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Political participation is partially rooted in genetic inheritance
Date:7/1/2008

ings the researchers went beyond the California voter data to examine patterns nationwide using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health conducted from 1994 to 2002. This data has been utilized in a wide variety of genetic studies, but this is the first time the data has been used to show that participatory political behavior is heritable. For example, among identical twins, the researchers conclude that 72 per cent of the variance in voter turnout can be attributed to genes. Moreover, genetic-based differences extend to a broad class of acts of political participation, including donating to a campaign, contacting a government official, running for office, and attending a political rally. According to Fowler, "we expected to find that genes played some role in political behavior, but we were quite surprised by the size of the effect and how widely it applies to many kinds of participation."

To pinpoint the specific genes implicated, the authors first looked at those genes that have previously been shown to account for variation in social behavior. Among those, MAOA and 5HTT are known to exert a strong influence on the serotonin system regulating fear, trust, and social interaction. Hypothesizing that persons with more efficient versions of these genes would be more likely to vote, the researchers turned again to the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health to conduct tests on the relationship between turnout and MAOA and 5HTT. The results show that both genes are significantly associated with the decision to vote. Those who have the more efficient genes are about 10 per cent more likely to go to the polls.

"These findings are extremely important for how we think about political behavior," said Fowler. For example, it is widely known that parents and children exhibit similar voting behavior, but this has always been interpreted as learned behavior rather than inherited behavior. It is also well-known that these particul
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Contact: Barry Jagoda
bjagoda@ucsd.edu
858-534-8567
University of California - San Diego
Source:Eurekalert

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