I’m referencing? So am I. Nowhere did you make some point that my statement supported. Let me clarify: my point (which I state here in bold), was that journalists can exaggerate the results of scientific studies, even when the studies themselves were completely sound.

If that was the point that you also were making, then that’s wonderful, we are in perfect agreement and you can stop reading here.

But it sounds to me like what you’re trying to suggest is that the study was flawed somehow and you’re asserting that it’s flawed based on the overstated language used by journalists. Let me ask you, how do you think the study was flawed? Can you point to a specific problem with the methodology, statistics, or interpretation as stated in the published scientific article? You asked to see the statistics—they are available in the published scientific article, which @Seiryuu freely linked to and I offered to provide to anyone who could not access it.

I have had enough of these conversations with people here on fluther and the rest of the world that I will save you the trouble of having to answer me. I have little doubt that your answer will be some version of:

Science is biased, scientists find what they set out to find, this study is so stupid, people who believe it are stupid.

If you have any evidence whatsoever to support your position regarding this article, by all means, let’s hear it. If you really think that you have some special insight into this finding that was overlooked by its authors, who are experts on the topic, and the anonymous reviewers who recommended it for publication, who are experts on the topic, and the editor of the journal who published it, who is an expert on analyzing scientific articles and their interpretation, by all means, let’s hear it.

But I will hazard a guess that you do not understand basic statistical techniques, let alone path analysis, the form of structural equation modeling that this article employed. As someone with basic familiarity with these statistical techniques, I find their interpretation of the authors entirely appropriate.

If you have an actual concrete criticism of the article, based on facts or math then let’s hear it. But if your repeated complaint is just another version of “I don’t like this!!!!!!” then please forgive me if I elect not to respond.

digitalimpression's avatar

@nikipedia
“For a large majority of the population (both left and right and everything in between) things that are written in bold print on the internet must be true. No further investigation is needed.”
Are journalists not included in this population?

As far as the rest of your post.. I guess I was supposed to stop reading after the first part. There are a lot of assumptions there. Apparently I’m anti-science because I question the motivations of this study. If that’s a leap you’re willing to errantly make on my behalf than I’m wasting my time answering. I’ve already stated the points I find questionable with the study. It’s that darn scroll-up button again. Must be broken.

bolwerk's avatar

@digitalimpression: the study doesn’t have a motivation. It’s either testing a hypothesis, or analyzing a slew of other studies testing hypotheses. Maybe the people who initiated the study have motivations, but so what? That isn’t something that can be used to point to an internal problem with the study.

Which brings me to my next question: have you identified a single actual problem with the study?

bkcunningham's avatar

How many people from the two data sets did they use in their analysis?

digitalimpression's avatar

@bolwerk How can you possibly say that a study (any study) has no motivation behind it? Absurd.

And again… I’ve already pointed out the flaws (at least from my perspective) with the study. You don’t have to agree.. but yes.. I’ve already mentioned them.

bolwerk's avatar

@digitalimpression: a study isn’t conscious thing. The people who write the study are motivated to test a hypothesis. Perhaps they have a bias towards one outcome or another, perhaps not, but that can’t logically reflect on the rigor of the study.

I can see that it’s from your perspective, given that most of your complaints appear to be that the study doesn’t conform to your own biases.

LostInParadise's avatar

Isn’t a hypothesis by its very nature intended to be biased? Why would be people run tests on a new drug unless they had a strong suspicion that it would be effective? One view of carrying out an experiment is that you do absolutely everything you can to refute the hypothesis. If you fail in your attempts then the hypothesis is tentatively accepted until some better explanation comes along.

bolwerk's avatar

@LostInParadise: certainly not biased in the sense that there is a conscious preference for one outcome over the other. The experimenter may possibly prefer a given outcome, but not necessarily. The hypothesis should be stated as a cause-effect relationship between two variables. Also, experiments don’t really “prove” or “disprove” anything. Technically, they “support” or “do not support” the proposition that one variable influences another.

Seiryuu's avatar

Actually, @bolwerk , hypotheses can be disproved. For example, the hypothesis “All swans are white” can be immediately disproved the moment a swan of some other colour appears. What you can’t do is prove a hypothesis, but support it like you said.

bolwerk's avatar

@Seiryuu: I don’t think that’s technically a hypothesis. That’s a proposition. A (ridiculous) hypothesis would be something like, “The direction of the wind affects the color of swans.”

Obviously, it’s silly axiomatically but the experiment itself will either support or not support the hypothesis, not prove it or disprove it.

Seiryuu's avatar

@bolwerk : My apologies, I should have used two variables as hypotheses and “discredit.”

cockswain's avatar

I haven’t logged in for some time, but I’ve seen this question in several forms over the years I’ve been following this site. They always end up going pretty much like this one has.

My opinion is there are way more ridiculously stupid conservatives than liberals though. For the typical reasons you’ll generally hear. Only an idiot doesn’t believe evolution.

Paradox25's avatar

It amazes me how we all just tend to love the studies that agree with our own opinions and bias. I think what the study is implying is more relevant to people with an authoritarian mindset, and not as relevant to those who identify themselves as conservative or liberal. Our thinking has alot to do with the way we are brought up, along with our personality types, so I see that classifying those who think differently than us as having a lower IQ as nothing more than another biased study.

There are many on the left who are pro status quo as well, and we see this with alot of the self proclaimed liberals on fluther. Should I call the liberals on here conservatives since many of them are pro status quo themselves? Maybe there are more people who classify themselves as conservatives who are less informed, or more ignorant than their so-called liberal counterparts (or maybe not), but to say that this is the result of lower IQ rather than other factors is intellectually dishonest. It is about having an authoritarian mindset, and not so much as having a lower IQ that determines whether one uses critical thinking. Two critical thinkers can come to different opinions on many topics you know.

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