Genetic components of political preference

Feb 15, 2013

Rose McDermott, professor of political science at Brown University, will discuss the growing field of research that explores possible links between genetics and political preferences at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society.

Joining a Feb. 15, 2013, panel discussion titled "The Science of Politics," McDermott will discuss her own research in this area as well as a recent review of research that she co-authored pointing to a genetic contribution to , including political preferences.

has traditionally assumed that social and political behaviors have social causes. McDermott will discuss how discoveries beginning in the late 1970s began to demonstrate genetic influences on political orientations. Work in this area has burgeoned in the last decade, showing that a very large proportion of political preferences along the spectrum of conservative to liberal come from hereditary components.

As McDermott will explain, this does not indicate whether a person will affiliate as a Democrat or a Republican. Rather, individuals tend to have a broad, evolution-based orientation toward being more conservative or liberal about various elements, such as protecting their in-group. That in-group orientation can translate into preferences on political issues such as reproductive rights, immigration, and war, as well as political behaviors such as voting behavior and political participation.

"It's those topics that you can imagine humans over millennial time had repeated challenges around," McDermott said. "We always had to worry about finding a mate and having children and raising our children. We always had to worry about defending ourselves against predators. And today, that may look like opposition to gay marriage and immigration and support for war, but the underlying propensity is along that [conservative–liberal] spectrum."

Much of the research in this area involves twin studies using identical twins and fraternal twins. By looking at differences between the twins, researchers can see what part of a variance in an outcome across a population can be attributed to what is hereditary or genetic, what comes from a shared environment, and what part is personal experience that happens to one person but not to a sibling. Through a series of statistical tests, researchers can pinpoint which differences in attitudes and ideology are attributable to a genetic or hereditary component.

After finding this genetic link, McDermott said the next step in the research is to better map how genes influence those psychological processes and biological mechanisms that interact with an individual's upbringing, social environment, and personal experience in ways that may be expressed as differences on the liberal-conservative spectrum.

Further research can lead to a better understanding of how best to target certain groups to affect policy issues such as obesity or immigration, according to McDermott.

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User comments : 13

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packrat
2.3 / 5 (7) Feb 15, 2013
Personally I think that using twins was a mistake and screwed the entire outcome. I've never met a set of twins yet (And I've known a few - they run in the family and some long time family friends) where one twin isn't much more conservative than the other. In other words, one tends to be serious and the other tends to be silly. Now I'll admit that's only about half a dozen sets but it has held true with every set of identical twins I've known.
dav_daddy
1 / 5 (4) Feb 16, 2013
I agree you would think that, that would slew the data. It would be interesting to see if there were major differences between identical and nonidentical (I forget the proper term) sets of twins.
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (3) Feb 16, 2013
We have many evidence, that the conservative/liberal way of thinking is influenced with genetic dispositions. But it still doesn't explain, why many states of USA differ so much in their political preferences.
bertibus
2.1 / 5 (7) Feb 16, 2013
The concluding para says it all: "how best to target certain groups to affect policy issues such as obesity or immigration, according to McDermott."
More social-engineering dressed up as science.
VendicarE
2 / 5 (4) Feb 16, 2013
Once science pinpoints the mental defect that causes Conservativism the mental disease can be eradicated without the need to destroy the vermin who are the carriers.

ryggesogn2
2.2 / 5 (10) Feb 16, 2013
Another twist on 'progressive' eugenics to create the perfect world.
VendicarE
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 16, 2013
RyggTard spreads ConservaTard disease whenever he opens his mouth.

He fears that his kind have no place in the future.

He is correct.
frajo
1 / 5 (1) Feb 16, 2013
We always had to worry about finding a mate and having children and raising our children. We always had to worry about defending ourselves against predators.
What a one-sided disingenuous world view. These are the people that want to suppress everybody who dares to deviate (from worrying about finding a mate and having or raising children, from preying on prey branded "predator") by defining that they don't belong to that special interest group called "us".
It's not science, it's anti-scientific conservative roll-back.
ryggesogn2
2.3 / 5 (9) Feb 16, 2013
We always had to worry about finding a mate and having children and raising our children. We always had to worry about defending ourselves against predators.
What a one-sided disingenuous world view. These are the people that want to suppress everybody who dares to deviate (from worrying about finding a mate and having or raising children, from preying on prey branded "predator") by defining that they don't belong to that special interest group called "us".
It's not science, it's anti-scientific conservative roll-back.

If humans don't worry about finding a mate and having children, there won't be any humans.
But that is what the 'progressives' like Paul Ehrlich have been advocating, no?
VendicarE
2.6 / 5 (5) Feb 16, 2013
Paul Ehrlich does not advocate worry.

He advocates action.

"But that is what the 'progressives' like Paul Ehrlich have been advocating, no?" - RyggTard

The mindless claptrap that RyggTard advocates, evokes laughter.

He is so easily controlled by his Corporate masters.
frajo
1 / 5 (1) Feb 17, 2013
It's no use to enter a discussion with somebody who doesn't understand AND doesn't understand that he doesn't understand.

I don't attack what I don't understand. The behavior of ryggesogn2 is different. The technical term is xenophobia.
ryggesogn2
2.5 / 5 (8) Feb 17, 2013
It's no use to enter a discussion with somebody who doesn't understand AND doesn't understand that he doesn't understand.

I don't attack what I don't understand. The behavior of ryggesogn2 is different. The technical term is xenophobia.

Who am I afraid of?
ValeriaT
1 / 5 (3) Feb 17, 2013