Unit for the Study of Personality in Politics

Back to the USPP Homepage

George W. Bush Low Intelligence Myth Debunked

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 6, 2001

Debunked: "Lovenstein Institute" report that George W. Bush "has lowest IQ of all presidents of past 50 years" 

Additional investigation revealed that the presidential IQ report ("Report: President Bush has lowest IQ of all presidents of past 50 years") attributed to the (fictitious) Lovenstein Institute is a hoax, debunked July 18, 2001 by, an urban legends website (click here to read the exposé; click here to read the original report, published in the fictitious "Pennsylvania Court Observer." In a Lexis-Nexis search, I found the hoax reported as factual information in at least four foreign newspapers: Guardian ("Diary" by Matthew Norman, July 19, 2001), The Express ("By George he's the dimmest," July 20, 2001, p. 8, no byline), the Scottish Daily Record ("Dumbya's dumb day" by Alexandra Williams, July 20, 2001, p. 2), and Bilt Zeitung ("Bush dümmster Präsident seit 1945 -- IQ nur 91," Aug. 1, 2001, no byline). 

Aside from the factual errors noted in's debunking, the story is transparently bogus, given that JFK (IQ reportedly 174) actually tested at 119 (though admittedly on the relatively crude Otis test) and Nixon (IQ reportedly 155), actually tested nearly a full standard deviation lower, at 143, according to the historical record. Given his academic record, Bill Clinton (IQ reportedly 182) probably has an IQ quite similar to that of Al Gore (who tested at 134, according to the public record).

In short, our presidents aren't nearly as smart as the bogus Lovenstein report would have us believe. [Intellectuals tend to be mediocre politicians who have great difficulty faking connectedness voters.] Given that intelligence tests are standardized with a mean of 100 and a standard deviation of 15, the average Democratic president, with a "Lovenstein IQ" of 156 (i.e., +3.7 SD) would be in the top one-hundredth of one percent under the bell curve -- that is, the top 10,000th relative to the general population in intellectual ability). Moreover, it is unlikely that there would be a gap of nearly three standard deviations between the IQs of Democratic ("Lovenstein IQ" = 156) and Republican ("Lovenstein IQ" = 115.5) presidents.

rball.gif (335 bytes) August 2, 2001

George W. Bush's intelligence quotient

Yesterday I received a telephone call from the Washington correspondent of a German newspaper, who related to me the findings of "a group in Pennsylvania" concerning George W. Bush's IQ, reported in the German paper, Bilt Zeitung. The reporter wanted to discuss my published estimate of Bush's intelligence quotient ("Bush Gets Bad Rap on Intelligence," St. Cloud Times, Jan. 14, 2001).

After unsuccessfully searching Lexis-Nexis for foreign and domestic newspaper and wire reports, I found some information on the "Bush Watch" site (at A copy of the report is appended below.

The reported IQ estimates are suspect, given that JFK (estimated IQ = 174) actually tested at 119 (though on the less than ideal Otis test) and Nixon (estimated IQ = 155) actually tested nearly a full standard deviation lower, at 143. Given his academic record, Bill Clinton (estimated IQ = 182) probably has an IQ quite similar to that of Al Gore (tested at 134).

The whole thing sounds bogus.

Copy of the Bush Watch posting attributed to Jennifer Borenstein of Baskerville News Service:

"The intelligence of our presidents has never been seriously scrutinized at any time in our history until now. There is a widespread perception that President G. W. Bush is not qualified for the position he holds. That increasing awareness by the people has led to a study of the intellectual ability of all presidents for the past fifty years. There have been twelve presidents in that time, from F. D. Roosevelt to G. W. Bush. All were rated based on scholarly achievements, writings that they alone wrote, their ability to speak effectively, and a number of psychological factors. The conclusions of the study, conducted by an independent think tank located in Scranton, Pennsylvania were surprising. This think tank includes high caliber historians, psychiatrists, sociologists, scientists in human behavior, and psychologists. Among their ranks are Dr. Werner Levenstein, world-renowned sociologist, and Professor Patricia A. Williams, a world-respected psychiatrist. All members of the think tank are experts at being able to detect a person's IQ from the criteria stated earlier. After four months of research, these learned men and women have determined the IQs of each president within a range of five percentage points. The IQs listed below are the norms for each president.

147 Franklin D. Roosevelt (D) 132 Harry Truman (D) 122 Dwight D. Eisenhower (R) 174 John F. Kennedy (D) 126 Lyndon B. Johnson (D) 155 Richard M. Nixon (R) 121 Gerald Ford (R) 175 James E. Carter (D) 105 Ronald Reagan (R) 099 George HW Bush (R) 182 William J. Clinton (D) 091 George W. Bush (R)

The non-partisan researchers who evaluated the twelve presidents determined that the six Republican presidents for the past 50 years had an average IQ of 115.5, with President Nixon having the highest IQ, at 155. President G. W. Bush was rated the lowest of all the Republicans with an IQ of 91. The six Democrat presidents had IQs with an average of 156, with President Clinton having the highest IQ, at 182. President Lyndon B. Johnson was rated the lowest of all the Democrats with an IQ of 126. The margin of error is plus or minus five percent. This study was initiated on February 13, 2001 and completed on June 17, 2001. This study validated the widespread feeling of people about the sitting president. President Bush was rated low because of his inability to command the English language, his lack of any scholarly achievements, and an absence of anything authored by him that would reflect an intellectual effort." -- "Jennifer Borenstein, Baskerville News Service, 6/28/01"

Related article: How smart is George W. Bush?

Page maintained by Aubrey Immelman

Last modified: 07/24/2004