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Genetic Variation in Political Participation

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  • FOWLER, JAMES H.
  • BAKER, LAURA A.
  • DAWES, CHRISTOPHER T.

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 accounted for 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 a significant proportion of the variation in voting turnout can be accounted for by genes. 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. & Baker, Laura A. & Dawes, Christopher T., 2008. "Genetic Variation in Political Participation," American Political Science Review, Cambridge University Press, vol. 102(2), pages 233-248, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:cup:apsrev:v:102:y:2008:i:02:p:233-248_08
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    Cited by:

    1. Hufe, Paul & Peichl, Andreas, 2016. "Beyond equal rights: Equality of opportunity in political participation," ZEW Discussion Papers 16-068, ZEW - Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research.
    2. Niclas Berggren & Henrik Jordahl & Panu Poutvaara, 2010. "The Right Look: Conservative Politicians Look Better and their Voters Reward it," CESifo Working Paper Series 3310, CESifo Group Munich.
    3. Alberton Montagnoli & Mirko Moro & Georgios A Panos & Robert E Wright, 2016. "Financial literacy and political orientation in Great Britain," Working Papers 1614, University of Strathclyde Business School, Department of Economics.
    4. De Neve, Jan-Emmanuel & Fowler, James H., 2014. "Credit card borrowing and the monoamine oxidase A (MAOA) gene," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 107(PB), pages 428-439.
    5. Borgonovi, Francesca & Pokropek, Artur, 2017. "Mind that gap: The mediating role of intelligence and individuals' socio-economic status in explaining disparities in external political efficacy in 28 countries," Intelligence, Elsevier, vol. 62(C), pages 125-137.
    6. Kannan, Viji Diane & Brown, Theodore M. & Kunitz, Stephen J. & Chapman, Benjamin P., 2019. "Political parties and mortality: The role of social status and personal responsibility," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 223(C), pages 1-7.
    7. Chevalier, Arnaud & Doyle, Orla, 2012. "Schooling and Voter Turnout: Is there an American Exception?," IZA Discussion Papers 6539, Institute of Labor Economics (IZA).
    8. Victor G. Hugg & Kelly LeRoux, 2019. "Personality traits as predictors of citizen engagement with local government," Journal of Behavioral Public Administration, Center for Experimental and Behavioral Public Administration, vol. 2(2).
    9. Martín Leites & Gonzalo Salas, 2019. "Intergenerational transmission of preferences for redistribution," Documentos de Trabajo (working papers) 19-20, Instituto de Economia - IECON.
    10. Rainer Schnell, 2009. "Biologische Variablen in sozialwissenschaftlichen Surveys," Working Paper Series of the German Council for Social and Economic Data 107, German Council for Social and Economic Data (RatSWD).
    11. Matthias Fatke, 2013. "Participation and Political Equality in Direct Democracy: Educative Effect or Social Bias," University of Bern Social Sciences Working Papers 3, University of Bern, Department of Social Sciences.
    12. David Cesarini & Christopher T. Dawes & Magnus Johannesson & Paul Lichtenstein & Björn Wallace, 2009. "Genetic Variation in Preferences for Giving and Risk Taking," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 124(2), pages 809-842.
    13. Alejandra, Salinas, 2011. "Los presupuestos psicológicos en política : Una revisión introductoria de la Literatura," Estudios Públicos, Centro de Estudios Públicos, vol. 0(124), pages 84-112.
    14. Ulubasoglu, Mehmet Ali & Yaraşır-Tülümce, Sevinç, 2019. "Pork and Turkey: Distributive Politics in the Allocation of Public Investments into Turkish Electoral Districts 1987–2004," MPRA Paper 96842, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    15. Tim Powlowski & Dennis Coates, 2013. "The habit for voting, “civic duty” and travel distance," UMBC Economics Department Working Papers 13-05, UMBC Department of Economics.

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