Pure signal.

Snopes lied — Republicans are dumber (or not)

I owe my readership an apology. The study that I link to is on a paid site — I have access through my college. I was assuming it was freely available — which it likely is through your local university or public library. I make the assumption throughout this piece that anyone could download and read this study, when obviously you would have to go to a library to actually access it, which makes it harder. I try hard to use only publicly availible sites — I’m not trying to generate subscription income for anyone. I can tell you though, if the subject interests you, that the study that I link to is probobly available to you through your local library, or local college library. You will probobly need to talk to the reserach librarian to get access to it — but if you want to be informed about things that is a trip you should make anyway. Otherwise you have to count on assholes like me to filter it all for you.


I believe that the second most important issue facing the American polity (after the issue of disentangling the effect of money on governance) is the issue of learning how to argue from evidence instead of values. It is hard to say if it is just a matter of national character that we believe that the morally sympathetic side will always be the factually correct side of an argument, or if it is a universal human trait. Either way, it is a pernicious and destructive trait, because it is easy to spin sympathy, but it is impossible to spin fact.

I have been re-reading The Bell Curve recently — and within that book are a number of controversial statements which are made about soft-science questions (psychology and sociology) — and I’m sure that strong arguments could be made against the conclusions which are reached — just because of the amount of slip which is involved in any soft science. But what I am also convinced of is that almost no strong arguments have been made against the conclusions of the book.

In fact, of the arguments I have heard in classes and at poetry readings, none of them have even addressed the issues — they have addressed the morality of the perceived ideology of the kinds of people who would ask the kinds of questions raised by the book. And even those arguments have not been made particularly well.

If you dislike the conclusions of the book, doesn’t it make sense that you would want to make the strongest possible arguments against it?

On a separate but related issue — after the 2002 American presidential election — when the Red State/ Blue State divide was at it’s peak a chart was sent around that showed regional average IQ correlated to state color. It was convincing enough to get published in the Economist. The fact was that the “Average” IQ of the Red States was lower than the “Average” IQ of the Blue states. The humorous (and probably false) implication drawn being that Democrats were smarter than Republicans.

The implication was not appropriate — which didn’t change the fact (true or false) presented by the table. So on the one side, Democrats had a good and undeserved chuckle, and on the other side Republicans protested that the table was inaccurate. The Economist published a retraction. described the table as a fraud, and even stated that the studies it was drawn from couldn’t be located.

Well — the study cited in the Snopes article does exist — the numbers do not match the table — but they make the same factual argument about “average IQ” of the Red States vs. the Blue States. The parallel is so strong that it suggests that where-ever the original table came from – it was probably a real source. If it was a total fabrication, it was an uncanny accurate one.

The study is called “IQ and the Wealth of States” — and it’s methodology is rigorously described. Now you can disagree with the study, and you can argue about the statistics — but the question that stands out for me is “Why is misrepresenting the truth in this matter?” because up until now I have always counted on them for accuracy.

The PDF is currently available from the London School of Economics — you can Google the title and it’s the first link.

I don’t care too much if the numbers are true — but it does bother me (like in the case of The Bell Curve) that people seem to be so completely illiterate as to be unable to discuss why or why not they are true. Especially since it seems to matter so much to so many people. Is our “morality based reasoning” that tells us that elitism is morally wrong, so that elitist arguments must always be factually wrong — the best we can do? Or are there enough of us willing to say “I’m not sure what the truth is, but I am willing to consider the arguments and follow the evidence where-ever it leads” that some day we can have a social discourse that is dominated by reality and truth?


March 28, 2008 - Posted by | People who fucking Suck


  1. I’ve reported this to Snopes twice and they have nothing to say about it. Please consider this when you use Snopes in the future. It is one thing to make a mistake, and another thing entirely to deliberately propagate misunderstanding.

    What do you suppose their bias is? Is it a Stephan J Gould type bias against psychometrics, or is it actually a right or center leaning political bias?

    Comment by bootslack | July 19, 2008 | Reply

  2. I would suggest that snopes leans much more left in my dealings. Any time I look something up, it ends up being either completely factual with a left leaning spin, or comletely based on a matter of opinion, in which the snopes version is presented as fact, but leans left anyway. huh.

    Comment by K | July 28, 2008 | Reply

    • But guys like us, we don’t pay attention to the polls. We know that polls are just a collection of statistics that reflect what people are thinking in ‘reality’. And reality has a well-known liberal bias. – Stephen Colbert

      Comment by michalchik | August 4, 2009 | Reply

  3. Left leaning would support the idea of Stephan J Gould’s bias against psychometrics — that is a tired old liberal drum. I would agree with you that they are in general more left oriented than right.

    Comment by bootslack | July 29, 2008 | Reply

  4. I’m sorry, but the state IQ estimates you link to are ridiculous. The author has completely screwed up the SAT/ACT adjustment process. A much more straightforward way to estimate IQ by state is from the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress scores, which blogger Audacious Epigone did at

    Here’s 8th grade math and science NAEP scores by state on an IQ-style scale with 100 = mean, with an adjustment for differences in private school attendance by state:

    1. Massachusetts — 101.7
    2. North Dakota — 101.5
    3. Vermont — 101.5
    4. South Dakota — 101.3
    5. Montana — 101.3
    6. New Hampshire — 101.2
    7. Minnesota — 100.9
    8. Wisconsin — 100.6
    9. Wyoming — 100.5
    10. Iowa — 100.2
    11. Maine — 99.9
    12. Idaho — 99.9
    13. Washington — 99.9
    14. Nebraska — 99.8
    15. Virginia — 99.7
    16. Kansas — 99.7
    17. Ohio — 99.6
    18. Colorado — 99.4
    19. New Jersey — 99.4
    20. Oregon — 99.3
    21. Delaware — 99.1
    22. Michigan — 99.1
    23. Utah — 99.0
    24. Conneticut — 98.9
    25. Pennsylvania — 98.9
    26. Missouri — 98.7
    27. Indiana — 98.7
    28. Alaska — 98.7
    29. Kentucky — 98.3
    30. New York — 98.0
    31. Illinois — 97.9
    32. South Carolina — 97.7
    33. North Carolina — 97.6
    34. Maryland — 97.3
    35. Texas — 97.2
    36. Rhode Island — 97.0
    37. Oklahoma — 97.0
    38. West Virginia — 96.8
    39. Tennessee — 97.7
    40. Arkansas — 96.7
    41. Georgia — 96.5
    42. Florida — 96.2
    43. Arizona — 96.1
    44. Nevada — 95.1
    45. Louisiana — 94.9
    46. California — 94.8
    47. New Mexico — 94.6
    48. Alabama — 94.5
    49. Hawaii — 94.4
    50. Mississippi — 93.3
    51. DC — 87.9

    Comment by Steve Sailer | September 2, 2008 | Reply

    • Math and Science NEAP is much more a product or the immigration rate and quality of the school system. I don’t think it is a good estimate of average IQ.

      Comment by michalchik | August 4, 2009 | Reply

  5. Steve — I appreciate your strong stance — I’m sure you will notice that I make some strong stances myself, but the author that I link to is experienced with psychometrics and statistics – and he provides his justification for his adjustments in the paper, so it is really not enough just to describe them as ridiculous and wrong.

    I do appreciate your posting an alternate set of numbers — and your providing an alternate way of estimating IQ — that is so much more than most people talking on this subject have done.

    But you don’t get to reject an experimental protocol by just calling it a name. Maybe the protocol is bad, and maybe it is good. You have provided me with no reasoning to judge your assertion.

    Two kinds of comments have plagued me since starting this project — the first is that I don’t have the authority to defend this claim — when absolutely none of my claim rests on my personal authority. I am making the observation that there is a real study by and honest to got psychometrics man which provides the same curve as a popular chart. It cannot be a coincidence because there are 50 data points. Therefore either the academic who made that study created the study around the chart — which would be both difficult to do, and fraudulent — and would provide no real reward, or the original chart itself was actually based on someones research.

    You do not have to trust me to recognize that it must be either one way or the other. I am no expert and I have no friends who are experts — I am relying on a simple and obvious correlation of two sets of numbers.

    The other comment is that “people who know better” in some way or another know that all of this is bullshit. Now there are a lot of claims that have been made — and I agree that most of them are bullshit. For instance even if true this chart has NO PREDICTIVE VALUE ABOUT THE INTELLIGENCE OF ANYONE BASED ON POLITICAL PARTY. And I certainly never believed that it did. But what IS known about IQ is contentious and there are lots of ways to analyze and think about these issues — so who you know and even if you have multiple degrees in psychology and statistics does not authorize you to “just know” how things are.

    You still have to actually provide a meaningful argument. Of all the people I have talked to about this — I have to say that Steve has come the closest to doing that (outside of the academics who are actually publishing in the field).

    Comment by bootslack | September 3, 2008 | Reply

  6. Steve — who commented above, read the article I linked too, and provided the following analysis:

    Kanazawa, who is in London, doesn’t understand the college admissions
    testing system in America.

    Here’s where he goes wrong. He writes

    “In order to use the incomplete, truncated data on SAT
    scores to compute state IQ, however, I make two simplifying
    1. Students who complete high school are uniformly
    more intelligent than those who do not.
    2. High school seniors who take the SAT are uniformly
    more intelligent than those who do not.”

    What Kanazawa doesn’t understand is that there is sharp regional division
    between the SAT (based in NJ), which dominates on the East and West Coasts,
    and the ACT, based in Iowa, which dominates in the middle of the country.
    So, he assumes that because only roughly 5% of students in Iowa take the
    SAT, that’s because students in Iowa are much, much stupider (76.6 IQ) than
    in, say, New Jersey (108.6) where a very large percentage of students take
    the SAT. No, the main differences is that the ACT, which is based in Iowa
    City is the norm in Iowa, just as the SAT, which is based in Princeton is
    the norm in New Jersey.

    If he had worked on the assumption “2. High school seniors who take the SAT
    AND/OR ACT are uniformly more intelligent than those who do not” he might
    not have made a fool of himself.


    I would like to point out that this is actual thought — for those of you who refuse to recognize my questioning as thought because I appear to disagree with you, maybe you can recognize thought in Steve who appears to agree with you.

    I would also like to point out that, in all likelihood, he has explained how the error was made in the initial data which was pulled from the Economist. Snopes misrepresented the truth — they said that the data was made up. It probably wasn’t made up, because in the analysis provided by Kanazawa, the same curve appeared. What Steve has shown here is that there is an error in Kanazawa’s analysis due to his misunderstanding of American testing protocols.

    That is a real argument — based on real thought and analysis. Of the 300 or so comments/discussions I have seen regarding that chart — Steve is the first person I have seen who responded thoughtfully.

    I want to assert — and I wish everyone to stand back, take a breath and consider —

    that is a huge problem. Because this issue was not that complex.

    Comment by bootslack | September 6, 2008 | Reply

  7. The NAEP scores are a much better measure than what’s linked to for gauging aptitude for one overriding reason–virtually everyone in the public school system takes the NAEP. Someone with a midwestern bias could easily employ the same logic as the guy from London using the ACT instead of the SAT as a basis for estimating average IQ. Iowa would probably top the list.

    In fact, it’d be pretty funny if someone did. We’d be able to see how much ignorance there is on the right when it comes to the subject of IQ.

    The IQ estimates Steve links to are actually averaged on a mean of 98. To presume the average IQ of the US is 100, simply add two points to each state’s score.

    Comment by Audacious Epigone | September 19, 2008 | Reply

  8. Here lie great examples of prejudiced conclusions in desperate search of some facts to back them up.

    Comment by Jay | January 14, 2009 | Reply

    • Jay you managed to drastically miss the point of the entire post series. But in doing so you have illustrated the specific problem that I am trying to address, so thank you! READ BEFORE YOU SPEAK. It’s not just a good idea, it’s the point of the post.

      Comment by bootslack | January 15, 2009 | Reply

  9. Maybe it would be a better indicator how many finished college, finished high school and how many are high school drop outs. IQ is what a person could learn, education is the way to learning more if you are able to do that.

    Comment by JT | September 27, 2012 | Reply

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