The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Who’s the smartest of them all?

My column today, on the “confidence gap” between the sexes, mentioned in passing a fun YouGov poll that merits sharing in greater detail. The poll, conducted from April 30 to May 2, asked people, “In general would you say that you are more intelligent, less intelligent or about the same intelligence as the average American person?”

The results are fascinating. As I noted in the column, men are much more likely than women to believe themselves substantially smarter than the average bear. So, too, are political independents, whites, higher-income people, people from the Western part of the country and those with more education. And probably not surprisingly, pretty much no one calls himself or herself “much less intelligent” than average.

Here are the responses broken down by gender, where you’ll see that about a quarter of men vs. 15 percent of women consider themselves much more intelligent than the typical American:

Here are the results broken down by age; turns out that millennials and the age group roughly corresponding with boomers (here, age 45-64; boomers are generally thought of as a slightly older age cohort) think most highly of their own intelligence. For whatever reason, Gen-Xers seem most uncertain about how they stack up:

Democrats and Republicans were about equally as likely to say they were much smarter than average (15 percent vs. 16 percent, respectively), with political independents most likely to say they’re much smarter than average (23 percent).

Here’s the breakdown by family income group, which shows that Americans whose families bring in more than $80,000 a year are most likely to view themselves as intellectually superior:

The survey also asked respondents about their views of Americans’ intelligence overall. Despite the strong political narrative of American exceptionalism, Americans seem to think that, generally speaking, the U.S. population is no smarter than that of other countries:

Interestingly, Americans with no education beyond high school are most likely to say Americans are unusually intelligent. I’d love to see similar surveys from other countries, showing self-evaluated intelligence for both individuals and the populations they live among.