Genetic Variation in Political Participation
James H. Fowler
UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences; UC San Diego School of Medicine
Laura A. Baker
University of Southern California - Department of Psychology
Christopher T. Dawes
University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science
American Political Science Review, Vol. 102, No. 2, pp. 233-248, May 2008
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.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 48Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: August 20, 2007 ; Last revised: July 24, 2008
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