Genetic Variation in Political Participation

American Political Science Review, Vol. 102, No. 2, pp. 233-248, May 2008

48 Pages Posted: 20 Aug 2007 Last revised: 24 Jul 2008

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

Date Written: Jan 2008

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.

Suggested Citation

Fowler, James H. and Baker, Laura A. and Dawes, Christopher T., Genetic Variation in Political Participation (Jan 2008). American Political Science Review, Vol. 102, No. 2, pp. 233-248, May 2008. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1008036

James H. Fowler (Contact Author)

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

UC San Diego School of Medicine ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
MC 0507
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

Laura A. Baker

University of Southern California - Department of Psychology ( email )

Los Angeles, CA 90089-1061
United States

Christopher T. Dawes

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://dss.ucsd.edu/~cdawes/

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