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Fowler - two_genes_predict_voter_turnout

Fowler - two_genes_predict_voter_turnout - Two Genes...

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Two Genes Predict Voter Turnout James H. Fowler and Christopher T. Dawes University of California, San Diego * December 1, 2007 Abstract Fowler, Baker & Dawes (2007) recently showed in two independent studies of twins that voter turnout has very high heritability. Here we investigate two specific genes that may contribute to this heritability via their impact on neurochemical processes that influence social behav- ior. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we show that a polymorphism of the MAOA gene significantly increases the likelihood of voting. We also find evidence of a gene-environment interaction between religious attendance and a polymorphism of the 5HTT gene that significantly increases voter turnout. These are the first results to ever link specific genes to political behavior. * This research was funded by National Science Foundation grant number SES-0719404. The most recent version of this paper can be found at http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu. The contact author can be reached at [email protected]
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Introduction For thousands of years, scholars have speculated about human nature and our need and capacity for governance. Aristotle (1962 [c.340 BCE]) was one of the earliest to suggest that political dispositions are inherent in human beings, stating “man is by nature a political animal.”(p.59) In fact, he went even further and suggested that this was more true for humans than other species: “that man is more of a political animal than bees or any other gregarious animals is evident.”(p.60) While these claims have fueled countless debates about human nature among political philosophers, they have only recently been subjected to rigorous empirical tests. Social scientists have shown that basic political attitudes like liberalism and conservatism are likely to be heritable (Alford, Funk & Hibbing 2005, Hatemi, Medland, Morley, Heath & Martin 2007). While the choice of a particular candidate or party does not appear to be heritable, the decision to participate in politics does have a significant genetic component. Fowler, Baker & Dawes (2007) recently studied the voting behavior of two populations of twins and showed that heritability accounted for 60% of the variation in validated turnout of those living in Los Angeles county and 72% of the self-reported turnout in a nationally-representative sample of young adults. They also showed that heritability accounted for 60% of the variation in a general index of political participation, including contributing to campaigns, running for office, volunteering for political organizations, and attending protests. These results were the first to suggest that humans exhibit inherent variability in their willingness to participate in politics. However, these initial results based on twin studies beg the question “which genes?” If the tendency to be involved in politics is really in our nature as a species, then we should be able to find specific genes in humans that regulate such behavior. The natural place to start
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