Political Behavior

, Volume 37, Issue 4, pp 791–818 | Cite as

Do Political Attitudes and Religiosity Share a Genetic Path?

  • Amanda FriesenEmail author
  • Aleksander Ksiazkiewicz
Original Paper


Social scientists have long recognized and sought to explain a connection between religious and political beliefs. Our research challenges the prevalent view that religion and politics constitute separate but related belief sets with a conceptual model that suggests the correlation between the two may be partially explained by an underlying psychological construct reflecting first principle beliefs on social organization. Moreover, we also push this challenge further by considering whether part of the relationship between political and religious beliefs is the result of shared genetic influences, which would suggest that a shared biological predisposition, or set of biological predispositions, underlies these attitudes. Using a classic twin design on a sample of American adults, we demonstrate that certain religious, political, and first principle beliefs can be explained by genetic and unique environmental components, and that the correlation between these three trait structures is primarily due to a common genetic path. As predicted, this relationship is found to hold for social ideology, but not for economic ideology. These findings provide evidence that the overlap between the religious and the political in the American context may in part be due to underlying principles regarding how to understand and organize society and that these principles may be adopted to satisfy biologically-influenced psychological needs.


Behavior genetics Religion and politics Twin study Ideology 



The data employed in this project is publicly available and collected with the financial support of the National Science Foundation in the form of SES-0721378, PI: John R. Hibbing; Co-PIs: John R. Alford, Lindon J. Eaves, Carolyn L. Funk, Peter K. Hatemi, and Kevin B. Smith, and with the cooperation of the Minnesota Twin Registry at the University of Minnesota, Robert Krueger and Matthew McGue, Directors.

Supplementary material

11109_2014_9291_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (1.2 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 1181 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political Science, Faculty Research Fellow, Center for the Study of Religion and American CultureIndiana University-Purdue University IndianapolisIndianapolisUSA
  2. 2.Department of Political ScienceRice UniversityHoustonUSA

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