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Research reveals that higher IQ scores correlate with left-wing beliefs

A new paper has found a link between ‘being genetically predisposed to be smarter’ and being more liberal, suggesting that our political views may not solely be a product of our environment or upbringing, but could also be influenced by the genetic variations that affect our intelligence.

According to a recent study, people with higher IQ scores are more likely to hold liberal views, which suggests that intelligence directly alters our political affiliations.

Published in the journal Intelligence, the paper’s results ‘imply that being genetically predisposed to be smarter causes left-wing beliefs.’

The finding provides a new approach to answering the age-old question of how people develop their inclinations towards certain ideologies or attitudes and why some lean more liberal while others lean more conservative.

Of course, numerous factors determine how we participate in our civil rights and what parties we support.

Among these is family – specifically parents who shape the beliefs of their children either directly (through discussion) or indirectly (through modelling) – as well as gender, religion, race, and ethnicity.

However, the psychologists who conducted the research have pointed out an often-overlooked aspect of this discussion, one that goes beyond environment or upbringing.

As reported by the team at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, ‘the genetic variation for intelligence may play a part in influencing our political differences.’

‘We find both IQ and genetic indicators of intelligence can help predict which of two siblings tends to be more liberal. These are siblings with the same upbringing, who are raised under the same roof,’ lead author Tobias Edwards told PsyPost.

‘This implies that intelligence is associated with political beliefs – that the genetic variation for intelligence may influence our political differences.’

To reach this conclusion, the researchers studied more than 300 families and measured participants’ intelligence using both IQ and genetic indicators of intelligence known as polygenic scores.

Additionally, they determined their politics by testing for six variables that included political orientation, authoritarianism, egalitarianism, social liberalism, fiscal conservatism and religiousness.

‘Polygenic scores predicted social liberalism and lower authoritarianism, within families. Intelligence was able to significantly predict social liberalism and lower authoritarianism, within families, even after controlling for socioeconomic variables,’ reads the paper.

‘Our findings may provide the strongest causal inference to date of intelligence directly affecting political beliefs.’

Now, although this is the first time that the correlation between intelligence and left-wing beliefs has been examined in such detail, investigations into the contrary began well-over a decade ago.

A 2012 study found that children with ‘lower general intelligence’ were more likely to become prejudiced as adults and to adopt ‘right-wing ideologies’ as a result and, in 2017 and then later in 2019, two different sets of research confirmed a similar theory about those with lower emotional intelligence.

This is because conservatives generally value tradition, respect for authority, and social order, and tend to be sceptical of innovation and change, while liberals tend to be more open and typically prioritise values such as equality, social justice, and the protection of civil liberties.

It is, however, important to recognise that political beliefs are ‘complex and amorphous’ (as stressed by Edwards) and that it would be reductive to draw totalising conclusions.

‘The way our intelligence affects our beliefs is likely dependent upon our environment and culture,’ he said.

‘There have been extraordinarily intelligent people on both the left and right, from Oppenheimer to von Neumann. These and many more examples show that there is no reason why we must presume one ideology to be more intelligent than another, even if smart people seem more likely to align with one belief or another.’

‘From our study we cannot say that the beliefs of high IQ people tell us what is right to believe, but rather only what smart people choose to believe.’