A quick DuckDuckGo search on "are liberal people more intelligent" or "are left wing people more intelligent" leads to many blogs/articles claiming that they are (same search on the opposite claim ("less" or "conservative") leads mostly to the same links).

What is the scientific consensus on this question ?

EDIT : I am looking mostly for correlation (controlled for confounding variables) but it would be nice to have some insight into possible causes of this correlation (whether one variable causes the other or they are consequences of the same cause). Here is an example of an article claiming that liberals are more intelligent, though the question of whether liberalism and political orientation are correlated does not depend on whether the explanations offered in the article are valid or not. It should also be noted for the sake of irony that its author Satoshi Kanazawa is the exact opposite of a liberal.

EDIT 2: By "liberal/left-wing" I mean stuff like support for the welfare state, economic regulation, civil rights, abortion, minority rights (same sex marriage, etc.), separation of church and state, pacifism, etc... i.e. political positions correlated with one another that are commonly labeled "liberal" or "left-wing". By intelligence I mean mostly IQ and cognitive ability in general.

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    Could you provide an example or link. At the moment it is just a question and not really a notable claim. You can find almost anything stated that way you want it.
    – RomaH
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 18:48
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    Related: Do non-educated people tend more to the right/conservative political wing? (not a duplicate though, as this is about intelligence, not education)
    – tim
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 19:12
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    The paper seems to switch definitions of "liberalism" a few times, too. The quote about is what the author claims to define "liberalism" as, but he assesses it by asking the students how they self-identify. Note that the test-takers were in the UK, so presumably their definition of "liberal" is whatever high school students in the UK think that "liberal" means.
    – Nat
    Commented Apr 28, 2017 at 23:33
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    @GEdgar There is a relevant difference between this question and your examples: Political opinion is a self selecting group, unlike race or gender (which usually are assigned at birth). So this question is asking if different levels of intelligence/education - or different perception of ones own intelligence - leads people to join or identify with a specific peer group. That is vastly different from "Is my race the uber-race?".
    – Peter
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 11:44
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    The biggest problem with this question is that it assumes it is easy to characterise peoples' political views on a simple one-dimensional spectrum. If that isn't easy, then the question is moot. For example, how many people are socially liberal but economically conservative (in the sense that they believe in free markets and smaller government)?
    – matt_black
    Commented Apr 29, 2017 at 20:19

1 Answer 1


A lot of the discussion on this topic was provoked by a peer-reviewed study published in 2012. Quoting from the abstract:

We proposed and tested mediation models in which lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups. In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology. A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact. All analyses controlled for education and socioeconomic status. Our results suggest that cognitive abilities play a critical, albeit underappreciated, role in prejudice ...

There is a blog post by an independent scholar that trashes the methodology of this study.

A study from the previous year, done in Brazil with a much smaller sample, also had somewhat different findings:

Firstly, intelligence has a positive impact on having any political opinion. Among persons with opinions those with the highest IQ's were found to be politically center-right and centrist respectively. The relationship held after correcting for gender, age, educati on and income. In a path-analysis, only intelligence had a positive impact on political centrality, whereas education promoted orientations that were farther from the center. These results are discus sed in the context of results from other studies in different countries and in the context of differe nt theoretical models on the relationship between political attitudes and IQ.

Intelligence may be a proxy for something else. At least one study from 2014 emphasizes sensitivity to feelings of disgust. Deppe et al. from 2015 argue that the more relevant variable is reliance on intuition over reflection.

In sum, the data is far from conclusive. At best it suggests that the question of cognitive ability shaping political orientation is worth further exploration.

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    Frankly the sum of this answer is: (1) a blog thrashes this particular study. (2) IQ correlates with other stuff (which may be more relevant, but we don't really know). Note that the cognitive reflection test used by Deppe does correlate with IQ. Even when this answer was written meta-analyses like Onraet (2015), which is discussed in a linked question, did exist. Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 15:19
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    @Fizz Write a better answer then?
    – Brian Z
    Commented Sep 11, 2019 at 16:09

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