(Yeah, that post title won’t trigger any opinions.)
Lately I’ve seen this quote — or a paraphrased version of it — being bandied about on teh interwebz, almost exclusively (surprise) by liberals and on liberal-leaning sites:
“I never meant to say that Conservatives are generally stupid. I meant to say that stupid people are generally Conservative. I believe that is so obviously and universally admitted a principle that I hardly think any gentleman will deny it.”
– John Stuart Mill, in a letter to the Conservative MP, Sir John Pakington, March 1866
As a brief aside, I’d like to point out that the meanings of terms like Liberal and Conservative have changed greatly over time, and even today still mean different things in different places and contexts. Thus it’s hard to reconstruct exactly what a “liberal” philosopher living in London (whose views many today regard as libertarian — see, e.g., his “On Liberty“) meant by writing this to a member of British Parliament some 140-odd years ago. So I don’t think you can claim from this quote that Mill was asserting most stupid people to be Conservatives by today’s American definition of “conservative.”
Nevertheless, I will examine the issue anyway. In fact, I’ll reword it slightly: Who’s more stupid, generally speaking – Liberals or Conservatives? Or, to put it a slightly different way, are stupid people more likely to be Liberals or Conservatives?
To answer this question, I might look at the IQ distributions of those who self-identify as Conservatives or Liberals. Unfortunately, after extensive Googling, I have been unable to locate any such data of even remotely acceptable pedigree. I do know that high IQ groups such as the Triple Nine Society tend to be far more libertarian than the general public (see, e.g., here). Unfortunately, that doesn’t answer my question, which has to do with stupid people, not smart people. (Although it is interesting to note that smart people tend to be libertarian or independent rather than Liberal or Conservative.)