Cognitive ability and political preferences in Denmark

Open Quantitative Sociology & Political Science, 2017


Multiple studies have reported positive relationships between cognitive ability and preferences for freedom, both at the personal level (e.g. drug use) and the economic (e.g. smaller government). To add to this, we investigated the relationships between cognitive ability and multi-dimensional political preferences in a Danish general population sample (n = 333, n = 259 after quality control). Respondents answered 10 questions pertaining to specific social issues, 10 questions pertaining to specific economic issues, as well as taking 4 cognitive items. They had previously taken a 5-item cognitive test (ICAR5), and been asked to rate themselves on social liberalism and economic liberalism. We documented a general factor of social liberalism across the questions on social issues, and a general factor of economic liberalism across the questions on economic issues. Self-assessed social liberalism had a small positive correlation with measured social liberalism (r = .13), while self-assessed economic liberalism had a moderate positive correlation with measured economic liberalism (r = .49). These findings were in line with our predictions. Contrary to our predictions, however, social liberalism and economic liberalism had a weak positive correlation (r = .07; 95% CI = [–.06, .19]) and cognitive ability was only weakly related to both social liberalism (r = .14; 95% CI = .02, .26]) and economic liberalism (r = .07; 95% CI = [–.05, .19]). Corrected for measurement error, the correlations were .23 and .10, respectively.

The study was preregistered.

cognitive ability, intelligence, IQ, political preferences, political dimensions, Denmark, open data, preregistered, social liberalism, social conservatism, economic liberalism

Reviewed by
Robert L. Williams, Peter Frost, L. J. Zigerell

Review time 158 days.