Behavior Genetics

, Volume 44, Issue 3, pp 282–294

Genetic Influences on Political Ideologies: Twin Analyses of 19 Measures of Political Ideologies from Five Democracies and Genome-Wide Findings from Three Populations

  • Peter K. Hatemi
  • Sarah E. Medland
  • Robert Klemmensen
  • Sven Oskarsson
  • Levente Littvay
  • Christopher T. Dawes
  • Brad Verhulst
  • Rose McDermott
  • Asbjørn Sonne Nørgaard
  • Casey A. Klofstad
  • Kaare Christensen
  • Magnus Johannesson
  • Patrik K. E. Magnusson
  • Lindon J. Eaves
  • Nicholas G. Martin
Original Research

DOI: 10.1007/s10519-014-9648-8

Cite this article as:
Hatemi, P.K., Medland, S.E., Klemmensen, R. et al. Behav Genet (2014) 44: 282. doi:10.1007/s10519-014-9648-8

Abstract

Almost 40 years ago, evidence from large studies of adult twins and their relatives suggested that between 30 and 60 % of the variance in social and political attitudes could be explained by genetic influences. However, these findings have not been widely accepted or incorporated into the dominant paradigms that explain the etiology of political ideology. This has been attributed in part to measurement and sample limitations, as well the relative absence of molecular genetic studies. Here we present results from original analyses of a combined sample of over 12,000 twins pairs, ascertained from nine different studies conducted in five democracies, sampled over the course of four decades. We provide evidence that genetic factors play a role in the formation of political ideology, regardless of how ideology is measured, the era, or the population sampled. The only exception is a question that explicitly uses the phrase “Left–Right”. We then present results from one of the first genome-wide association studies on political ideology using data from three samples: a 1990 Australian sample involving 6,894 individuals from 3,516 families; a 2008 Australian sample of 1,160 related individuals from 635 families and a 2010 Swedish sample involving 3,334 individuals from 2,607 families. No polymorphisms reached genome-wide significance in the meta-analysis. The combined evidence suggests that political ideology constitutes a fundamental aspect of one’s genetically informed psychological disposition, but as Fisher proposed long ago, genetic influences on complex traits will be composed of thousands of markers of very small effects and it will require extremely large samples to have enough power in order to identify specific polymorphisms related to complex social traits.

Keywords

Ideology Politics GWAS Attitudes Authoritarianism 

Supplementary material

10519_2014_9648_MOESM1_ESM.docx (107 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 106 kb)

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Peter K. Hatemi
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 4
    • 5
  • Sarah E. Medland
    • 1
  • Robert Klemmensen
    • 4
  • Sven Oskarsson
    • 6
  • Levente Littvay
    • 7
  • Christopher T. Dawes
    • 8
  • Brad Verhulst
    • 5
  • Rose McDermott
    • 9
  • Asbjørn Sonne Nørgaard
    • 4
  • Casey A. Klofstad
    • 10
  • Kaare Christensen
    • 11
  • Magnus Johannesson
    • 12
  • Patrik K. E. Magnusson
    • 13
  • Lindon J. Eaves
    • 5
  • Nicholas G. Martin
    • 1
  1. 1.Genetic EpidemiologyQueensland Institute of Medical ResearchBrisbaneAustralia
  2. 2.United States Studies CentreUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.Political Science, Microbiology and BiochemistryThe Pennsylvania State UniversityState CollegeUSA
  4. 4.Institut for StatskundskabSyddansk UniversitetOdenseDenmark
  5. 5.Virginia Institute for Psychiatric and Behavioral GeneticsRichmondUSA
  6. 6.Department of GovernmentUppsala UniversityUppsalaSweden
  7. 7.Department of Political ScienceCentral European UniversityBudapestHungary
  8. 8.Department of PoliticsNew York UniversityNew YorkUSA
  9. 9.Department of Political ScienceBrown UniversityProvidenceUSA
  10. 10.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of MiamiCoral GablesUSA
  11. 11.Department of Epidemiology, Danish Twin RegistryUniversity of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark
  12. 12.Department of EconomicsStockholm School of EconomicsStockholmSweden
  13. 13.Department of Medical Epidemiology and BiostatisticsKarolinska InstituteSolnaSweden

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