Voting Genes

VOTING GENES….In a recent study of twins, three researchers found that voter turnout has very high heritability. This is unsurprising, since twin studies find that loads and loads of personality traits have some amount of heritability. However, since twin studies have some methodological weaknesses, the results aren’t universally accepted even when lots of studies show the same thing.

However, over at The Monkey Cage today, John Sides notes that two of the researchers have now gone further and actually located the genes that they think are responsible for this result:

The authors find that the MAOA gene increases the likelihood of voting by 5 percentage points. The 5HTT gene increases the likelihood of voting by 10 points in interaction with an environmental factor, religious attendance. I note that only to preempt fears of genetic determinism, not to detract from this interesting finding.

I doubt very much that fears of genetic determinism will be much allayed by this caveat, but we’ll see. Note also that, according to the authors, these are the first results to ever link specific genes to political behavior, so we should wait for followup studies before drawing any firm conclusions. Interesting stuff nonetheless.

Next up: A new study shows that the GWB43 gene increases propensity to vote for Republicans, while the HRC2 gene produces budding young Democrats. You read it here first.