A group of political scientists says a growing field of research has found links to genetics and political preferences - well, sort of.
They don't come right out and declare a genetic component determines whether a person will affiliate as a Democrat or a Republican - that is up for biologists to find, much like mathematicians who invent time travel insist experimental physicists have to prove them right. Rather, they claim, individuals tend to have a broad, evolution-based orientation toward being more conservative or liberal about various elements, such as protecting their in-group. Evolutionary biologists enjoy that their field is so well-explained and intuitive everyone can find an evolutionary basis for their world view. That in-group orientation, they say, 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.
This panel at the AAAS meeting is not bound by political science of the past, which strangely believed voting was a choice made due to social factors. Now, say the panelists, a very large proportion of political preferences along the spectrum of conservative to liberal come from hereditary components.
And they have surveys of twins to prove it. Since some are identical and some are fraternal, if you ask them questions and do some statistics, you have science.
"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," Brown professor of political science Rose McDermott said in their statement.
The next step in the research, they say, 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. Then we can maybe breed out those voters holding back real progress, or at least segment them into special rehabilitation programs.
The panel is running until 4:30 eastern in Ballroom A of the Hynes Convention Center in Boston. If you run, you can still catch it and perhaps learn a thing or two about biology and genetics from the real experts in political science.