Genetic components of political preference

February 15, 2013

Rose McDermott, professor of political science at Brown University, will discuss the growing field of research that explores possible links between genetics and political preferences at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world's largest general scientific society.

Joining a Feb. 15, 2013, panel discussion titled "The Science of Politics," McDermott will discuss her own research in this area as well as a recent review of research that she co-authored pointing to a genetic contribution to social attitudes, including political preferences. The panel runs from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Ballroom A of the Hynes Convention Center in Boston.

Political science has traditionally assumed that social and political behaviors have social causes. McDermott will discuss how discoveries beginning in the late 1970s began to demonstrate genetic influences on political orientations. Work in this area has burgeoned in the last decade, showing that a very large proportion of political preferences along the spectrum of conservative to liberal come from hereditary components.

As McDermott will explain, this genetic component does not indicate whether a person will affiliate as a Democrat or a Republican. Rather, individuals tend to have a broad, evolution-based orientation toward being more conservative or liberal about various elements, such as protecting their in-group. That in-group orientation can translate into preferences on political issues such as reproductive rights, immigration, and war, as well as political behaviors such as voting behavior and political participation.

"It's those topics that you can imagine humans over millennial time had repeated challenges around," McDermott said. "We always had to worry about finding a mate and having children and raising our children. We always had to worry about defending ourselves against predators. And today, that may look like opposition to gay marriage and immigration and support for war, but the underlying propensity is along that [conservative-liberal] spectrum."

Much of the research in this area involves twin studies using identical twins and fraternal twins. By looking at differences between the twins, researchers can see what part of a variance in an outcome across a population can be attributed to what is hereditary or genetic, what comes from a shared environment, and what part is personal experience that happens to one person but not to a sibling. Through a series of statistical tests, researchers can pinpoint which differences in attitudes and ideology are attributable to a genetic or hereditary component.

After finding this genetic link, McDermott said the next step in the research is to better map how genes influence those psychological processes and biological mechanisms that interact with an individual's upbringing, social environment, and personal experience in ways that may be expressed as differences on the liberal-conservative spectrum.

Further research can lead to a better understanding of how best to target certain groups to affect policy issues such as obesity or immigration, according to McDermott.
-end-


Brown University

Related Genetics Articles from Brightsurf:

Human genetics: A look in the mirror
Genome Biology and Evolution's latest virtual issue highlights recent research published in the journal within the field of human genetics.

The genetics of blood: A global perspective
To better understand the properties of blood cells, an international team led by UdeM's Guillaume Lettre has been examining variations in the DNA of 746,667 people worldwide.

Turning to genetics to treat little hearts
Researchers makes a breakthrough in understanding the mechanisms of a common congenital heart disease.

New drugs more likely to be approved if backed up by genetics
A new drug candidate is more likely to be approved for use if it targets a gene known to be linked to the disease; a finding that can help pharmaceutical companies to focus their drug development efforts.

Mapping millet genetics
New DNA sequences will aid in the development of improved millet varieties

Genetics to feed the world
A study, published in Nature Genetics, demonstrated the effectiveness of the technology known as genomic selection in a wheat improvement program.

The genetics of cancer
A research team has identified a new circular RNA (ribonucleic acid) that increases tumor activity in soft tissue and connective tissue tumors.

New results on fungal genetics
An international team of researchers has found unusual genetic features in fungi of the order Trichosporonales.

Mouse genetics influences the microbiome more than environment
Genetics has a greater impact on the microbiome than maternal birth environment, at least in mice, according to a study published this week in Applied and Environmental Microbiology.

New insights into genetics of fly longevity
Alexey Moskalev, Ph.D., Head of the Laboratory of Molecular Radiobiology and Gerontology Institute of Biology, and co-authors from the Institute of biology of Komi Science Center of RAS, Engelgard's Institute of molecular biology, involved in the study of the aging mechanisms and longevity of model animals announce the publication of a scientific article titled: 'The Neuronal Overexpression of Gclc in Drosophila melanogaster Induces Life Extension With Longevity-Associated Transcriptomic Changes in the Thorax' in Frontiers in Genetics - a leading open science platform.

Read More: Genetics News and Genetics Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.