I was talking with a friend of mine and we got to a realisation that ignorant people (those uneducated) tend to look for the politicians of a specific side of the political spectrum in contrast to the intellectual people (those educated) which instead prefer the other side.

I was wondering if there is any study connecting education level to political preference.

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    Note that the cause may not be directly due to said ignorance; a party that caters to the middle-classes will pick up a lot of 'educated' votes out of good old self-interest.
    – user19831
    Sep 9, 2019 at 7:23
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    What have you found? psychologytoday.com/gb/blog/millennial-media/201304/…
    – liftarn
    Sep 9, 2019 at 7:54
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    I don't think this question is objectively answerable, considering that ignorance is already a subjective term, e.g. the "educated" (also a subjective term) people can be ignorant towards the life situation or requirements of the "uneducated", due to different life experiences and/or living inside a "bubble of education". Though answers to other questions did show a correlation between type of education and political preference, as far as I remember.
    – user20672
    Sep 9, 2019 at 9:12
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    Related concept: low-information voter
    – Golden Cuy
    Sep 9, 2019 at 12:42

3 Answers 3


As pointed out in the comments "ignorance" is a rather broad and fuzzy term.

However, if we take it to mean the lack of formal education (more easily measured, and apparently assumed in the body of the question to stand for ignorance)... then results do vary by country. E.g.,

  • In the UK at least, the more educated tend to vote Labour (so with the left), at least in recent times.

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  • In Romania (and probably in a good number of post-communist countries), the more educated tend to vote with the right-wing parties.

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So it's probably hard to draw a universal conclusion from this.

Also, the latter paper points out that there can be substantial repositioning of the voter preference (as function of education) in the same country and within a generation, illustrating with France 1988 vs 2002:

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There's a subsequent graph in the paper (I'm omitting here) that this self-declared reorientation of the electorate is consistent with their actual votes in the presidential elections in those years in France.

There's also a study that attempted to map this (left-right orientation vs education) world-wide. Its only firm conclusion was that

Highly educated strata show more interregional variance in their degree of ideology than population with less schooling.

Their grouping of countries may be a little questionable, but it does seem to support their conclusion. (In order to make the countries comparable, the left-right orientation is based on answers to some value questions, rather than being self-declared.)

enter image description here

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    Might also be worth noting that in most countries younger generations are more likely to go to university than their parents so you may also be seeing a discrepancy in age too Sep 9, 2019 at 15:31
  • Oh, that's a good point. Is level of education, then, related to age group? I think it would be worth investigating that too.
    – Adriano
    Sep 9, 2019 at 23:34
  • Thank you, @Fizz. Your answer is very thorough and detailed, I would check it as "accepted" but I would also like to see if there is anyone willing to add anything else to the subject. I'm going to read the papers you linked. Do you know of any other similar study?
    – Adriano
    Sep 9, 2019 at 23:36
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    Also consider that "ignorance" can often be domain-specific. For instance, many people can get college degrees, even graduate ones, while remaining pretty ignorant on scientific subjects. OTOH, I am pretty ignorant - by choice! - about professional sports & popular culture :-)
    – jamesqf
    Sep 11, 2019 at 17:34
  • @jamesqf: I think K Dog's answer covers that angle. Sep 11, 2019 at 21:00

There are studies that show Democrats are more likely to believe astrology is science. And the majority, 51%, of Democrats don't know that the earth revolves around the sun.

32% of Republicans don't believe in evolution. [Same source]. While Tea Party members are better educated than most.

Economic literacy is pretty much a wash.

The new results invalidated our original result: under the right circumstances, conservatives and libertarians were as likely as anyone on the left to give wrong answers to economic questions.

And I found this point utterly fascinating. Moderates fear scientific change more than those that identify as conservative or liberal.

What sorts of people fear scientific and technological development? This paper tests the common theory in political and social psychology that conservatives fear scientific change. Using data from 25 national cross-sectional studies of the adult population with 32,756 subjects, I find that conservatives and liberals both are more positive to scientific change than political moderates. Thus the results are inconsistent with one of the main pillars supporting the field of conservatism research.

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    Interesting. I have my doubts about this study. See skeptics.stackexchange.com/questions/44941/… Sep 9, 2019 at 13:56
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    The coarse grouping of US terms (Democrat/Republican) hides the full political spectrum with ideologies from far right, conservative, liberal, social liberal, democratic socialist, socialist, Marxist, Leninist, far left.
    – liftarn
    Sep 9, 2019 at 14:13
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    Note, Skeptics link confirmed the Astrology findings independently.
    – user9790
    Sep 9, 2019 at 17:17
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    Your 2nd claim (that "the majority, 51%, of Democrats don't know that the earth revolves around the sun." isn't quite correct. Per your link, "a majority of Democrats (51 percent) could not correctly answer both that the Earth goes around the Sun and that this takes a year." And, regarding the results of Tea Party supporters, it's no wonder they tend to be wealthier and better educated, since they also tend to be older than the general population.
    – Zack
    Sep 11, 2019 at 13:07

EDIT: Previously I concentrated too much on issues of education/IQ vs. views. I think that I (and other answers) missed the key point - what would happen with views if you give people issue specific knowledge.

EU run a trial of deliberative democracy, with providing people with extra info and give a chance to rethink. They achieve a moderate shift towards pro-green, tiny towards acceptance for migrants (unless they are Muslim, then no change in negative attitudes) and drastically much pro-EU views. (sure, there may be an issue concerning to what extend EU is perfectly objective while teaching about EU or its policies)

However there is also an opposite result observed, called pending on political views as "internet radicalisation" or "red pilling". It's somewhat interesting that even people who are worried about it like prof. Steven Pinker, admit that mentioned information are technically speaking correct, but often unknown as taboo subject, just the interpretation is too far reaching:

When they are exposed the first time to true statements that have never been voiced in college campuses or in The New York Times or in respectable media, that are almost like a bacillus to which they have no immunity

Previous post, with just education/IQ vs. views

As liftam pointed out, there is indeed electorate of let's call it simple right wingers with simple answers. (called in the article politely as: racist, homophobic, authoritarianism) With increase of IQ, those attitudes become less prevalent.

To make it a bit more complicated - for example in the US Democrats are overwhelming successful 90:9 in getting votes from Blacks. Let's say that according to SAT score it would be a bit tricky to consider them as the most educated electorate. Just a minority issue? Well, among Asians who outperform Whites Democrats get nice result of 77:23, so better educated minority was not actually reducing the edge.

Right wing tends to earn votes of the group that scores the highest - classical liberals. With increasing IQ there is an increase of support towards personal and economical freedom. Especially in era of political correctness this group reluctantly pick right wing.

Interesting paradox from the US, relation between freedom of speech vs. PC. When electorate of those parties are better educated... then their views diverge even more.

OK, anecdotal evidence - it seems that ideologies seem change within with increased education. For example, among higher educated right wingers instead of denying anthropogenic global warming, it's considered as real issue, which was blown up out of any proportions by activists and hype seeking media. Among higher educated left winger, however nuclear power plants are no longer source all evil, but a reliable and potentially cost effective way of reducing carbon emission. So paradoxically, in this case a common ground starts to appear.

For extra perspective:

  • Its easier to express libertarian leaning ideas when one is self reliable, educated and earns well. In such situation indeed government looks like an obstacle and individual just needs to be left alone and would flourish.

  • There are some arguments that there is growing ideological bias in higher education, when there are more self identified Marxists than Republicans among professors. It's not only self selection as there are studies showing, that in big part of faculty is even openly admitting willingness to discriminate against right wing academics.

  • While education is being used as proxy of being smart, there is a serious problem when using it to compare different generations. It used to work, but while each subsequent generation is in theory much better educated, but in last two decades Flynn effect started to reverse.

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    I've not read your answer yet but I've one immediate thought from your 'title', ideological minefield? [quizzical expression] isn't that normally considered code for 'purely opinion based'
    – Pelinore
    Sep 9, 2019 at 10:00
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    @Pelinore Probably not. It is [although needlessly meta-ish] announcing that what follows might be opinion based or not, that it might be seen as opinion – but that it most probably will elicit opinionated reactions… It doesn't say that what follows is 'bad', but I say it's better cut out anyway. If "science says position X indicates mental incapacity" then mentally incapacitated positionX-holders will react anyway, and predictably. Sep 9, 2019 at 10:20
  • He's going to get attacked by both sides, one sentence says increasing IQ makes certain views less prevalent (suggesting by its context left wing political voters are more intelligent than right wing voters), then goes on to later say that most of those with the very highest IQ's including left wing liberals vote right wing.
    – Pelinore
    Sep 9, 2019 at 11:04
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    @Pelinore No, it's code for quite many people would be consider bringing data not flattering their ego as personal attack. Judging from number of angry downvotes - that's the case.
    – Shadow1024
    Sep 9, 2019 at 14:48
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    @Shadow1024 Sounds like code for confirmation bias to me, but YMMV.
    – user5155
    Sep 9, 2019 at 16:23

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