Political beliefs may be rooted in genetics, study says

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(CBS News) In the latest piece of the nature versus nurture puzzle, a new study finds that political beliefs may be influenced by both your genetics and the environment you were raised in.

After looking at studies of identical and fraternal twins as well as their extended families, researchers were able to determine that some voting behavior was due to the way a person was raised. However, other beliefs were due to genetic predisposition, which really kicked in between the ages of 21 to 25 after the person left the home, according to the researchers.

"The family environment is so strong that it overrides any genetic similarity, but you leave home and go on your own path," Peter Hatemi, an associate professor of political science, microbiology and biochemistry at Pennsylvania State University, said to HealthDay.

The researchers discovered when it came to choosing a political party, attitudes on political groups and sense of civic duty, much of it was influenced by those who raised the individual. The majority of the remaining beliefs - which ranged from the economy to religion - were found to be influenced by genetics. Political knowledge, overall ideology (whether liberal or conservative) and how much influence right wing authoritarianism should have seemed to be three of the highest genetically-influenced beliefs, the researchers said.

While they couldn't pinpoint the specific genes that may make a person for or against abortion rights, certain "candidate genes" may make a person inclined to more political-affiliated behaviors. For example, a gene called 5-HTT that helps regulate serotonin could show how likely the person is to go out and vote on Election Day. But so far there isn't a gene that scientists have found linked to  if a person is a Democrat or a Republican.

The evidence also showed that people may be able to detect and be attracted to mates with these same genetic-political leanings, the researchers pointed out. This means people may be selecting individuals with similar beliefs, therefore raising liberal or conservative households.

"Questions that identify who is liberal and conservative, views on abortion and death penalty, are really strongly driven by genetics," James Fowler, a professor of medical genetics and political sciences at the University of California, San Diego, said to HealthDay. He was not involved in the study. "These are attitudes toward reproduction and survival."

The study authors noted that more research needs to be done to understand how much genetic influence played on social views and why genes cause people to feel impassioned about certain issues when it comes to politics.

The review was published online on Aug. 28 in Trends in Genetics.


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