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Unformatted text preview: Genetic Variation in Political Participation James H. Fowler 1 , Laura A. Baker 2 , and Christopher T. Dawes 1 Abstract: The decision to vote has puzzled scholars for decades. Theoretical models predict little or no variation in participation in large population elections and empirical models have typically explained only a relatively small portion of individual-level variance in turnout behavior. However, these models have not considered the hypothesis that part of the variation in voting behavior can be attributed to genetic effects. Matching public voter turnout records in Los Angeles to a twin registry, we study the heritability of political behavior in monozygotic and dizygotic twins. The results show that genes account for a significant proportion of the variation in voter turnout. We also replicate these results with data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and show that they extend to a broad class of acts of political participation. These are the first findings to suggest that humans exhibit genetic variation in their tendency to participate in political activities. 1 Political Science Department, University of California, San Diego, 9500 Gilman Drive 0521, La Jolla, CA 92093-0521, USA 2 Psychology Department, University of Southern California, 3620 South McClintock Ave., Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061, USA Contact author James Fowler, email: firstname.lastname@example.org phone: 858-534-6807 1 Why do people vote? The classic paradox of turnout has puzzled theorists for years (Aldrich 1993; Downs 1957; Feddersen and Sandroni 2006; Riker and Ordeshook 1968). When one person votes, everyone with the same preferences benefits from the increased likelihood that their preferred outcome will result. Yet those who do vote must bear the cost of time and effort required to learn about election alternatives and go to the polls. In large populations, the probability that a single vote will change the outcome of an election is miniscule (Gelman, King, and Boscardin 1998), meaning that even very small costs to the individual typically outweigh the expected benefits he or she would receive from voting. As a result, classic game theoretic models that assume individuals are self-interested and fully optimizing in their behavior show that the equilibrium amount of voter turnout approaches zero as the population becomes large (Palfrey and Rosenthal 1985). Yet in spite of this theoretical result, millions of people do vote, suggesting that something other than self- interest or optimizing behavior drives their decision (Bendor, Diermeier, and Ting 2003; Feddersen and Sandroni 2006; Fowler 2006b). In addition, the fact that millions of people abstain suggests that there may be inherent variation in the human tendency to participate in politics....
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- Spring '08