A chart purportedly ranking the intelligence quotients of former presidents of the United States made the rounds on social media in December 2016, along with the claim that the President-elect would rank among the smartest, boasting an IQ of 156:
This image includes two parts worth examining: the chart itself and the assertion that Trump has an IQ of 156.
The original chart is based on data from a 2006 study conducted by University of California, Davis psychologist Dean Keith Simonton. As IQ scores were not available for most of the presidents, Simonton used a historiometric approach to estimate their results:
In the conventional approach to measuring IQ, a person is given a standardized test, such as the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale, and their score on the test is assumed to reflect their level of intelligence (with some amount of random error). By contrast, in the historiometric approach, a person’s IQ is quantitatively estimated based on variables having known correlations with IQ, such as highest level of education, academic honors, scores on college admissions exams, occupation, and preferences.
Simonton’s research was later boiled down into the aforementioned chart for a 2015 article published by US News. (While some on social media claimed, unsurprisingly, that President Barack Obama was omitted from this list because his IQ score was so low, the real reason is that this data was compiled in 2006, before Obama took office.)
This chart is based on a real study; however, the claim that Donald Trump has an IQ of 156 is not. This rumor has been circulating since at least August 2015, when an estimation of his possible intelligence appeared in an article published by the web site BeforeItsNews.com:
Donald Trump graduated from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1968, with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics and anthropology. Mensa doesn’t accept SAT scores from after 1994. However Mr Trump was a student at Wharton when it was possible to derive an accurate IQ core from known SAT scores. Given the usual requirements for admission to a top school like Wharton, I estimate that Mr. Trump has a 156 IQ at the minimum.
The standard description of this level of intelligence is “Genius — Exception intellectual ability and capable of looking beyond known facts.” However, the percentile rating is more revealing than the raw score. A 156 IQ is at the 99.9905490555 percentile. That means that Donald Trump is smarter than 99.99 percent of the people on planet earth. Not only does Trump qualify for membership in Mensa but he could join the Triple Nine Society.
This article is chock-full of logical missteps and factual inaccuracies. Donald Trump’s official school transcripts are not available, so it is impossible to know his actual scholastic aptitude scores. While the article’s author used Wharton’s general admission requirements to estimate Trump’s IQ, the math still doesn’t quite add up.
According to PrepScholar.com, Wharton’s SAT requirements are currently set at 1500. This roughly translates to an IQ score between 145 and 149, not 156. Regardless, Wharton’s admission requirements are irrelevant, since Trump did not enter Wharton as a freshman. He transferred there his junior year, and Wharton does not list SAT scores among its requirements for transfer students.
Gwenda Blair claimed in her 2001 biography about Donald Trump and his family that the President-elect was admitted to Wharton thanks to a friendly admissions officer:
Gwenda Blair, in her 2001 book “The Trumps,” said that Trump’s grades at Fordham were just “respectable” and that he got into Wharton mainly because he had an interview with an admissions officer who had been a high school classmate of his older brother. And Wharton’s admissions team surely knew that Trump was from one of New York’s wealthiest families.
Donald Trump’s true intelligence quotient is unknown, but the article published by BeforeItsNews.com certainly does not document that it is 156 — or any other number.
Cook, Lindsey. “Poindexter in Chief: Presidential IQs and Success in the Oval Office.”
U.S. News. 27 May 2015.
Hambrick, David. “How Smart Should the President Be?”
Scientific American. 26 May 2015.
Kessler, Glenn. “Five Myths Donald Trump Tells About Donald Trump.”
Washington Post. 28 January 2016.