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Tendency to fear is strong political influence
Date:2/5/2013

It's no secret that fear is a mechanism often used in political campaigns to steer public opinion on hot-button issues like immigration and war. But not everyone is equally predisposed to be influenced by such a strategy, according to new research by Rose McDermott, professor of political science, and colleagues published in the American Journal of Political Science.

By examining the different ways that fear manifests itself in individuals and its correlation to political attitudes, the researchers found that people who have a greater genetic liability to experience higher levels of social fear tend to be more supportive of anti-immigration and pro-segregation policies. Thus far, research examining the link between fear and political attitudes has seldom accounted for trait-based fear, with transitory state-based fear being a more common focus area.

McDermott co-authored the study, titled "Fear as a Disposition and an Emotional State: A Genetic and Environmental Approach to Out-Group Political Preferences," with Peter K. Hatemi of Penn State University, and Lindon J. Eaves, Kenneth S. Kendler, and Michael C. Neale of Virginia Commonwealth University.

Using a large sample related individuals, including twins, siblings, and parents and children, the researchers first assessed individuals for their propensity for fear using standardized clinically administered interviews. Looking at subjects who were related to one another, the researchers were able to identify influences such as environment and personal experience and found that some individuals also possessed a genetic propensity for a higher level of baseline fear. Such individuals are more prepared to experience fear in general at lower levels of threat or provocation. Next, the researchers surveyed the sample for their attitudes toward out-groups immigrants in this case as well as toward segregation. Participants were also ranked on a liberal-conservative partisanship scale
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Contact: Courtney Coelho
courtney_coelho@brown.edu
401-863-7287
Brown University
Source:Eurekalert

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