DONALD TRUMP’S BIZARRE OBSESSION with IQ, or intelligence quotient, is fascinating. In 2016, presidential candidate Trump challenged a critic, Mayor Sadiq Khan of London: “Let’s do an IQ test,” as if intelligence testing were a board game, or an arm wrestling match.
Lately, Trump has been tossing around his crazy epithet “low IQ,” as in “very low-IQ individual Robert De Niro” or “low-IQ Mika Brzezinski.” I wonder if anyone other than De Niro’s mother has ever fretted about her son’s being Mensally challenged. He’s a great actor; does he need great board scores too?
Trump is not the first politician to ply these waters. In 1987, then-presidential candidate Joe Biden lashed out at a questioner, saying, “I think I have a much higher I.Q. than you do.” Biden then proceeded to make Trumpian, i.e. false, claims about finishing in the top half of his law school class.
I suppose most people want to be thought of as intelligent, and we know Trump is manically insecure about almost everything. Anyone who has to boast that he is “really smart” and “a very stable genius” calls attention to his intellectual vulnerability.
what is trump’s iq
But why? There’s no evidence that Trump is an idiot; indeed, quite the contrary. He’s obviously lazy, preferring the intellectual slurry of television to the written word. He may have suffered the expected mental erosion of a 72-year-old, but he’s not slow.
Quora, a question-and-answer website with intellectual pretensions, recently asked: “To all those with IQ above 135, how high do you suspect Donald Trump’s IQ to be?”
These self-selected participants of “very superior intelligence” (IQ 120-140; the mean IQ score is 100) generally gave Trump high marks. “While he lacks common sense, or might seem like an idiot, I wouldn’t say he has the IQ of an idiot,” Denis Matie wrote. “My educated guess would be between 110-120.”
“In my opinion, as someone with an IQ of 147,” Angus Penfold wrote, “Donald Trump’s IQ is above average, but in that ‘common sense’ sweet spot of 115 to 130.”
A Quora poster linked to a recent interview with psychologist-provocateur Jordan Peterson, answering the question, “How high do you think Trump’s IQ is? Does 160 seem reasonable?”
No, Peterson responded, “160 seems really, really high. The smart person that you are likely to meet in your life has an IQ of around 145.”
Peterson continued: “[Trump’s] IQ is clearly well above average. He has been successful in multiple, complex domains, each of which were quite difficult. He’s very stress-resistant. He’s no dummy.”
The Internet coughed up another example of grudging admiration for Trump’s intellect when the website Axios reported on Trump’s antipathy for the FBI’s notoriously ugly J. Edgar Hoover Building, not far from the White House.
“Even the building is terrible,” Trump said. “It’s one of the brutalist-type buildings, you know, brutalist architecture. [Think: Boston’s City Hall.] Honestly, I think it’s one of the ugliest buildings in the city.” This prompted Time magazine’s former architecture critic, Kurt Andersen, to comment: “He can identify brutalism, which makes him a little bit smarter than I would prefer.”
There are any number of sentences that begin, “If Donald Trump is so stupid, how come . . . ” Indeed there are so many of them that it’s quite possible that he’s not stupid at all.
Alex Beam’s column appears regularly in the Globe. Follow him on Twitter @imalexbeamyrnot.
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By Owen AmosBBC News, Washington
Question: How often does President Trump talk about IQ?
Answer: All the time.
When Mr Trump recently boasted that his IQ was higher than Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s, it was part of a pattern.
In 2013, he tweeted that his IQ was “much higher” than Barack Obama and George W Bush.
what is trump’s iq
He has also claimed a higher IQ than comedian Jon Stewart and British star of The Apprentice, Lord Sugar.
Despite this, Mr Trump has never revealed his own IQ. So can we work it out?
“@gharo34: @realDonaldTrump Not only is your IQ somewhere between Barack Obama and G.W.Bush…but you’re entertaining!”Much higher than both
An Intelligence Quotient is a score given to someone after taking an intelligence test.
There is no single “IQ test” – Mensa accepts results from more than 200 tests, including its own. Some tests last an hour, while some have no time limit.
Dr Frank Lawlis, the supervisory psychologist of American Mensa, says they usually test spatial, quantitative, and verbal skills.
Broadly, spatial questions are about shape and measurement; quantitative questions are mathematical; and verbal questions are about words – for example, how one word is similar to another.
Mensa accepts those who score in the top 2%. That equates – very roughly – to an IQ of 130.
MORE, PAIRS, ETCHERS, ZIPPER
*Answers are shown below
“I don’t recall ever coming across a list of presidents and their IQs,” says Dr Barbara A Perry, director of presidential studies at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center.
“But you can easily find a list of presidents inducted into Phi Beta Kappa in their universities.”
Founded in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa honours “the best and brightest liberal arts and sciences undergraduates from 286 top schools across the nation”.
Of the 44 presidents, 17 have been Phi Beta Kappa members. Bill Clinton, George H W Bush, and Jimmy Carter were the most recent.
Dr Perry puts forward, among others, Herbert Hoover (“a very, very bright scientist, a geologist”), Woodrow Wilson (“our only PhD president”), and William H Taft (“a brilliant lawyer”).
And, although a president’s IQ has never been confirmed, in 2006 the University of California estimated that John Quincy Adams was the most intelligent of all presidents.
Dr Perry also says some presidents have undeserved reputations.
“Gerald Ford was viewed as being a klutz, because he would trip in public, but that was so unfair.
“He had an undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, where he was from, he was an Eagle Scout, he went to Yale Law School, and he was a star footballer on top of that.”
She also says that intelligence is only part of what makes a good president.
“It was the Supreme Court justice Oliver Wendell Holmes who famously said Franklin Delano Roosevelt had ‘a second class intellect but a first class temperament’.
“Roosevelt was re-elected in ’36 by two-thirds of the electorate.”
“I would put Warren Harding in that category,” says Dr Perry. “He was a journalist by training.”
This is awkward…
“Some of my best friends are journalists!” says Dr Perry, laughing.
“And my brother is. But my point is, he wasn’t from Harvard or Yale, and he wasn’t a brilliant lawyer who ended up on the supreme court.”
“If he ever releases his IQ, I just have a feeling – especially since he is daring Tillerson to release his – that it’s higher than people would presume,” says Dr Perry.
“People who don’t like him say ‘oh he’s such an idiot, oh he’s so stupid’. But I bet you it’s higher than we might realise.”
Professor Fred I Greenstein, professor of politics emeritus at Princeton University, lists six qualities that bear on presidential performance.
They are: public communication, organisational capacity, political skill, vision, cognitive style, and emotional intelligence.
“Trump scores low on emotional intelligence, cognitive style, vision, and organisational capacity,” says Dr Perry.
“Where he has been superb, in order to win the presidency, is public communication and political skill.”
*Answers are shown below
Dr Perry also points out Mr Trump’s business career – “he obviously had a certain native intelligence to be successful, such as he was” – and his degree from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
But – whether Mr Trump’s IQ is high or low – Dr Lawlis from Mensa says it doesn’t tell you everything.
what is trump’s iq
“If you take someone we consider to be a genius like Einstein, he would probably not do well on an IQ test, because he thinks outside the box,” he says.
“He could probably think of a dozen answers to one question.”
Either way, the time for talking may soon be over – Mensa has offered to test both Mr Trump and Mr Tillerson’s IQ.
If only there was an organization known for measuring IQ… ? https://t.co/xbOKnW63ta
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An image spreading on social media appears to have made quite the discovery about President Donald Trump.
The post shows a purported newspaper clipping and makes the claim that Trump’s intelligence quotient was finally discovered, and it’s 73 — just a couple of points away from “intellectually disabled” and far below the average IQ score of 100.
The problem is, the story appears to be manufactured for the purpose of spreading misinformation: The images are miscaptioned and there is no evidence any of its claims are true.
what is trump’s iq
The post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The headline of the fake story reads: “Trump IQ test results discovered in former NYMA employee’s closet. The result: 73”
The text says:
“The results of an IQ test that President Donald Trump allegedly took during his first year at New York Military Academy have been discovered in a file box in a closet in Brooklyn. According to the test results, Trump’s IQ is 73.”
The article goes on to say a man named William Askew Jr. discovered the files while cleaning out his deceased father’s apartment. Askew explains that his father was a school counselor at the military school from 1955 to 1985.
Let’s just get this out of the way: People have been conjecturing about presidential IQs for years, but we found no record of a presidential IQ being made public. Of course, many presidents died before the advent of the modern IQ test, the first versions of which were formulated in the early 1900s.
Not that people haven’t tried to assign IQ numbers to the commanders in chief. In 2006, a University of California at Davis study by psychologist Dean Keith Simonton estimated that the sixth U.S. president, John Quincy Adams, had a genius-level IQ somewhere between 165-175. The study applied an algorithm to presidential performance ratings from historians and political scientists, as well as presidential biographies, surveys and other sources. Simonton’s study ranked Thomas Jefferson as the second-smartest president with an average score between 145-160. John F. Kennedy came in third with estimated results between 138-159.
Trump, both before and after becoming the 45th president, has been known to challenge people to IQ tests, including once bragging that, in a competition with former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, Trump’s IQ would be higher. He also famously called himself a “very stable genius.” But news coverage of such presidential claims have never led to an actual Trump IQ score.
In 2013, when Trump was asked on Twitter what his IQ score was, he tweeted in response, “The highest, a–hole.”
Nothing about this viral image changes what we know (or don’t know) about Trump’s IQ. A reverse-image search of the supposed newspaper clipping screenshot revealed no results. Similarly, we could find no articles online or in the Nexis archive of legitimate news sources that discuss the discovery of a Trump IQ score.
That’s important, because if such a story exists –– that the president of the United States once received a 73 IQ test result –– it would not only be found easily on the internet, but the reporting would have been replicated by media organizations around the world. A search with zero results suggests the post is fabricated.
What’s more, the photo of “William Askew Jr.” — the man who the post claims discovered the test results in a Brooklyn closet — is actually a photo from an Adobe stock photography website, searchable by the phrase “portrait of an elderly man.”
And the image of the man who is supposedly Askew’s father actually depicts Mr. Lawrence W. Hanson, the principal of Grand Forks Central High School in North Dakota in the 1950s.
Jack Serafin, vice president of the Regiment of Graduates for New York Military Academy, attended the school from 1962 to 1967, a period that overlapped with Trump, a 1964 graduate. Serafin told PolitiFact the claim holds no merit.
“It’s bogus, NYMA did not give IQ tests and the long time counselor of 30 years, ‘Askew,’ did not exist,” Serafin wrote in an email. “The only tests I remember were to gain admittance to the school, like an SAT, that was taken prior to applying.”
A screenshot of what appears to be a newspaper clipping claims that Trump has a 73 IQ, according to a test he took when he attended New York Military Academy in the 1960s.
That test never took place, an alumni association leader said, and the newspaper clipping pictured does not exist outside of the meme. The pictures in the post of people involved in the discovery were also cherry-picked and miscaptioned.
This post is Pants on Fire!
Facebook image, May 3, 2019
Vox, IQ, explained in 9 charts, Oct. 10, 2017
TinEye, Reverse-Image Search, May 9, 2019
Forbes, Inside Trump’s Head: An Exclusive Interview With the President, And The Single Theory That Explains Everything, Nov. 14, 2017
Donald Trump tweet, June 29, 2013
Washington Post, A brief history of Donald Trump challenging people to IQ tests, Oct. 10, 2017
Washington Post, 50 years later, disagreements over young Trump’s military academy record, Jan. 9, 2016
Grand Forks Central High School, 1950s photos, Accessed May 8, 2019
Adobe Stock Images, Portrait of an elderly man, Accessed May 9, 2019
Snopes, Was Donald Trump’s IQ Measured at 73? May 6, 2019
Email interview, Jack Serafin VP Regiment of Graduates for New York Military Academy, May 13, 2019
Presidential IQ, Openness, Intellectual Brilliance, and Leadership: Estimates and Correlations
for 42 U.S. Chief Executives, By Dean Keith Simonton University of California at Davis; 2006
Washington Post, Trump says he’s a genius. A study found these other presidents actually were, Jan. 7, 2018
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Studies say that bragging about your superiority makes people like you less—so what does Donald Trump hope to gain?
In 2004, a New York Times reporter asked Stephen Hawking what his IQ was. “I have no idea,” the theoretical physicist replied. “People who boast about their IQ are losers.”
President Donald Trump seems to think otherwise. After recent reports that Rex Tillerson, his secretary of state, called him a moron, Trump told Forbes: “I think it’s fake news, but if he did that, I guess we’ll have to compare IQ tests. And I can tell you who is going to win.”
As Philip Bump at The Washington Post reported, Trump has a history of boasting about his IQ, and challenging others to IQ tests. His supporters have also taken up this cause for him in the past. In December 2016, a chart made the rounds saying that Trump’s IQ was 156, putting him above most past presidents. (The median score is 100.) The fact-checking website Snopes rated this claim as false: While the chart was based on a real study, the study didn’t have real IQ scores for most presidents (it estimated their IQs based on other factors), Trump wasn’t included in the study, and most importantly,“Donald Trump’s true intelligence quotient is unknown,” the article reads.
Scientists disagree on how useful IQ tests are as a measurement of intelligence. There’s research to show that IQ can change over the lifespan, for example. And some say that it doesn’t account for things like emotional intelligence or creativity. But “IQ” remains an easy shorthand for referring to intelligence, with the added bonus of sounding scientific, quantifiable, and official.
what is trump’s iq
It isn’t totally surprising that Trump seems to think his IQ is exceptional. If asked, most people would say they are smarter than the average person. (They would also likely say they’re more competent, kinder, more honest, and more responsible.) This is a well-studied phenomenon in psychology known as the “better-than-average effect” or “self-enhancement.”
Even so, people might be reluctant to publicize their sense of superiority, because such boasts tend to be poorly received. One study found that while bragging about your own good qualities didn’t necessarily make people dislike you, bragging about yourself in relation to others did. For example, saying “I am a good student” probably wouldn’t bother anybody, but saying “I’m a better student than others” would. Bragging about your better-than-average intelligence, then, would likely make other people think you’re insulting them—and make them feel aggressive toward you as a result.
“We see this consistently, that the claim, at least in this culture, of being above average is just frowned upon,” says Joachim Krueger, a professor of psychology at Brown University who has studied bragging. “There are also conversational norms.” There’s an expectation that your good qualities will reveal themselves over time, without you announcing them.
So if bragging about your intelligence can alienate people, and make you look like a loser (at least to Stephen Hawking), why risk it?
It feels great, for one thing. People love to talk about themselves—to the point that in one study, they turned down money for the opportunity to answer questions about themselves. And the same study found that self-disclosure appears to activate brain regions associated with reward.
They may also miscalculate how others will react to their boasts. One study found that people often self-promote because they’re trying to make a good impression on others. But they tend to overestimate how much their self-promotion will make other people feel happy for them and proud of them, and underestimate how annoying people will find it.
Krueger coauthored a study in 2016 that found bragging about your superiority comes with a tradeoff. It will make people see you as more competent, but less moral—unless the thing you are bragging about is provably false. Then it makes people see you as incompetent and immoral.
In a case like Trump’s brag about being smarter than Tillerson, where the validity of his claim is unknown, the research suggests people would err on the side of believing him.
“My personal opinion of the president’s claims about his own IQ is that he is making a gamble: brag and be thought of as competent (intelligent), and hope that nothing will ever surface that proves his claims wrong,” Patrick Heck, Krueger’s coauthor on the study, told me in an email.
“Of course there won’t be an IQ test given and then the nation will be informed what score he had and what score Tillerson had, so it’s pure rhetoric,” Krueger says. “In the context of our study if there truly were no other information about him, that would be a slight advantage.”
But nobody is evaluating Donald Trump based on this claim and this claim alone. Krueger points out that because opinions of the president are already so polarized, people will likely incorporate this latest brag into their existing views of him. If they think he’s a clever politician and a savvy businessman, they’ll likely take his brag at face value. If they already think he’s incompetent and immoral, an unverified claim about his IQ probably won’t change that.
But what if Trump and Tillerson were actually to throw down—intellectually speaking? Mensa International—a society whose members must prove their IQs are in the top 2 percent of the population—has offered to host an IQ-test showdown between Trump and Tillerson, heaven help us all. What if it really happened? And what if Trump were to lose?
“That’s a crazy hypothetical—you and I know perfectly well that’s not going to happen and Mensa never thought it would happen,” Krueger says. “That’s another rhetorical play to throw into the game. But in your hypothetical universe, [if they] take the test and we find that he is 20 points below Tillerson, then according to our study, it would be a false positive and it would be particularly embarrassing.”
Analysis by Chris Cillizza, CNN Editor-at-large
Updated 1437 GMT (2237 HKT) October 10, 2017
(CNN)In an interview with Forbes magazine published Tuesday morning, President Trump talks about his high IQ to explain away reports that Secretary of State Rex Tillerson referred to him as a “moron” over the summer.