Voter Turnout Determined By Genes

July 11, 2008 02:59 PM
by Isabel Cowles
Two recent studies indicate that genes strongly influence the tendency to vote.

30-Second Summary

Science Daily reports on two studies, which collectively suggest that voter participation is linked to specific genes.

Research published in the July issue of the Journal of Politics by James H. Fowler and Christopher T. Dawes of the University of California, San Diego and Laura A. Baker of the University of Southern California shows that, “individuals with a variant of the MAOA gene are significantly more likely to have voted in the 2000 presidential election.”

In an additional study published in the May 2008 issue of American Political Science Review, Fowler and Dawes used twins to identify genetic similarities and differences between adults with voting records. The twin study found that, “identical twins, who share 100 per cent of their genes, are significantly more similar in their voting behavior than fraternal twins who share only 50 per cent of their genes on average.”

Lead researcher James Fowler, professor of political science at the University of California at San Diego, clarified that the genes do not determine political opinion, however.

Fowler explained, “We did not want people to come away from this thinking that we had found a voter gene. There's no such thing.” The genes appear to influence people’s inclination to vote, but do not determine who they vote for, necessarily.

“Using twins is a common approach in genetic studies since identical twins share the exact same DNA, while fraternal twins do not. At the same time, both kinds of twins are usually raised in similar family and social circumstances, giving researchers a way to tease out how much of a particular behavior might be genetically driven,” a WebMD article explains.

The two studies corroborate earlier findings on the heritability of voter tendencies.

Headline Links: New studies link genes and political involvement

Reference: The two research papers

Opinion and Analysis: Growing list of studies suggest genetic component to political orientation

Related Topics: Your Voting Tendencies

U.S. Census Bureau voting and registration data
Increase your likelihood of voting, genes or no genes

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