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Name: Kurt Cagle
Gender: Male
Hometown: Cascadia
Member since: Sat Dec 3, 2016, 01:02 AM
Number of posts: 1,475

About Me

Contributing Writer, Forbes Magazine

Journal Archives

Trump and Low IQ Voters

I've held a theory for a while that Democrats are smarter than Republicans. It's not by much - perhaps only about 5 points, but it's consistent with what I've seen in the literature. If you control for other factors - race, sex, age, income, and region, for instance - this difference is another way of talking about college-educated vs. non-college-educated people. College specifically tests for intelligence, by either direct or indirect measures, and while hardly consistently true, going to college usually signals that a person is more likely to be just a bit smarter than average.

Why does this matter? Intelligence, like many aggregates, tends to follow a normal or gaussian distribution (with some caveats). The actual distribution is slightly asymmetric, with a somewhat longer tail towards higher values and a somewhat bulgier (short tail) towards lower values. Put another way, if you assume the mean is 100, then there are roughly as many people between an IQ of 100-112 as there between 90 and 100, and there are likely fewer people at 80 than there are at 120. This is also not necessarily talking about the Stanford-Binet IQ test, which has many flaws, but is more a question of any reasonable measure of mental capacity. For purposes of discussion, however, talking about a normal or gaussian distribution for intelligence is not unreasonable.

When you make the argument that Trump generally attracts lower-IQ voters, what that means is that the mean of the distribution of Trump voters is likely about 5 points lower. You may have Trump voters that have IQs of 130 (two standard deviations), but there will be fewer of them there are Biden voters at 130. How much fewer? Consider that IQ has a standard deviation of around 15 points, this means that there are 22,800 people per 1M people with an IQ of 130, given a mean of 100. If the mean is 95, however, there are only 9,800 people per 1M people with an IQ of 130.

What's telling is that at an IQ of 95 or below (or a standard deviation of about 0.33) you end up with about 37% of the population, approximately the size of Trump's base. Again, is should be emphasized that this is a distribution - you will have high IQ trump supporters, but you will have more Trump supporters with IQs of 90 or less than you would in the Biden distribution ... significantly more.

There are some cognitive hallmarks that you tend to see at different levels of intelligence. At an IQ of 100, magical thinking usually begins to give way to more analytical thinking - the ability to think logically from known priors. At around 120, analytic thinking shifts towards systemic thinking - the ability to understand how systems operate, to get a better sense for the idea of chains (or graphs) of events. At 140, you are beginning to think holistically - the ability to compare multiple systems and see the metaphoric similarities and differences. Most mathematicians usually clock in around 135-140 and go up from there.

Below 95, magical thinking predominates - the world exists in black and white, supernatural agents predominate, and there is a clear social order that you belong to. The ability to think analytically is simply not developed yet, though it's nascent in conspiracy theories that appear logically consistent but are usually built upon weak priors. This is the land of the cargo cult - people do actions that make no sense though at one point they did. This is also the realm of the sports team booster - my team is better than your team because I am a member of this team. Since you are not, I am better than you. Roughly 40% of the population in the US is in this zone.

About half of the conservative faction, 50% are magical thinkers, while only about 35% of the liberal faction is. On the other hand, there are about three times as many holistic thinkers among liberals than conservatives, and these tend to be responsible for the majority of patents, books, and other intellectual property produced in this country.

Trump understands the low IQ voter, because he is one. The Dunning-Krueger Effect, where one overestimates personal competence when you don't have the necessary foundations, is strong among this crowd. They live with a personal feeling of resentment, fear of complexity and distrust of those people who are the "intellectual elite", who understand things they don't, and they often turn this resentment into hatred. They want their world to be understandable and simple, and when it is neither, they tend to blame those who do.

This also should give some indication about who is and is not likely to be a blind Trump follower. As intelligence rises, the ability to compare data points and draw inferential conclusions also rises, and after awhile, someone who is already an analyst, even if they are predisposed to a conservative viewpoint, will get alarmed when they see ongoing incompetence and corruption. Trumpist lawmakers are ideologues, and for the most part, they tend to have a magical thinking view of the world (or at least project that they do) in order to reach the sub 100 population. Personally, I think that Trump probably once had a working IQ around 115 or so, but it's deteriorating fast as he self-destructs.

I expect to get a few bricks thrown at me for this, but it seems consistent with what I'm seeing.

538 has Trump down to Two Maps

This may seem silly, but I've become obsessive about checking out the 538 forecast. In the background of the leader page (https://projects.fivethirtyeight.com/2020-election-forecast/) the graphic (showing potential Trump and Biden election maps) is not static. Instead, it reflects the likelihood of a red vs. blue victory. When the forecast started after the RNC convention, there were 11 red maps and 11 blue maps. As of today, we are down to 2 red maps (Trump) and 20 blue maps (Biden), with Trump at 11% likelihood in the 538 forecast, Biden at 89%. This race is also as stable as any I've seen in the last 35 years.

We voted

We had a whole bunch of amendments here in Washington, then the Presidential race at the very bottom, with Biden/Harris appearing first and Trump/Pence third in the list of about eight different parties. My wife, daughter and I sat around the dining room table, comparing candidates, while our cat Bright Eyes decided that the Voter's Pamphlet was the best place to lay on the table.

We dropped our ballots off at the Drop Box in Issaquah, WA, at the city hall building. It was getting towards early evening, but even so, with twenty days to go, there was a steady stream of people dropping their ballots off.

Issaquah's on the very outer fringe of Seattle along I-90 - less than a mile down the road, you're on the steep climb into the Cascade mountains. As such, it's an interesting mix of rural and urban. I've seen a fair number of signs for Culp, who's waging an uphill battle against the very popular Jay Inslee. I have seen quite a few Biden/Harris signs, but none for Trump (it was fifty/fifty in 2016). Even on the ballots, there were several races between Democrats and Democrats.

There's also a very palpable energy in people - they want Trump out, in no uncertain terms. There's a lot of respect for Biden, but the loathing that Trump generates here is strong.
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