Are Our Political Beliefs Encoded in Our DNA?

Thomas B. Edsall, New York Times, October 1, 2013

In December 2008, The New York Times Magazine reported on the emerging science of “genopolitics.”

“For years,” Emily Biuso wrote,

scholars have assumed that a voter pulls the lever because she grew up in a voting household or perhaps sat through a lot of civics classes. But this year two political scientists published studies claiming that in addition to environment, genes may be a primary influence on political engagement.

Biuso was among the first to talk about what has become a bitter dispute within the study of politics, a dispute in which the stakes are high and the potential consequences significant.

On one side of the debate are those like James Fowler, a professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California, San Diego, and Darren Schreiber, a political scientist at U.C.L.A who point out, in a 2008 article in Science, that

In the past 50 years, biologists have learned a tremendous amount about human biology and its genetic basis. At the same time, political scientists have been intensively studying the effect of the social and institutional environment on political attitudes and behaviors. However, biologists and political scientists have been working largely in isolation of one another. Little cross-disciplinary work has been done.

The authors go on to argue:

This must change for two important reasons. First, recent evidence is making it increasingly clear that genetic variation plays an important role in explaining variation in human political behavior. Second, additional evidence in neuroscience indicates that the human brain may be adapted particularly to solve social problems that are explicitly political. Much of this evidence is associational, and we therefore should be cautious in using it to build causal theories. However, if the need for sophisticated social cognition drove the evolution of the human brain then a new science of human nature will require comprehending human biology in a sociopolitical context.

Representing the other side of the debate are Evan Charney at Duke and William English at Harvard, who contend that “genopolitical” analyses produce “absurdly high estimates of heritability of behavior.”

In an e-mail, Charney wrote:

“Genopolitics,” uninformed by some of the most important developments in molecular genetics and evolutionary biology over the past fifty years, is the modern day equivalent of phrenology.

Working somewhere between the two extremes are political scientists who are engaged in innovative, if more traditional, research. In the spirit of inquiry, I e-mailed a few more mainstream professors of government to get their opinion about this new line of scholarship.

Alan Abramowitz of Emory responded cautiously:

I’m sure genetics is a factor in shaping our political and social views but I think that it’s very difficult to separate the influence of genes from that of the family, the community and the social environment in general.

Gary Jacobson, of the University of California, San Diego, wrote in an e-mail:

These are serious, competent, careful researchers, and they are engaged in a valid research enterprise. The evidence that there is a genetic influence on some attitudes and behaviors seems quite strong.

Peter K. Hatemi, a professor of political science, microbiology and biochemistry at Penn State, is a leader in the field of genopolitics. Writing with 16 colleagues in a forthcoming paper, Hatemi summarizes results from “analyses of a combined sample of over 12,000 twins pairs, ascertained from nine different studies conducted in five Western democracies (Australia, Hungary, Denmark, Sweden, and the U.S.A.), sampled over the course of four decades”:

We provide definitive evidence that heritability plays a role in the formation of political ideology, regardless of how ideology is measured, the time period or population sampled.

In a carefully worded conclusion, Hatemi and his collaborators make it clear that their findings should not be over-interpreted or used to draw causal linkages.

The findings suggest that while genes undoubtedly matter in the aggregate development of political attitudes, individual common variants will have small effects on ideology. Hunting for a single “political gene” is a fruitless endeavor, and we make no such attempt here. Rather, by attempting to identify the countless specific genetic variants of small effects, related to ideology, we hope to uncover and unite larger neurobiological pathways which account for a substantial portion of how ideologies are formed and maintained in a world where both genes and environment interact and remain in continuous dialogue to guide human behavior.

Some of the outcomes of genopolitical research are intriguing. Late last year Hatemi and Rose McDermott of Brown University published “The Genetics of Politics: Discovery, Challenges and Progress.” Their paper includes a chart — “Summary of relative genetic and environmental influences on political traits,” reproduced here in Figure 1 — which is based on “findings from all reported twin and kinship studies which provided estimates of genetic and environmental influences on political traits from 1974-2012.” The chart illustrates the authors’ estimate of the relative proportion of genetic (purple) and environmental (green) influences, and the level of combined (brown) genetic and environmental influences.




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  • David Ashton

    More knowledge about human genetics is an asset.
    Human genetic preferences in politics may not be!

  • willbest

    I doubt genetics is all that controlling for politics. States that were blue are red and vice versa. This has happened in a generation.

    Remember all when women get married they become stepford wives or whatever the left likes to call them. Circumstances cause people to change.

    • In our time, the primary ideological-partisan line of demarcation between the two major political parties and the general ideology they represent is both racial/ethnic and circumstantial: White non-Jewish heterosexual married couples with children, or those that were or those that are seriously aspiring to that lifestyle. If you are, you vote Republican, if you’re anyone else, you vote Democrat.

      • Spartacus

        The normal people that are left should stop voting for the Rebloodican party and start carving up territory for a White nation .

        • You may be asking: The Sailer Correlation, as I call the combination of dirt gap, mortgage gap, baby gap and marriage gap that Steve Sailer has done research on, is related to conventional two-party partisan lamestream politics. So what does it have to do with anything we’re concerned about? How is it relevant to ethnonationalism?

          Well, everything.

          You know those famous fourteen words? Well, if you’ve ever actually read those fourteen words, not just posted “14 words” in blog comments and message boards, you will find that the words “white children” are two of those fourteen words. Who has white children? White women and white men who have a relationship, usu. marriage, with each other. “Nationalism” has its roots in the Latin word meaning “to be born.” People who are procreating have the most obvious vested interest in ethno/nationalist sociopolitics.

          Point being, we’ll have a far easier time getting the kind of people who currently vote Republican rather than the kind of white people who currently vote Democrat to become ethnonationalists.

          • Spartacus

            I know that (they’re the normal people I was talking about). We have to convince those people that the US is not their country anymore, and that secession is their only option to provide their children and grandchildren a better future .

        • Raised Its Ugly Head

          We are too far gone down the path toward extinction for that dream.

          Any White self-assertion will be crushed by the Diversity Coalition, which now owns our FedGov and military.

          Whiteness trying to get away from voodoo darkness is deemed a revival of Ku Klux Nazism and a hate crime against humanity.

          • Spartacus

            Any well-trained, well-armed and well-disciplined White military group can crush far more numerous enemies . The moment our race starts fighting is the moment we’ve already won .

          • Raised Its Ugly Head

            But will you really count on the White soldiers and police to be on your side when you can’t pay them, but USBRA can?

          • Spartacus

            I’m reasonably certain any White soldiers or police officers left will desert to the right side at the first occasion .

    • MBlanc46

      But it’s not a matter of party politics, it’s a matter of fundamental attitudes. The switch from Repub to Dem and vice versa is primarily a matter of labeling. Neither the people in Connecticut nor the people in Texas have changed their views much, but the Dems are now much more like the old liberal Repubs that Connecticut folks used to vote for, and the Repubs are much more like the old conservative Dems that the Texans used to vote for.

      • Puggg

        Not long ago, New England white people were Republican, Southern white people were Democrat. Now it’s the other way around. It’s just as simple as the usual regional divide. If one region flips parties for some reason in the near future, the other region will react accordingly.

        • MBlanc46

          And yet their views won’t change all that much.

    • DonReynolds

      Actually the blue Democrat/red Republican color scheme we have today, was originally reversed and changed a few years later. As for political parties, the Democrat party was the home of conservatives. The South was solidly Democrat and had been since before the Civil War. Those same conservative individuals switched parties without changing their political values…..a migration that started before Nixon but accelerated later. When I was a boy growing up in the South, the only Republicans were blacks and carpetbaggers.

  • [Guest]

    >>>The chart illustrates the authors’ estimate of the relative proportion of genetic (purple) and environmental (green) influences, and the level of combined (brown) genetic and environmental influences.

    Blacks are off the chart.

  • Genes matter in political behavior?

    Yet, genes are said not at all to contribute to intelligence or any other factor that have obvious racial differences.

    • MBlanc46

      Not by serious social scientists.

  • Fair Dingum

    But … but … I thought homosexuality was the only thing human beings could be hard wired for!

  • Eagle_Eyed

    I’m not a determinist in any sense of the word but I have noticed a certain natural inclination toward conservatism and cynicism which affects my own poltical opinions. Meaning it is not only the changing culture which makes the goals of conservatives more difficult but the changing demographics as well. Even if we could insulate every new immigrant from the socialist, collectivist culture of their ancestry we still may not be able to move them rightward.

    • Sick of it

      This should not be a surprise when one studies the ancestral cultures of various ethnic groups.

  • So CAL Snowman

    Well blacks have no political beliefs per se, unless you count “Get Whitey” as a political platform. Black “politics” begin and end with the Big Chief of the tribe. Tribal people don’t really have “political” beliefs. For blacks in the Western World their political “beliefs” are completely shaped by the main stream media so they are irrelevant to the discussion.

    Much more interesting is the difference politically between Whites and Asians. It seems that Asians focus on the”collective” and Whites are much more interested in focusing on the “individual.” Japan still had an emperor until the end of World War 2 and China is politically a communist country. Although individualism (as a political trait) was not seen in Whites until the Renaissance. However as the Renaissance was a uniquely European entity, that would seem to support genetic political theory.

    • leftists are delusional

      The black vote can be explained simply with the phrase – people tend to vote with their pocket book.
      Democrats put more money in the black pocket, and take more money from the white pocket (excepting union members,poor, etc.)

      Or more crudely blax vote for whoever gibs dem mo, but interestingly, blacks actually poll fairly conservatively on many social issues.

      • John R

        Let me jump in: You, I think, are making the same mistake that many Republican non-racialist conservatives make: You think that just because blacks vote conservatively on some social issues, that they might be conservatives like you. No, they are not! As I said on other posts, blacks are not “liberals” or “conservatives”; those labels really only apply to White people. Nearly all blacks are really racialists, plain and simple. And that is what we Whites must learn to become.

        • leftists are delusional

          You are adding a conclusion to my observation.

          Your ASSUMPTION does NOT logically follow from MY observation.

          • robinbishop34

            No, you concluded yourself correctly. To them, free stuff trumps any personal/social convictions. Maybe a good campaign slogan would be ‘Free s**t for fragile egos.’ They like slogans that can fit on a t-shirt.

          • leftists are delusional

            I was pointing out that stating a fact that blacks tend to lean conservatively on many social issues, is not a logical basis for adding this conclusion:

            “You think that just because blacks vote conservatively on some social issues, that they might be conservatives like you.”

          • John R

            Thank you.

          • John R

            I wasn’t exactly sure if that was where you were going with that. I should have put more emphasis on the “I think” part. I was really replying so that OTHERS, not necessarily you, would not make that mistake, and draw the conclusion that blacks could somehow become good conservatives. That’s all. Peace, brother.

      • Puggg

        Blacks poll conservatively on social issues?

        They sure don’t act like it.

        People will tell pollsters anything.

    • Northerner

      China is Communist in-name only. It was kept to honor their modern founders. In practice, they’re more Fascist now than anything else. Without any Western political influence, chances are China would be pretty different today.

      • John Ulfsson

        Asians always apply a very heavy nationalist angle to Communism.

  • bigone4u

    Does this research imply that liberals can be bred out of existence? What a pleasant thought.

    • Raised Its Ugly Head

      Evil won’t disappear that easily.

    • Reverend Bacon

      Yes, but remember that (1) Liberalism (i.e. embracing modern Progressive dogma) is correlated with lower IQ’s; and (2) liberals are doing everything in their power to breed us out of existence.

    • WR_the_realist

      I’m pretty sure you’ll find that left wing feminists have fewer children than more traditionalist conservative women, so yes, there’s some hope that the left can be bred out of existence, at least within the white race. Unfortunately blacks and Hispanics are out breeding whites, and they overwhelmingly vote for the left. So the future is likely to have a small population of conservative whites amidst of sea of socialist Hispanics and blacks, all trying to make their big government work off the taxes of the tiny white population.

  • Raised Its Ugly Head

    These stories are bad for us.

    The liberal dems already hate elections, because with elections you can get Tea Party racists making it harder to crush Whiteness.

    Pelosi said elections shouldn’t matter so much, meaning the FedGov should do more without Congress interfering at all.

    Soon, we’ll hear: “Elections should allow people with hateful and racist DNA to vote. We just can’t afford to risk democratic progress and enriching diversity to the accidents of evolution.”

    • IstvanIN

      I think you need to throw a “not” after should.

  • APaige

    I used to believe that race was not THAT important to believing it is VERY important. I use to vote for Democrats and now I vote against them. (not for Republicans, but against Democrats.) I think Robert Frost said if you are not liberal when you are young you have no heart, if you are not conservative when you are old you have no brain. Something close to that. I went from ‘feeling’ to ‘thinking’ about politics. Not too sure its genetic.

    • WR_the_realist

      I too never vote for Republicans, just against Democrats. Unfortunately too damn many neocons think I voted for them..

  • leftists are delusional

    I could have told you without a study that the rugged, masculine, pick up driving, meat eating, alpha male conservative vs the dweeby, effeminate, prius driving, vegan, beta boi, leftist was genetic.

  • MBlanc46

    Hatemi is a co-editor of a political science volume titled “Man Is by Nature a Political Animal” in which several of the contributors make that claim that fundamental political views are about 50% percent heritable. As a former philosophy student, I’d wager that fundamental philosophical attitudes (e.g., hedgehogs v. foxes, lumpers v. splitters) also have a large genetic component.

  • rowingfool

    An interesting paradox of this research is that liberals,when presented with evidence that nature sometimes trumps nurture go into a reflexive spasm of denial and outrage thundering “BIOLOGY IS NOT DESTINY!”

    And yet they stress the importance of our embracing “brown” people (whether Mexican or Black) as though their genes alone were sufficient qualification for their worthiness as bearers of the virtuous effects of diversifying.

    • Franklin_Ryckaert

      Lies are always contradictory.

  • Garrett Brown

    What else would explain insane, ultra progressives. It’s a mental illness.

    • robinbishop34

      “What else would explain insane, ultra progressives”

      Good question. Instead of arguing with the mentally ill, we need to examine and discuss the pathology of ‘progressives’ (that word is such an oxymoron). What could be more fundamentally at odds with progress than committing ethnic suicide and actually thinking your intelligent for doing so?

  • Jefferson

    Why do you think Europeans tend to have more blind faith in the government ?

    • JohnEngelman

      I never said anything about blind faith. I did say that Europeans tend to be less individualistic than Americans.

  • DonReynolds

    Those who argue that environment determines political viewpoints hold out the possibility that social and ethnic groups, with little or no civilization in their history, could be moulded and shaped by media, and education, and proper tutoring to be as civil and amiable as any upper class European. But if genetics is a determining factor, no amount of troop schooling will ever make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear. Make up your own mind.

  • WR_the_realist

    Interesting. First, keep in mind that “shared environment” consists of the sorts of environmental factors that most people think about when you say “environment”, and includes the things leftists hope they can change — your family, your school, your neighborhood, etc. These are the parts of your environment you share with your siblings. “Unshared environment”, aka “Unique Environmental Influences” consists of those experiences of your life that differ from what your siblings experienced. Such as what books you read, what friends you made, what places you visited, etc. It’s sort of a nebulous category into which statisticians dump those things that influence cognitive behavior but aren’t genes and aren’t shared environment. The key point is that “unshared environment” is about as difficult to control or change as genes. Note that the chart shows that except for political party identification shared environment is always the least important factor in determining social/political attitudes.

    Social trust, foreign policy preferences, and ethnocentrism have no shared environment component at all. And ethnocentrism has the highest genetic component of all of the traits measured. So good luck at banishing ethnocentrism, all you lefties. (Of course the left really only wants to banish white ethnocentrism, not black, Hispanic, or Asian ethnocentrism.)

    BTW, the biases of the researchers are revealed by the fact that they have a category for “right wing authoritarianism but not left wing authoritarianism. Even though the left has the most obnoxious control freaks I’ve ever encountered.

  • Alfred the Great

    Everything about an individual is rooted in his DNA, intelligence, physical appearance, and, yes, political thinking. Various races throughout history demonstrated this through their forms of government. Some are inclined toward Liberty and others are inclined toward slavery. I will also add that how and what we think determines our politics and the way we think is in our DNA.

  • M&S

    Self serving (rent seeking = ‘need more studies to prove the sky is blue!’) drivel.

    OF COURSE political views are related to genetics! If intelligence as fluid and crystalized IQ resulting in individuated vs. group dynamic social behaviors derives explicitly 50-80% *(remembering how long it took us to drag that up from 15-25%) from genes, then golly wally, so do the resultant applied attitudes that go with!

    Is it unusual to claim a woman has a bias towards liberal views because she is female? What do these fools THINK that means?!?!

    What do they THINK it means when tribes in Africa and Australia with functional IQs in the mid-60s, well within retarded range for whites, are able to function as group collectives because they keep their social horizons narrow and limit their social contracting?

    The problem is that none of this makes a bit of difference so long as we refuse to acknowledge that as little as a 3-4 point difference in operant intelligence (which is to say that which is normed -after- epigenetic optimized learning, not off-the-street, as Asians and Jews do make the most of what they have and we are encouraged not to compete at all…) is enough to let Asians take jobs from whites in key fields of engineering, science, finance and medicine.

    While at the same time three-monkey denying that a similar dip between men and women might have equally relevant effects on the gender-normed ‘equality as a function of arbitrary legislative determinism’. Both in elevating women past their paygrade and providing them the legislative means to drive white society into the 3rd world debtor state poorhouse of non-competitive protectionism.

    And finally utterly ignoring the notion that IQ and particularly G exists at all ‘except as a social construct’ for blacks who aren’t 1/4 but rather a full 1.0 MSD below us. With Hispanics somewhere inbetween.

    It _does not matter_ what degree genetic intelligence biases political motive if it’s political consequences are such that the only logical move is to rapidly return to merit based society in which white males are given race and gender preference to prevent annihilation of our people.

    Because the entire theory of liberal popularism is based on uplifting the weak because ‘measures of strength are unfair’ (indeed, fascist, yawn…).
    And thus their entire liberal social engineering gemeinschaft would collapse in upon itself and they would lose all power if they betrayed their base by admitting the truth.

    And ‘they’ (meaning liberal academia and those who run it from afar) would rather /lie/ society into oblivion than admit that they got it backwards: society is an intelligence as genetic construct and the kinds of societies we create are based on how competitively capable vs. drag-down dependent we are in supporting their industrious growth vs. social staticism.

    Liberal political views are espoused by those who depend on the belief that all have something equal to contribute so that they can get their fair share of handouts.
    Conservative views are based on those who _already know_ they are contributing more than all others and so are willing to let the iron laws of meritocracy prove the truth of diversity as a weakness.

    Where the minority intelligent are elitists and the majority idiots are struggling to make the leap onto the IQ running boards of society, the majority ‘wins’ by grabbing the steering wheel of the Edsel and driving us all into a ditch. It’s that simple.

    Derptastic morons.