How Smart Are The Candidates?
If you had to rely on the Internet to tell you how smart 2008’s presidential and vice presidential candidates are, your journey would end either without an answer (if you have a sufficient IQ of your own) or some wildly skewed perceptions (if you are, kindly, a trusting soul).
Likely, you’re astute enough to watch the candidates and make your own judgments about their intellectual capacities. It would be inordinately hopeful, though, to expect natural skepticism in all instances of reported IQ scores. Indeed, cognitive dissonance is more often the enforcer of bias rather than alarm of truth: If you already think Sarah Palin’s dumb, then discovering “proof” of an 83 IQ—just eight points higher than Forest Gump—is enough to solidify the belief. Worse, if you’re convinced she’s brilliant, seeing said “proof” would nary make a dent into that perception, even if the proof was rock solid—which it is isn’t.
Two camps have arisen recently arguing the veracity of the Internet. Inventor of the World Wide Web, Tim Berners-Lee, has taken the pessimist side—the side acknowledging that on the Internet no one knows you’re a dog—and has called for some kind of verification or trust system to identify reliable sources. Meanwhile, Arianna Huffington praises the Internet as a repository for truth so powerful it has taken down the Rovian smear machine.
But at least in this one aspect—the respective IQs of the candidates—the truth was incredibly hard to come by, if really, truly out there somewhere on the vast Web. Google Web search results and Google News search results brought back bupkis from so-called reputable sources. Blogs with clear political leanings, forum posts, and a gossip site or two were the best one could get.
Our journey began with sightings of various Google text ads declaring the IQs of the candidates, and sometimes celebrities. John McCain, it stated, has an IQ of 138. Paris Hilton’s is 120. Sarah Palin’s reported IQ in the ads changed from 118 to 126. (Can’t have her being dumber than Paris Hilton, right?). The ads invite the reader to discover if they are smarter than the person mentioned.
The first question a good skeptic asks is where information is obtained. There’s more than one company appearing to run these ads. Sometimes the link leads to an IP address otherwise known as IQQuiz.com, registered to Name Administration Inc., which is based in the Cayman Islands. I had to go to WHOIS to find that out because it’s not mentioned in the weird legal notice at the bottom of the quiz discussing $9.99 per month text-trivia-to-the-cell-phone charges. Sure enough, the ten questions are more trivia than reasoning, and to get the results you have to give them your cell phone number.
Obviously, I never found out my score. Another company running the ads is not Joe The Plumber or Joe Six Pack, but JoeTec Networks, Inc., whose About Us page is coming soon and owns FastFreeIQTest.com. JoeTec’s test is a bit lengthier, a little more on the reasoning side (but trivia questions are there too), and there are lots of opportunities to sign up for stuff along the way. You’ll have to give them your email address to get the results.
That makes me 0 for 2 today to discover how smart I am. I wasn’t about to give them my email address, at least through their quiz sites. Neither company got back with me to let me know where they sourced their candidate IQ information.
“The Internet,” the representation of which we grant to Google’s top 10 results, isn’t any help in settling the matter. Guesstimates abound. The aforementioned 83 score is present everywhere a person could do a drive-by post, a CBS sports forum, for example, and comes from a posting of a supposed official graph. In addition to that “evidence,” are Palin’s grades and SAT scores. A mediocre 2.2 GPA was quite good in comparison to a composite 841 SAT score, which at one time would have correlated to an 89 IQ.
Good thing, then, we have sites like Snopes.com and FactCheck.org, which unfortunately didn’t pop up in the Google results. Snopes, which also verifies Obama’s birth certificate, declared Palin’s posted scholastic records as hoaxes, mentioning also it would be difficult to get into the Honors Society with a 2.2 GPA.
What’s her real IQ? The campaign hasn’t been super forthcoming about that, but some dude from Alaska guarantees it’s “at least 120” based on her survival in Alaskan politics and that she was a bookworm in junior high. Other accounts concur, citing also her bachelor’s degree, which still others say would give her an automatic 115 (the average IQ for a college graduate). Yahoo Answers proves its worth once again, suggesting Palin’s IQ is 34D.
Likely a score reflecting male intelligence once laying eyes on her.
Is John McCain’s IQ really 138? Not unless it’s changed from Time’s 1999 report, citing military tests that put his IQ at 133, placing him in the gifted category rather than the near-genius one, so not a bad showing.
Obama and Biden? Well, if you ask Biden, he’s lots smarter than you and somebody somewhere out there says 146. Obama? Current estimations peg him between 130 and 148, based on the average LSAT score of Harvard Law attendees. One source says Affirmative Action special treatment of minorities bumps him down to 116, but he cites average SAT scores for admission to Harvard’s undergraduate program, which are a different test and different (lesser) program, making that number as or meaningless as numbers that have come before.
Conclusion: It’s still really, really hard to find accurate political information online unless you already know the reputable sites to begin with. Google failed this particular test when it comes to bringing back reliable, relevant sources. Not that print or TV or radio media are any better.