Voting behaviour lies in your genes

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Washington, Jun 28 (UNI) A new study has found that genes significantly affect variation in voter turnout, shedding new light on the reasons why people vote and participate in the political system.

''Although we are not the first to suggest a link between genes and political participation, this study is the first attempt to test the idea empirically,'' noted the authors.

The results suggest that individual genetic differences make up a large and significant portion of the variation in political participation, even after taking socialisation and other environmental factors into account.

The study, published in the American Political Science Review, a journal of the American Political Science Association, also suggest that, contrary to decades of conventional wisdom, family upbringing may have little or no effect on children's future participatory behaviour.

In conducting their study, the authors examined the turnout patterns of identical and non-identical twins, including 396 twins in Los Angeles County and 806 twins in the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health.

The research found that 53 per cent of the variation in turnout could be accounted for by genetic effects in the former, with similar outcomes in the latter.

Moreover, genetic-based differences extended to a broad class of acts of political participation, including donating to a campaign, contacting an official, running for office, and attending a rally.

According to researcher James H Fowler of UC San Diego, ''We expected to find that genes played some role in political behavior, but we were quite surprised by the size of the effect and how widely it applies to all kinds of participation.'' ''The fact that we have found genetic variation in voting, and political participation in general, should not be surprising given the large numbers of behaviours that have already been found to be heritable,'' Mr Fowler told the Science Daily.

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