More on Palin and Measuring the Intelligence of Political Candidates:
Todd's post below on Sarah Palin brings up some good questions about how we measure the intelligence of politicians. I wanted to offer a few thoughts.

  It seems to me that when we talk about a candidate's "intelligence," we usually mean a mix of several different things. We might mean raw intellectual candle power, the sort of mind that we might expect to excel in an academic setting. We might mean charisma, the ability to impress and inspire observers. We might mean judgment, a person's ability to chose wisely among different options. We might mean articulateness, a person's ability to communicate effectively. There are some other options, of course, but those are a few of the different kind of judgments that usually factor in how we assess intelligence.

  My sense is that all of these factors are usually considered when assessing a candidate's intelligence, with the caveat that we often end up filtering these questions through the lens of how much they agree with us. Politicians who agree with us are necessarily intelligent. After all, they have the raw candle power and the judgment to see that we are correct! And politicians who don't agree with us are presumed to be much less intelligent: They either lack the candle power or judgment to "get it." These sorts of intuitive judgments mix together with some of the more objective evidence (academic pedigrees, great writing or speaking skills) to form our judgments of a candidate's intelligence.

  How might this work with Sarah Palin? If you agree with Palin's views, you're likely to figure she is obviously reasonably sharp (smart enough to get the issues) and has good judgment (she gets then right). Further, her political success proves that she has charisma (popular Governor, beat the incumbent). And if she isn't the most articulate person, well then she's just not glib. On the other hand, if you disagree with Palin's views, you're likely to think she isn't intelligent (no impressive academic degrees), she lacks judgment (she's wrong on the issues), and she's inarticulate (see Couric interviews). And if she's a charismatic person, well then it's just an empty and misleading charisma.

Related Posts (on one page):

  1. More on Palin and Measuring the Intelligence of Political Candidates:
  2. Glibness v. Intelligence: