Support for Free Speech: It's an IQ Thing
December 02, 2017, 07:24 AM
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Audacious Epigone has a great post on what demographic traits correlate most with support for freedom of speech in the long-running General Social Survey.

The GSS asks if you would allow five controversial speakers to speak: atheists, communists, and homosexuals on the left; militarists and racists on the right. “Free Speech Absolutists” say okay to all five.

In the past, Audacious has found unsurprising (but not enormous) demographic correlations: for example, 56% of Jews say yes to all five versus only 30% of Hispanics.

But now he’s hit the motherlode trait for broadly defending free speech: vocabulary or IQ. The GSS includes a 10 word vocabulary test whose results correlate surprisingly well with a full-scale IQ test. To avoid the problem of immigrants having a smaller English vocabulary, he restricted the sample to 12,370 individuals born in U.S. and who were surveyed in this century. That’s a spectacular correlation.

It’s not obvious whether the stronger correlation is to IQ or to vocabulary. The GSS’s 10 question vocabulary test is a somewhat noisy test of IQ, so it could be that the actual correlation with IQ is even higher. On the other hand, a large vocabulary itself might correlate better with support for free speech than overall IQ, perhaps because people who like reading (and thus have larger vocabularies on average) might like speech in general and therefore favor free speech.

In any case, this graph supports an intuition I’ve had for some time: the academics who complain the most about how they are exhausted from all the emotional labor they must do fending off all the racist microaggressions on campus generally sound kind of stupid for college professors.

In contrast, Steven Pinker has a book coming out in late February that, I presume, will defend freedom of speech. Why am I so confident of that? Because Pinker has an extremely good vocabulary. (Also, because the book’s title will be Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress.)

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