Official: Lib Dem voters more intelligent than Tory and Labour voters (Nationalist, BNP and UKIP voters least intelligent of all)

by Stephen Tall on November 3, 2008

At last official research has told us what most Lib Dems have known for years: our voters are more intelligent than those who vote for the Tories or Labour. Academic research published in the journal Intelligence – and given an airing in today’s Guardian – compares the way people voted in the 2001 election with their IQ at the age of 10 (using data from the 1970 British cohort study).

And here’s what it shows:

On a party-by-party basis, the average (childhood) IQ scores for 2001 voters were:

Green – 108.3
Liberal Democrat – 108.2
Conservative – 103.7
Labour – 103
Plaid Cymru – 102.5
Scottish National – 102.2
UK Independence – 101.1
British National – 98.4
Did not vote/None of the above – 99.7

The Guardian concludes:

… the authors say there is also a correlation between high childhood intelligence and an above-average interest in politics. I suspect that may partly explain the figures, because people who are apathetic about politics may be unlikely to vote Green or Lib Dem in the first place. (Clever political activists can also vote Labour or Tory, but – because of the apathy vote – there may be proportionally fewer of them voting for the two main parties.) But this can’t be the full explanation, and the authors don’t seem to offer one either.

In fact, we’ve known for some time that Lib Dem voters are more likely to hold University degrees (an admittedly imperfect measure of intelligence) than the voters for Labour or the Tories, so the research is perhaps not all that surprising.

The larger point is probably this one: voting for the Lib Dems (or Greens) is less likely to be based on inherited or tribal loyalties because our core vote is much smaller. How many Labour/Tory voters do you know who vote pretty unthinkingly simply because that’s who their family or their peers vote for? Lib Dem voters (and, yes, Greens too) are proportionately more likely, therefore, to think for themselves.

As for the lower IQs of the Scottish and Welsh Nationalist, UKIP and BNP voters, how about this for a theory: nationalism in all its guises is an essentially negative ideology which plays to people’s stereotypes and fears, and is especially attractive to those who are suspicious of the unfamiliar, the foreign, the ‘other’. Small wonder, then, that those who choose to vote for such an ideology are those more likely to have closed minds.

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No comments

I’m not sure being smarmy about our IQs is going to gain many votes, though… 😛

by Thomas Hemsley on November 3, 2008 at 8:16 pm. Reply #

Who cares?


by Julian H on November 3, 2008 at 8:49 pm. Reply #

Probably that’s the reason for the Lib Dems’s poor electoral success. Not enough intelligent voters…

by Anonymous on November 3, 2008 at 11:31 pm. Reply #

This shows that we have issues to address: a successful party is likely to be one that draws support from people with pretty much the full range of IQ/educational attainment and so on (just as a successful party is likely to attract support from all ages, genders, ethnicities and so on). It almost certainly shows that there are communities that we are not connecting with, for whatever reason. We need to address that: everyone has one vote, and all votes count equally! (please don’t write in about STV at this point, you know what I mean)

by Tim Leunig on November 4, 2008 at 12:18 am. Reply #

You’re right Tim, and maybe a simpler narrative from LibDems may be very useful. Although it’s so easy to do this badly.

Hopefully The Flynn effect will mean that in 20 years we will HAVE

by Mund on November 4, 2008 at 7:53 am. Reply #

to win an election, ;-0.

by Mund on November 4, 2008 at 7:53 am. Reply #

So the old Liberal slogan, ‘Liberals think for themselves’, was true!

by Greenfield on November 4, 2008 at 8:19 am. Reply #

That’s not a big spread… but it suggests that voters might have higher IQ than average, and non-voters lower IQ than average (with BNP voters in a class of their own).

by spz on November 4, 2008 at 10:57 am. Reply #

Tim Leunig, it seems that the BNP is connecting with the communities that the Lib Dems aren’t. Maybe the answer would be to adopt some policies from the BNP?

Labour and Tories could be seen politically somewhere between the Lib Dems and the BNP (having similar policies with both), and the average IQ of their supporters is also somewhere between the Lib Dems and the BNP. And look, they indeed are drawing support from people with pretty much the full range of IQ/educational attainment, and are more successful than either the Lib Dems or the BNP.

So perhaps in order to become successful Lib Dems just have to become like Tories and Labour. Now you just have to decide whether you want to be successful or true to yourselves.

by Anonymous on November 4, 2008 at 10:59 am. Reply #

So Anon @ 10.59am, that means we are condemned to 3rd place due to our higher intellect.


by Different Duncan on November 4, 2008 at 11:30 am. Reply #

It’s always been my not particularly well-thought-through belief that if we concentrate on what we’re good at, i.e. getting clever people onside and enthusing them, that they will then naturally go about working out good ways to reach the wider spectrum, on account of their being clever people. This is largely on the basis that it works with marketing other products and ideas – i.e. mavens and early adopters typically come from ABC1 and eventually lead C2DE towards the same aspiration/product. Or, in Maslowian terms, pioneers lead the prospectors and eventually the settlers.

But it’s true that if there is a timescale like this for us it’s not easy to discern. Bah, I’ll probably give it another ten years before I revise it though.

by Alix on November 4, 2008 at 12:09 pm. Reply #

Different Duncan, perhaps, though like Mund said, due to Flynn effect the average IQ will rise due to generations.

There are of course some ways to make the message of the Lib Dems more clear and understandable also to those, who aren’t that interested in politics, but if the message still doesn’t appeal to them, the only alternatives are to either abandon your principles or to content to the third place and try to influence the political process through criticism and dialogue.

by Anonymous on November 4, 2008 at 12:57 pm. Reply #

*over the generations.

by Anonymous on November 4, 2008 at 1:00 pm. Reply #

Let’s not rush to concede (not that anyone probably was conceding it) that IQ necessarily measures intelligence. It might just measure the ability to do well in IQ tests. However it does apparently correlate to some degree with factors such as socioeconomic status and educational attainment, factors which are relevant to Tim’s point about the need to connect with a fuller range of communities.

So, yes, one strategy (as Mund suggests, tongue-in-cheek perhaps) might be just to wait until society is sufficiently smart to vote LibDem. But then maybe the IQ differences aren’t large enough for an increase to lead to a changed vote.

And sometimes one just can’t afford to wait generations (e.g. climate change, bad wars, poverty, loss of liberties)

Or maybe there are other correlating factors (e.g. parental income or education) that are actually the change drivers for both IQ and preference for the LibDems.

Or maybe however much society gets smarter, all the parties adapt their policies so that Conservative and Labour policies appeal to the vast majority and LibDem policies appeal to the slightly-smarter.

Or maybe everyone gets smarter and the proportion of people interested in politics stays just the same.

Alternatively, as Alix reflects, maybe we have an unexamined belief that if we convince the smart people, the rest will ultimately follow. And perhaps that’s a good strategy. Who knows? I’d say the evidence is mixed so far…

If all this sounds like I don’t know what to conclude, you’re right! I fear that Anon@12:57 is probably on the money: If one isn’t going to abandon principles to gain power, and one can’t make the message appealing enough to those who aren’t interested in politics, then influencing the debate is the best to hope for. And that’s not terrible. Just rather annoying…

But I’d rather not believe that just yet, because I think that the Daily Mail, Express, Sun, etc. are not just reflecting their readers’ views, but also helping to shape them. And if the two main parties can reach these readers, why can’t we?

by Lonely Wanderer on November 4, 2008 at 4:27 pm. Reply #

Interestingly, the abstract states that: ‘The intelligence-Green party voting association was largely accounted for by occupational social class, the intelligence-Liberal Democrat voting association was not.’

So the Greens just tend to appeal to a more middle class strata of society, but for us it’s something more fundamental (if you place any weight whatever on IQ scores).

by mooncalf on November 4, 2008 at 5:45 pm. Reply #

Clear evidence of the Lib Dem bias against the less intelligent.

by Mark Williams on November 8, 2008 at 1:54 pm. Reply #

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