Fact Check: How smart is President-elect Donald Trump? IQ score isn’t official

Fact Check: How smart is President-elect Donald Trump? IQ score isn’t official

Times-Union readers want to know:

I received an email with a chart that supposedly ranks the intelligence quotients of U.S. presidents, along with the claim that President-elect Donald Trump would rank among the smartest with an IQ of 156. Is this legitimate?

The chart is based on a 2006 study conducted by University of California, Davis psychologist Dean Keith Simonton, Snopes.com reports. As IQ scores were not available for most of the presidents, Simonton used a “historiometric” approach to estimate their results:

In the conventional approach to measuring IQ, Snopes.com notes, people are given a standardized test, such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, and their score on the test is assumed to reflect their level of intelligence (with some random error). In the historiometric approach, a person’s IQ is quantitatively estimated based on variables having known correlations with IQ, such as highest level of education, academic honors, scores on college admissions exams, occupation and preferences.

Simonton’s research was boiled down into the chart for a 2015 article published by US News, Snopes.com found. The chart shows the top 5 most intelligent presidents are:

  • John Quincy Adams (168.7)
  • Thomas Jefferson (153.7)
  • John F. Kennedy (150.6)
  • Bill Clinton (148.8)
  • Woodrow Wilson (145.1)

The bottom 5 are:

  • Andrew Johnson (125.6)
  • George W. Bush (124.8)
  • Warren G. Harding (124.3)
  • James Monroe (124.1)
  • Ulysses S. Grant (120)

(While some on social media claimed that President Barack Obama was omitted from this list because his IQ score was so low, the real reason is that this data was compiled in 2006, before Obama took office.)

The chart is based on a real university study by a real psychologist, but the claim that Trump has an IQ of 156 is not. This rumor has been around since at least August 2015, when the website BeforeItsNews.com published an article with an estimation of his IQ:

“Donald Trump graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and anthropology. Mensa doesn’t accept SAT scores from after 1994. However, Mr. Trump was a student at Wharton when it was possible to derive an accurate IQ core from known SAT scores. Given the usual requirements for admission to a top school like Wharton, I estimate that Mr. Trump has a 156 IQ at the minimum.

“The standard description of this level of intelligence is ‘Genius – Exceptional intellectual ability and capable of looking beyond known facts.’ However, the percentile rating is more revealing than the raw score. A 156 IQ is at the 99.9905490555 percentile. That means that Donald Trump is smarter than 99.99 percent of the people on planet Earth. Not only does Trump qualify for membership in Mensa, but he could join the Triple Nine Society [people scoring at or above the 99.9th percentile on selected intelligence tests].”

Snopes.com points out that the article in BeforeItsNews.com – a site consisting of anyone who wants to report on what’s going on around them – is full of illogical conclusions. Trump’s official school transcripts are not available, so it is impossible to know his actual scholastic aptitude scores. While the article’s author used Wharton’s general admission requirements to estimate Trump’s IQ, the math still doesn’t quite add up.

PrepScholar.com states that Wharton’s SAT requirements are currently 1500. This roughly translates to an IQ score between 145 and 149, not 156. Regardless, Wharton’s admission requirements are irrelevant, since Trump did not enter Wharton as a freshman. He transferred there his junior year, and Wharton does not list SAT scores among its requirements for transfer students, Snopes.com reports.

So, even though the IQ chart is based on a real study, it’s still just estimation. And there is no way to know what Trump’s IQ is.

Carole Fader: (904) 359-4635