Is Bush Smart? - I get a surprising number of search hits directed to this blog by people who are obviously curious as to whether George W. Bush is "dumb" or not. As I mentioned below, the indications are that the President is not at all dumb. The fact is that his SAT score - 1206 (566 verbal, 640 math) - is quite good. The SAT is, more or less, an IQ test (at least for native English speakers). A quick net search indicates that Bush's score puts him in about the 97% percentile of intelligence. The corresponding IQ is 129.

Of course, there are caveats. First, it is always possible that Bush either got lucky, prepped well, or even cheated somehow, raising his SAT score above what his true IQ would predict. The SAT is not a remarkably good IQ-qua-IQ test. IQ is remarkable stable over almost any mental test; but you still gain info by more testing. Still, if we imagine that Bush prepped for the test and boosted his score 100 points (quite possible), then his IQ is "only" 124. This would put him in about the 95th percentile. Either way, his intelligence is superior. It's just a matter of degrees. (And of course it is possible that retaking the test, he'd score higher!)

Second, measured IQ only captures part of what it takes for success. It happens to be the best measure out there - easily beating other things like parent's socioeconomic status (just to name one). But IQ still "only" predicts with a .2-.4 correlation with various social outcomes. This is, if you understand social science, quite a powerful predictor. But it still leaves most of the correlates of success in things other than IQ. In Bush's case, it is apparent that he was poorly motivated during much of his life. Motivation is not measured by IQ tests. On the other hand he certainly seems to have found motivation, especially after 9/11. Motivation in a president is not always a good thing.

Finally, it's worth pointing out that how we think about a person's intelligence is relative: it relates to the role we expect of him or her. We are used to very intelligent presidents; and in particular we are used to presidents that read super smoothly off teleprompters. Clinton, for instance, has a very high IQ (I don't know what it is, but probably 140+). Clinton is also incredibly glib. By comparison, Bush looks pretty rough and folksy. The same guy, if he was your auto mechanic, you'd probably think was pretty sharp.

Similarly, how we evaluate others also has to do with our own intelligence. Intellectual types - the sort of people that would be searching google to find out about Dubya's IQ - are a nonrandom sample; your IQ is probably at least 110. So Bush may seem dumb to you, more than he does to most ordinary Americans. Remember: half of your fellow citizens have a double digit IQ. That's well worth remembering when thinking about "democracy" and its results. If you are upset about how "dumb" Bush is because you think that only highly superior IQ types should be running things, then you really need to look into public choice theory.

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