IQ and that Pesky Correlation VS Causation

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As we look back on history, we've seen many good presidents, many great presidents, and a couple not so great presidents (although everyone's opinion is a little different on who fits into each category). But what's even more shocking is the correlation between the IQ of a president and the predicted quality of leadership. " researcher even found that presidents' estimated IQ predicted the quality of leadership among U.S. presidents, with correlations in the .3 to .4 range..." (Psychology textbook p. 333). We know that correlation doesn't necessarily mean causation, but the correlation is at the very least notable. In fact, there may be a relationship between how Americans view the success of a president and that presidents IQ. By taking the estimated presidential IQ from the textbook and the approval ratings of Americans from a Gallup Poll, I found there is a .324 correlation between the two. That correlation is very similar to the quality of leadership that the textbook gives. Once again, correlation may not be causation, but this correlation is notable.

Presidential IQ and Percent Approval Data.png

Presidential IQ and Percent Approval.png

Does this mean we can say that the quality of leadership is related to approval ratings? Chances are it is, but we need the data, and there's always the pesky correlation versus causation hanging over our heads. I'll take my chances on saying they are related based on my own opinions, but that wouldn't be very scientific, would it?


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I think this is an excellent analysis. Given the nature of politics, it seems important that politicians and leaders be able to identify with and connect to their constituents on a personal level. We have seen examples in the current political campaign where candidates have been criticized for not being in tune with the people and their needs. This would seem to emphasize the importance of emotional intelligence (EQ) in determining approval ratings. In this respect, your excellent graph shows that although Ronald Reagan didn’t have the highest IQ, he had one of the highest approval ratings. One of Reagan’s nicknames, The Great Communicator, suggests that he was very able to connect with the people on an emotional level. It would be interesting to look at the correlation between EQ (although this may be hard to measure) and presidential approval ratings.

This seems completely reasonable based on what is required of presidents these days. Not only are they judged on their stance on issues and general intelligence, but almost more important is how they portray these thoughts to the public. It is no surprise that more votes come to candidates that can connect with the outside world. Obama seemed to epitomize this by connecting with the "youth" of America on his idea of change in America. His IQ is obviously rather high based on his academic history, which may have also allowed him to realize how he could connect with voters.

Wow, good job really digging into the research! This is an excellent example of how useful IQ is for predicting job performance across the board.

The point you make is very interesting. I would like to make that point that if these three factors are in fact correlated, we might be able to assume that they are probably related to "G". Maybe the same type of intelligence that allows people to lead well is one in the same with the type of intelligence required to do well on an IQ test.

An interesting alternative hypothesis to the correlation between presidential IQ and approval rating ins't that they were better quality leader but instead used their intelligence to buddy with the American people regardless of their leadership skills. Another couple of lurking variables that weren't mentioned could be the fact that this sample size is very small and usually to draw statistical conclusions i.e. correlations, sample size usually has to be larger than 30. It would be interesting to see how past presidents stacked up through all of history. Second is to remember a lot of a president's approval rate has to do with the economy at the time, regardless how good of a leader they are. I would suggest keeping this as correlation and not draw any conclusions before looking into it carefully.

Happiness is an integral part of emotional intelligence. As long as you are happy you have a better mindset of your personal goals in life.

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This page contains a single entry by paush001 published on April 6, 2012 9:30 PM.

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