Who is smart: Secular, religious, Right or Left?
A friend emailed me and suggested I look into the GSS and figure out which groups are smarter in terms of political & religious combinations. So again, my methodology is simple. I took the WORDSUM variable, which is the # correct out of 10 on a vocabulary test as a proxy for intelligence. Sliced & diced the survey sample into “Secular” vs. “Religious” (i.e., those whose confidence in the existence of god is 0 to sometimes vs. those who are mostly to totally sure), and “Right” vs. “Left” ((aggregating from “slightly” to “extremely” liberal or conservative). I also split the results including non-whites, and only with whites. Here are the means for the classes:
As you can see, the rank order is Secular Left > Secular Right > Religious Right > Religious Left. If you look at the original data, you will note interestingly that the most and least intelligence classes on a more granular level seem to be the extreme liberals who are non-religious (the smartest) and religious (dumbest). This applies both when you have a racially diverse, or whites only, sample. Extreme conservatives who are non-religious don’t seem very bright, but the N is small (19), so I don’t know what to say about that. If I had to hazard a hypothesis, it might be that very smart people know what society expects of their worldviews. So secular people should be on the Left, and the bright ones know this and conform their disparate Weltanschauung appropriately. The rather dull on the other hand don’t realize that society expects the religious to be on the Right, and so avow their extreme liberalism without any doubt or self-consciousness. Perhaps the same could be said of non-religious individuals who assert their extreme conservatism? (Or perhaps they don’t even know what “extreme conservatism” entails)
But you want to know the distributions, right?
Obviously you can conclude from these data one definitive point: secular liberals are smart. On the other hand, only ~30% of liberals are secular, vs. ~15% of conservatives. The self perception of “liberals” that they are much smarter than “conservatives” probably has to do with the fact that the intelligentsia is dominated by secular liberals.