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#Ranking the Least Intelligent Presidents in U.S. History

How smart are U.S. presidents?

In a 2006 study, UC Davis professor Dean Simonton used historiometric methods to estimate each president’s IQ. Simonton analyzed information from each president’s biographies, speeches and writings that would indicate intelligence.

Simonton estimated four different IQ values for each president. At InsideGov, we averaged all four IQs to get our rankings of the 25 least intelligent presidents in U.S. history. Note that President Obama was not included in the study.

With an average IQ of 128.5, these presidents are still smart, but the bar is set pretty high by the most intelligent commanders-in-chief. For reference, the average IQ for the general public is 100.

This list is by no means definitive, but it should give a general overview of each president’s relative intelligence.

#25 – Rutherford B. Hayes

Estimated IQ: 133.9
College: Kenyon College

Hayes oversaw the end of Reconstruction and attempted to bring the nation together following the end of the Civil War. He worked as an attorney in Ohio prior to his career in politics.

#24 – Martin Van Buren

Estimated IQ: 133.4
College: None

Prior to his stint as America’s eighth President, Van Buren served as the Secretary of State from 1829 to 1831 and Vice President from 1833 to 1837, both under Andrew Jackson.

#23 – George Washington

Estimated IQ: 132.5
College: None

Washington received no formal education and achieved the equivalent of an elementary school education from a variety of tutors. Prior to becoming the nation’s first President, he served as the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War

#22 – Benjamin Harrison

Estimated IQ: 130
College: Miami University

Before becoming the country’s 23rd President, Harrison was a prominent attorney in Indianapolis. While attending Miami, he was a member of the Phi Delta Theta fraternity and the Delta Chi law fraternity. He graduated in 1852.

#21 – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Estimated IQ: 131.9
College: U.S. Military Academy (West Point)

Eisenhower was the last U.S. President to be born in the 19th century. While a student at West Point, he was a member of the varsity football team. He later served as a five-star general during World War II.

20 – Richard Nixon

Estimated IQ: 131
College: Whittier College

Though Nixon’s presidency was marred in scandal and controversy, he was effective in accomplishing some major foreign policy goals and pushing for more environmental regulation. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Whittier in 1934 and received his law degree from Duke University in 1937.

#19 – Grover Cleveland

Estimated IQ: 130.9
College: None

Cleveland is the only President in U.S. history to serve two non-consecutive terms in office. Despite receiving no college education, he had a prominent law career in Eerie County, New York, prior to his career in politics.

#18 – James K. Polk

Estimated IQ: 130.2
College: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Polk graduated from UNC Chapel Hill in 1818. In his one term as president, Polk presided over the Mexican War, dramatically expanded the size of the country and overhauled the nation’s finance system.

#17 – William McKinley

Estimated IQ: 130.2
College: Allegheny College (withdrew)

McKinley enrolled at Allegheny College in 1859 but dropped out after one year. He later earned a law degree from Albany Law School. President McKinley was tragically assassinated just six months into his second term.

#16 – George H.W. Bush

Estimated IQ: 130.1
College: Yale University

Before he attended Yale, George H. W. Bush enlisted in the Navy and served until the end of World War II. While at Yale, he was a member of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity and a captain on the varsity baseball team. He earned his degree in two and a half years.

#15 – Ronald Reagan

Estimated IQ: 130
College: Eureka College

Although Reagan ranks lower than most presidents in terms of IQ, he is considered to be one of the most effective presidents. In fact, in a 2013 Gallup poll, Americans ranked Reagan as the second best modern U.S. president.

#14 – Herbert Hoover

Estimated IQ: 129.78
College: Stanford University

Hoover was part of the first class to enter Stanford University. Although he had a successful career as a mining engineer, Hoover struggled to deal with the onset of the Great Depression as president.

#13 – Lyndon B. Johnson

Estimated IQ: 127.83
College: Southwest Texas State Teachers College

Before entering politics, LBJ excelled as a teacher at an impoverished school. As president, Johnson pushed an aggressive reform agenda and navigated the beginning of the Vietnam War.

#12 – Harry Truman

Estimated IQ: 127.55
College: Spalding’s Commercial College (did not graduate)

Truman entered the White House with one of the highest presidential approval ratings in history, but soon lost public support. He also had one of the most interesting jobs before becoming president, working at a men’s haberdashery store.

#11 – Calvin Coolidge

Estimated IQ: 127.1
College: Amherst College

Known as “Silent Cal,” President Coolidge was a notoriously taciturn president. Although the end of his presidency was marred by economic collapse in the U.S., he is still admired by conservatives today for his belief in a small central government.

#10 – Gerald Ford

Estimated IQ: 127.08
College: University of Michigan

A football star at the University of Michigan, Ford received contract offers from the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions. Instead, he opted for a different career path, enrolling at Yale Law School.

#9 – William Howard Taft

Estimated IQ: 126.9
College: Yale University

When Teddy Roosevelt hand-picked Taft as his successor, he was expecting someone who would push an active reform agenda. However, Taft proved to a more hesitant leader, even writing to Roosevelt, “I do not know if I have had harder luck than other presidents, but I do know that I have succeeded far less than others.”

#8 – Andrew Jackson

Estimated IQ: 126.25
College: None

Andrew Jackson had a fearsome reputation as a politician and soldier. He was known to duel his rivals—even to the death—and was a quick-tempered leader. His presidency involved several controversial events such as the Trail of Tears and his attempts to destroy the Federal Bank.

#7 – James Buchanan

Estimated IQ: 125.93
College: Dickinson College

Buchanan is often considered to be one of the worst presidents in history for his failure to deal with the issue of slavery. In fact, Buchanan ranked dead-last among U.S. presidents in a 2015 poll conducted by the Brookings Institute.

#6 – Zachary Taylor

Estimated IQ: 125.65
College: None

Nicknamed “Old Rough and Ready,” Zachary Taylor was a celebrated war hero for his role in the Mexican-American War. Unfortunately, his military skills didn’t translate into a successful presidency.

#5 – Andrew Johnson

Estimated IQ: 125.65
College: None

Johnson was born in a log cabin to a family of modest means. Like Taylor, Johnson never received a formal college education, but had a knack for climbing the political ladder.

#4 – George W. Bush

Estimated IQ: 124.88
College: Yale University

Throughout Bush’s presidency, the media frequently raised questions about his intelligence, often pointing to his verbal slips. New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait even wrote: “I see only evidence of a man who not only lacks the ability to think analytically but disdains the very notion of it.”

While it’s true that Bush ranks among the least intelligent presidents, his estimated IQ places him around the average score for a college graduate in the United States.

#3 – Warren G. Harding

Estimated IQ: 124.3
College: Ohio Central College

Harding had a diverse career before entering politics, working as a teacher, insurance salesman and journalist. Harding’s tenure as president was abruptly cut short, when he suffered a fatal heart attack during his third year in office.

#2 – James Monroe

Estimated IQ: 124.13
College: The College of William and Mary (did not graduate)

Besides George Washington, Monroe was the only president to run unopposed for re-election. Although he may have lacked the intellectual brilliance of some of the other founding fathers, Monroe was nonetheless a successful president.

#1 – Ulysses S. Grant

Estimated IQ: 120
College: United States Military Academy

Unlike his rival, Robert E. Lee, Grant was an average student at West Point. While there’s no doubting Grant’s contribution to ending the Civil War, he was a lackluster president. Historians have noted his rough style of conversation and tendency to binge drink.

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One thought on “#Ranking the Least Intelligent Presidents in U.S. History

  1. Donart

    Many thanks extremely handy. Will share site with my friends.

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