Pin It
(Photo by Ian Forsyth / Getty Images)

Intelligent people are more likely to be left-wing, says science

A new paper has found that higher IQ scores ‘correlated with a range of left-wing and liberal political beliefs’

Great news for socialists: a new study has found that intelligent people are more likely to hold left-wing views.

Psychology researchers at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities studied more than 300 families as part of the study and concluded in a new paper published in the journal Intelligence, that being more clever “correlated with a range of left-wing and liberal political beliefs.”

The researchers measured participants’ intelligence using both IQ and genetic indicators of intelligence known as polygenic scores. They ascertained participants’ politics by testing for five variables: “political orientation, authoritarianism, egalitarianism, social liberalism, and fiscal conservatism.”

“Polygenic scores predicted social liberalism and lower authoritarianism, within families. Intelligence was able to significantly predict social liberalism and lower authoritarianism, within families, even after controlling for socioeconomic variables,” the researchers wrote in the journal. “Our findings may provide the strongest causal inference to date of intelligence directly affecting political beliefs.” 

“We find both IQ and genetic indicators of intelligence [...] can help predict which of two siblings tends to be more liberal. These are siblings with the same upbringing, who are raised under the same roof,” study author Tobias Edwards told PsyPost. “This implies that intelligence is associated with political beliefs, not solely because of environment or upbringing, but rather that the genetic variation for intelligence may play a part in influencing our political differences.” The paper added that there are anomalies, and “the association may be confounded or mediated by socioeconomic and environmental factors.”

In addition, it’s worth noting that IQ tests are not always an accurate marker of intelligence, and that some figures on the right have expressed racist beliefs by sharing pseudoscientific ideas about IQ, genetics, and race.

That said, there have been several other studies in recent years which show similar findings. One from 2019, published in the journal Emotion, revealed that people with lower emotional intelligence were more likely to have right-wing or prejudiced views (a 2017 study drew a similar conclusion). In 2012, a study published in Psychological Science found that children with “lower general intelligence” were more likely to become prejudiced as adults, and to adopt “right-wing ideologies” as a result.

However, Edwards stressed that political beliefs are complex and amorphous, and it would be reductive to draw totalising conclusions. “There is no law saying that intelligent people must always be supportive of particular beliefs or ideologies,” he said. “The way our intelligence affects our beliefs is likely dependent upon our environment and culture. Looking back across history, we can see intelligent individuals have been attracted to all sorts of different and often contradictory ideas.”

“Intellectuals have flirted with and been seduced by dangerous ideologies and tyrannical regimes,” he continued. “Many smart people have believed ideas that are downright stupid.”

Download the app 📱

  • Build your network and meet other creatives
  • Be the first to hear about exclusive Dazed events and offers
  • Share your work with our community
Join Dazed Club