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
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.). The techniques purportedly used to measure the IQ of the presidents are not recognized means of measuring IQs. The hoax also contains other factual errors. When the hoax was debunked, it appeared to many to be a personal attack on Bush due to its timing and to its listing Bush's IQ as exactly half that of Clinton's.
Reports about the hoax
Perhaps because the perception of George W. Bush having low intelligence is common and had been cited by the media as well as by politicians, including a spokesperson of Tony Blair
, the hoax report was widely taken 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. The Guardian
published a retraction two days after the Associated Press
drew attention to the error. Other mainstream media news outlets to fall for the hoax included Bild
), and the Southland Times
) as well as a few small 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
's leading newspaper), ABC
and La Vanguardia
Origin of the hoax
reports that linkydinky.com was the original source of the spoof. Indeed, linkydinky's page on the hoax calls the report “our hoax”. A copy of the spoof in full can be found there.
In 2006, a real study, albeit one based on varied and often subjective historical material analyzed with the tools of historiometry
, was published in the journal Political Psychology
. It estimated IQs
for all US presidents since 1900. It rated G.W. Bush second to last, with an estimated IQ of 125 (with the estimate ranging from 111 to 139; the standard average for all people is 100). The same study estimated president Bill Clinton's IQ at 149. In an interview, the study's director noted that "Bush may be 'much smarter' than the findings imply" but that he "scores particularly unimpressively for 'openness to experience
, a cognitive proclivity that encompasses unusual receptiveness to fantasy, aesthetics, actions, ideas and values.'
Other researchers have looked at performances on actual IQ-correlated tests taken by George W. Bush and his two political opponents, such as the SAT and aptitude tests given to prospective military officers. These have given an estimated IQ of 125 for George W. Bush (and 120 for John Kerry and 134 for Al Gore).
Notes and References