Whether in the halls of academia or broad swaths of America's news media, a watchword of liberal faith is that Democrats have the corner on smarts.
Barack Obama signaled his adherence to this belief way back during last year's presidential campaign, when he characterized small-town Americans as follows: "And it's not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."
Presidents historically have refrained from such juvenile name-calling. Incredibly, a more recent comment indicates that Obama has become more certain of the intellectual superiority of his party now that he's won the presidency. Maybe something happens to you when you win a Nobel Prize.
At an Oct. 20 fundraiser in New York, Obama decided to reveal his inner scorn for Republicans. "Democrats are an opinionated bunch," he said, to much laughter and applause. "You know, the other side, they just kind of sometimes do what they're told. Democrats, you all are thinking for yourselves."
Never mind, for a moment, what brilliant and deeply held Democratic insights have brought us since Obama took office, such as the ludicrous green-jobs fantasy or letting unions cut to the front of the line in the bankruptcies of General Motors Co. and Chrysler LLC.
Contempt for Dissent
And ignore for now that this party of supposed superior intellect displays only contempt for the thoughts of political opponents, be they reporters at Fox News or lobbyists for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce with the gall to espouse the benefits of free enterprise.
Maybe Obama is right. So let's dig into the data a little.
Fortunately, the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press last month reported the results of a poll that quizzed Americans on their knowledge of current events. Republicans significantly outperformed Democrats on the test.
By double-digit margins, more Republicans than Democrats knew that the cap-and-trade bill is about energy and the environment, that Democrats are the majority party in the House of Representatives, and even that Sonya Sotomayor--a Democrat, appointed by a Democratic president, confirmed by a Senate with a Democratic majority--is the new Supreme Court justice.
More Republicans knew the unemployment rate, the level of the Dow Jones Industrial Average, the chairmen of the Federal Reserve and the Senate Finance Committee, and approximately how many U.S. troops are in Afghanistan. The only question on which Democrats outperformed Republicans concerned the fact that when it comes to health care, the U.S. outspends Europe. Michael Moore must have been in the sample.
On average, Republicans and political independents correctly answered 5.7 of the 12 questions in the test. Democrats trailed, with an average of 5 correct answers.
Another way to determine which party is smarter is to look at results of the General Social Survey, administered by the National Opinion Research Center. It includes a vocabulary test, known as Wordsum, that correlates strongly with IQ scores.
In the 2008 survey, the average score of Republicans was about 10 percent higher than that of Democrats. That's consistent with the results in previous years.
Obama's statement to his cheering supporters in New York reveals the fundamental political philosophy of the Obamaites: The problem with America is that there are too many stupid people who make bad choices. They need a government made up of brilliant Democrats to take over their lives for them.
The facts are at odds with the view that Republicans are the party of the stupid. Obama is as wrong about this as he appears to be about everything else.
The results are not really all that surprising. You must be pretty stupid if you think you are smarter than everybody else.
Kevin A. Hassett is a senior fellow and the director of economic policy studies at AEI.