Using data from the American National Election Studies, we investigated the relationship between cognitive ability and attitudes toward and actual voting for presidential candidates in the 2012 and 2016 U.S. presidential elections (i.e., Romney, Obama, Trump, and Clinton). Isolating this relationship from competing relationships, results showed that verbal ability was a significant negative predictor of support and voting for Trump (but not Romney) and a positive predictor of support and voting for Obama and Clinton. By comparing within and across the election years, our analyses revealed the nature of support for Trump, including that support for Trump was better predicted by lower verbal ability than education or income. In general, these results suggest that the 2016 U.S. presidential election had less to do with party affiliation, income, or education and more to do with basic cognitive ability.
- political psychology
- voting behavior