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IQ Hoaxes > Assessment > IQ Scores > IQ Hoaxes

U.S. Presidential IQ Hoax

From 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 [1] below). The Guardian published a retraction two days after the Associated Press drew attention to the error.

Other mainstream media news outlets to fall for the hoax included Bild (Germany), Pravda (Russia), The Hillsboro Argus (Oregon, USA), The News Sun (Illinois, USA) and the Southland Times (New Zealand). reports [2] that was the original source of the spoof. Indeed, their page on the hoax [3] calls the report "our spoof". A copy of the spoof in full can be found there.

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 ([4]) for further details.

Hoax IQs of U.S. Presidents
for the Past 50 years

William J. Clinton (D)
James E. Carter (D)
John F. Kennedy (D)
Richard M. Nixon (R)
Franklin D. Roosevelt (D)
Harry Truman (D)
Lyndon B. Johnson (D)
Dwight D. Eisenhower (R)
Gerald Ford (R)
Ronald Reagan (R)
George H. W. Bush (R)
George W. Bush (R)

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Presidential IQ


  1. The Guardian falls for the hoax
  2. on the origin of the spoof
  3. page - the apparent source of the spoof
  4. Debunking the IQ hoax on
This article is licensed under the
GNU Free Documentation License.
It uses material from the Wikipedia article
"U.S. Presidents IQ hoax".


William E. Benet, PhD, PsyD
clinical psychologist

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 IQ Scores 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.

Dr. William Benet Send e-mail
 Dr. Benet


  • 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.

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