Presidential IQ Hoax
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.
In mid-2001, a hoax
list of estimated
IQs of the
U.S. Presidents from Franklin D.
Roosevelt to George W. Bush was
circulated via email.
The hoax email shows
Bill Clinton having the highest IQ
(at 182) and
George W. Bush the lowest (at 91).
The numbers claimed in the email were
not backed up by any evidence but
appeared plausible to some people.
(Clinton's top ranking may have seemed
more plausible due to his having been a
Rhodes Scholar.) When the hoax was
debunked, it appeared to many as a
personal reproach on Bush due to its
timing and the fact that Bush's IQ was
reported as exactly half of Clinton's.
Nevertheless, personal slurs upon
sitting U.S. Presidents have been common
fare in the United States at least since
the administration of John Adams.
Perhaps because the
issue of George W. Bush's intelligence
has been a popular one, particularly
amongst his political opponents, the
hoax report was taken to be true in some
quarters. The British newspaper The
Guardian, for example, quoted the
report in its diary section of July 19,
2001 and used it to belittle Bush (see
 below). The Guardian
published a retraction two days after
the Associated Press drew attention to
Other mainstream media
news outlets to fall for the hoax
Bild (Germany), Pravda
The Hillsboro Argus (Oregon,
The News Sun (Illinois, USA) and
the Southland Times (New
 that linkydinky.com was the
original source of the spoof. Indeed,
their page on the hoax
 calls the report "our spoof". A
copy of the spoof in full can be found
The sociologists and
institutions quoted in the article do
not exist. The techniques used to
measure the IQ of the Presidents are not
recognized means of measuring IQs. The
hoax contains other factual errors — see
the Snopes article ()
for further details.
Hoax IQs of U.S. Presidents
for the Past 50 years
William J. Clinton
James E. Carter (D)
John F. Kennedy (D)
Richard M. Nixon (R)
Harry Truman (D)
Lyndon B. Johnson
Dwight D. Eisenhower
Gerald Ford (R)
Ronald Reagan (R)
George H. W. Bush
George W. Bush (R)
Urban Legends Reference
The Guardian falls
for the hoax
About.com on the
origin of the spoof
linkydinky.com page -
the apparent source of the spoof
Debunking the IQ hoax
Psychologists and educators saw
through this hoax immediately. The preposterousness of
the claim that George W. Bush has an IQ of 91 was
exceeded only by the preposterousness of the journalists
and news organizations that believed it and distributed
the story without checking out the facts.
The facts, as any clinical or school
psychologist could have immediately pointed out, are
that Bush's educational record (a bachelor of arts
degree in history from Yale, an MBA degree from Harvard
Business School, and fluency in two languages), not to
mention his work record and current position as the
chief executive officer of the highest office in the
land, make it more than apparent that this is someone
with a superior intellect.
The relationship between IQ and
educational level, while not perfect, is strong enough
that inferences can be made about one's IQ, based on
educational attainment, with a high degree of
confidence. A study by American psychologist Joseph
Matarazzo (1972) that is still pertinent today found
that college graduates had a mean IQ of 115. For
graduate school and professional degree recipients, the
mean IQ was significantly higher. (See
and IQ Classifications).
Based on this and the entirety of Bush's educational and
occupational record, it would be reasonable to assume
that Bush's IQ is at least 120 (superior), and probably
closer to 130 (very superior), if not higher.
That brings up another hoax, namely
the stratospheric IQs claimed for the the top five
presidents in the list. To put this in perspective, as a
practicing clinical psychologist specializing in
psychological assessment and testing, with a large
segment of my practice involving evaluations of gifted
students and professionals, I can not recall testing any
one who ever obtained an IQ score over 150!
So why did it seem plausible to some
that Bush's IQ may have been as low as was claimed? His
slow, halting manner of speaking and occasional
mispronunciations when speaking extemporaneously in
certain situations may give some the impression that his
lack of verbal facility reflects a corresponding lack of
intellectual ability. Actually, it may reflect only a
careful, deliberate style of expression resulting from
the great weight put on his every word and utterance by
the media; while his occasional malapropisms may reflect
only a remarkable lack of guardedness in certain
situations where he feels comfortable.
Whatever the reason for this
impression regarding Bush's intellect, and the hoax it
spawned that was swallowed hook, line and sinker by more
than a few gullible pundits, Bush is obviously confident
in his intellectual ability and sure of himself, as only
someone could be who is under as much scrutiny as the
President of the United States.
- Kaufman, Alan S.
Assessing Adolescent and Adult Intelligence.
Allyn and Bacon, 1990.
- Matarazzo, Joseph D.
Wechsler's Measure and Appraisal of Adult
Intelligence, 5th Edition.
Oxford University Press, 1972.