U.S. Presidential IQ hoax

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The U.S. Presidential IQ hoax was a mid-2001 e-mail and internet hoax that purported to provide a list of estimated IQs of the U.S. Presidents from Franklin D. Roosevelt to George W. Bush.[1]

The hoax[edit]

The hoax email showed Bill Clinton having the highest IQ (182) and George W. Bush the lowest (91). However, the numbers claimed in the email were fabricated, and the sociologists and institutions (e.g., the "Lovenstein Institute") quoted in the article do not exist (a "Lovenstein Institute" website displays the "report", but it was created after the report's release).[2] The techniques purportedly used to measure IQ of the presidents are not recognized means of measuring IQs. The hoax also contains other factual errors.[1] When the hoax was debunked, it appeared to be a personal attack on Bush because of its timing and its listing Bush's IQ as exactly half that of Clinton's.

Reports about the hoax[edit]

Perhaps because the perception of George W. Bush having low intelligence was claimed by some political pundits[3] as well as by politicians, including a spokesperson for Tony Blair,[4] the hoax report was assumed by some to be true. The British newspaper The Guardian, for example, quoted the report in its diary section of July 19, 2001 and used it to belittle Bush, although the paper published a retraction two days after the Associated Press drew attention to the error.[5][6] Other media outlets to fall for the hoax included Bild (Germany), Pravda (Russia), and the Southland Times (New Zealand) as well as a few U.S. newspapers. The hoax came back to life in March 2007 in Spanish-language media when the Press Agency EFE distributed a piece referring to it. Dozens of media (primarily in their online versions) reproduced EFE's text. Among newspapers publishing the hoax were El País (Spain's leading newspaper),[7] ABC, La Vanguardia, and El Mercurio (Chile's leading newspaper).

IQ estimations by academics[edit]

In 2001 political psychologist Aubrey Immelman made an IQ estimation of G. W. Bush based on the SAT Reasoning Test results of Bush (1206) and Al Gore, who achieved IQ scores of 133 and 134 in his school years: "It's tempting to employ Al Gore's IQ:SAT ratio of 134:1355 as a formula for estimating Bush's probable intelligence quotient — an exercise in fuzzy statistics that predicts a score of 119."[8]

A 2006 study analyzing presidential IQs by Dean Keith Simonton of U.C. Davis appeared in the journal Political Psychology. Simonton's study analyzed the results of varied and often subjective historical material using the tools of historiometry. It estimated IQs for all US presidents, and validated the headline of the hoax, which stated Bush's was the lowest of any president in the last 50 years, though it estimates his IQ considerably higher (by more than two standard deviations) than the 91 suggested in the hoax report. It rated G.W. Bush second to last since 1900, with an estimated IQ of 125 (the estimates ranged from 111 to 139). Bush's estimated IQ was only higher than those estimated for Grant (120), Monroe (124), and Harding (124). The same study estimated president Bill Clinton's IQ at 149, behind only those of Kennedy (151), Jefferson (154) and John Quincy Adams (169).[9]

Simonton's 2006 study follows earlier studies done on this subject, including a 1926 study by Catharine Cox Miles. This study concluded that there is a statistically significant correlation of 0.56 between a U.S. President's IQ and his perceived amount of success.[10] It is worth noting that other sources and/or studies might have different results for the IQs of United States Presidents. For instance, John F. Kennedy's IQ has also been estimated to have been significantly lower than in this 2006 study (Chester Arthur biographer Thomas C. Reeves refers to an actual IQ test by Kennedy with a score of 119[11]), while Richard Nixon's IQ has also been estimated to have been significantly higher than in this study.

Here are the full results of the 2006 Simonton study, with some U.S. Presidential IQ estimates from other sources as well (average: 147 IQ points):

Name Political Party Lifespan Time in Office IQ (corrected for data reliability, ages 18-26)[9] Other IQ Estimates
George Washington None/Federalist 1732–1799 1789–1797 140
John Adams Federalist 1735–1826 1797–1801 155
Thomas Jefferson Democratic-Republican 1743–1826 1801–1809 160
James Madison Democratic-Republican 1751–1836 1809–1817 160
James Monroe Democratic-Republican 1758–1831 1817–1825 138.6
John Quincy Adams Democratic-Republican 1767–1848 1825–1829 175
Andrew Jackson Democratic 1767–1845 1829–1837 145
Martin van Buren Democratic 1782–1862 1837–1841 139.5
William Henry Harrison Whig 1773–1841 1841 146.3
John Tyler Whig 1790–1862 1841–1845 148.1
James Polk Democratic 1795–1849 1845–1849 143.4
Zachary Taylor Whig 1784–1850 1849–1850 139.8
Millard Fillmore Whig 1800–1874 1850–1853 149
Franklin Pierce Democratic 1804–1869 1853–1857 147.4
James Buchanan Democratic 1791–1868 1857–1861 139.6
Abraham Lincoln Republican 1809–1865 1861–1865 150
Andrew Johnson National Union/Democratic 1808–1875 1865–1869 139.8
Ulysses Grant Republican 1822–1885 1869–1877 130
Rutherford Hayes Republican 1822–1893 1877–1881 146.3
James Garfield Republican 1831–1881 1881 152.3
Chester Arthur Republican 1829–1886 1881–1885 152.3
Grover Cleveland Democratic 1837–1908 1885–1889, 1893–1897 144
Benjamin Harrison Republican 1833–1901 1889–1893 145.4
William McKinley Republican 1843–1901 1897–1901 143.4
Theodore Roosevelt Republican 1858–1919 1901–1909 153
William Howard Taft Republican 1857–1930 1909–1913 139.5
Woodrow Wilson Democratic 1856–1924 1913–1921 155.2
Warren Harding Republican 1865–1923 1921–1923 139.9
Calvin Coolidge Republican 1872–1933 1923–1929 141.6
Herbert Hoover Republican 1874–1964 1929–1933 141.6
Franklin Roosevelt Democratic 1882–1945 1933–1945 150.5
Harry Truman Democratic 1884–1972 1945–1953 139.8
Dwight Eisenhower Republican 1890–1969 1953–1961 145.1
John F. Kennedy Democratic 1917–1963 1961–1963 159.8 119[12]
Lyndon Johnson Democratic 1908–1973 1963–1969 140.6
Richard Nixon Republican 1913–1994 1969–1974 142.6 143[13]
Gerald Ford Republican 1913–2006 1974–1977 140.4
Jimmy Carter Democratic 1924–present 1977–1981 156.8
Ronald Reagan Republican 1911–2004 1981–1989 141.9
George H. W. Bush Republican 1924–present 1989–1993 143
Bill Clinton Democratic 1946–present 1993–2001 159
George W. Bush Republican 1946–present 2001–2009 138.5
Barack Obama Democratic 1961–present 2009–present N/A 140[14]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "President Bush Has Lowest IQ of all Presidents of past 50 Years". snopes.com. 2004-07-15. Retrieved 2006-09-11. 
  2. ^ "The Lovenstein Institute - Scranton, PA". Lovenstein.org. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  3. ^ Baker, Peter (2006-08-20). "Pundits Renounce The President". Washington Post. Retrieved 2006-09-11. 
  4. ^ Walters, Simon (2006-08-19). "Blair 'feels betrayed by Bush on Lebanon'". Daily Mail. Retrieved 2006-09-11. 
  5. ^ Matthew Norman (2001-07-19). "Diary". The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-10-23. 
  6. ^ Matthew Norman (2001-08-16). "Diary". The Guardian. Retrieved 2006-10-23. 
  7. ^ ElPais.com (2007-03-13). "Diary". El País. Retrieved 2007-03-13. 
  8. ^ Aubrey Immelman: Bush gets bad rap on intelligence. In: St. Cloud Times. January 14, 2001
  9. ^ a b Dean Keith Simonton (August 2006). "Presidential IQ, Openness, Intellectual Brilliance, and Leadership: Estimates and Correlations for 42 U.S. Chief Executives" (PDF). Political Psychology 27 (4): 511–526. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9221.2006.00524.x. Retrieved 2006-09-11. 
  10. ^ "How Smart Does a President Have to Be? | Britannica Blog". Britannica.com. 2013-09-06. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  11. ^ Thomas C. Reeves: Presidential IQ. In: History News Network. November 5, 2006
  12. ^ Cecil Adams (2001-06-22). "Who was the stupidest U.S. president?". The Straight Dope. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  13. ^ "The President's daily decision, how Gotti got to the top, homicidal honchos, and other matters. THE MOST IMPORTANT STAT - July 15, 1991". Money.cnn.com. 1991-07-15. Retrieved 2013-09-10. 
  14. ^ http://pumpkinperson.com/2015/01/08/the-iq-of-president-obama/

External links[edit]