DNA May Decide the 2008 U.S. Election

February 29, 2008 10:50 AM
by findingDulcinea Staff
Research suggests that genes determine political opinions, one of a number of insights into the biological laws that govern political animals.

30-Second Summary

A new line of research suggests that, in politics, anatomy is destiny.

Scientist David Sloan Wilson studied liberal and conservative teenagers and found that their ideological differences were not moral choices, but adaptations enabling them to survive in their “cultural environment” just as other species have evolved biological survival traits, he writes in The Huffington Post.

The study found that liberal opinions resulted from “survival in a stable environment in which there is leisure for learning and reflection,” while conservative views came from an “unstable environment where joint action, and thus obedience to their group, are at a premium,” reports The Economist.

Also applying behavioral science to politics, Slate writer Emily Yoffe analyzes 2008 presidential contenders using the Myers-Briggs personality test.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hillary Clinton’s personality type is “cautious and methodical,” Obama’s is “idealist,” and McCain’s is “practical, optimistic, cynical, and focused on the here and now.”

Another study measured swing voters’ brain responses to specific presidential candidates, finding that their views were a mixture of reason and biologically-based behavioral responses. For example, some study participants were “battling unacknowledged impulses to like” Hillary Clinton, reported  The New York Times.

Rice University political scientist John Alford says political opinions are influenced by genetic makeup. Studying sets of twins, he found “a 41 percent contribution from inheritance” in their views on issues such as school prayer, The New York Times reported.

“Trying to persuade someone not to be liberal is like trying to persuade someone not to have brown eyes,” Alford says.

Headline Links: The evolution of political instincts

‘Moral Thinking’
‘Are Liberals and Conservatives Different Species?’
‘Are Political Leanings all in the Genes?’

Opinions & Analysis: Candidates and partisanship under the microscope

Related Topics: Voters react to candidates’ personalities

‘This is your brain on politics’
Voters’ emotional responses to candidates

Background: Genes, politics and the Myers-Briggs test

Politics may be influenced by genes
Myers-Briggs personality test

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