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Study finds voter genetics may predict election outcomes

(Boston) - New studies led by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) shows specific genetic traits may predispose people to their preferences for social, spiritual and political behaviors. The findings, which will be published in the X issue of Genetic Syndromes and Gene Therapy, also suggests that a voter's genetic information may predict presidential outcomes more than the actual issues at hand or the presidential candidates themselves.

This research was reported by Marlene Oscar Berman, PhD, professor of neurology, psychiatry and anatomy and neurobiology at BUSM; Kenneth Blum, PhD, professor of psychiatry at the University of Florida College of Medicine; and Abdalla Bowirrat, MD, PhD, professor of clinical neuroscience and population genetics at the Nazareth English Hospital in Israel. Berman, who was Bowirrat's postdoctoral mentor at BUSM, also is a research psychologist at the Boston VA Medical Center.

Humans tend to associate with other humans who have similar characteristics. Moreover, humans are unusual as a species in that most people form stable, non-reproductive unions to one or more friends. The researchers have demonstrated that family members exhibiting certain types of behaviors (i.e., drug and alcohol addiction, smoking, sex addiction, pathological gambling, violence behavior, juvenile delinquency, criminal behavior, ADHD, etc.) tend almost exclusively to marry other individuals who have the same gene for a disorder called "Reward Deficiency Syndrome" (RDS). Thus, there is support for the old proverb, "Birds of a feather flock together." This has been referred to as homophily.

According to the researchers voting, voter turnout and attachment to a particular political ideology has been related to various reward genes, possibly predicting liberalism or conservatism. "For example, people with a particular genetic makeup may be more trusting and therefore more likely to join a political party than people with a different genetic makeup," explained Berman. "Further, this genetic association with partisanship also mediates an indirect association with voter turnout, and also might help to explain similarities in parent/child and child partisanship and the persistence of partisan behavior over time. In addition, it explain the prevalence of generations of die-hard republicans and equally entrenched democratic legacies," she added.

Berman believes that while humans are cognizant of their own free will, they must not be so naive to underestimate the relationship between basic social behaviors including political persuasion and biology. "The study of genes potentially promises a better understanding of the constraints imposed on basic political behavior. Thus, biologists and political scientists must work together to advance a new science of human nature, and we encourage large scale studies to confirm the results of our reports," said Berman.

Contact: Gina Orlando
Boston University Medical Center

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