How you vote may be in your genes
Our genetic makeup may play a role in our political behavior, according to researchers.
August 28th, 2012
11:52 AM ET

How you vote may be in your genes

Ever wonder why we vote the way we do? Is it the influence of family? Or is it because of our culture or where we grew up? Could be, but now researchers are saying it might be in our genes.

Scientists have always wondered what drives our political behavior, and why some of us are passionate over some issues and not others. Now investigators have found it could be something deeper than the "I Like Ike" button your grandfather wore.

Traditionally, social scientists have felt that our political preferences were influenced by environmental factors as well as how and where we grew up. But recently, studies are finding it could be biological and that our genes also influence our political tastes.

In a review out of the United States Studies Centre at the University of Sydney, data showed that genetic makeup has some influence on why people differ on such issues as unemployment, abortion, even the death penalty.  By pinpointing certain genes in the human body, scientists can predict parts of a person's political ideology.

"Some people are naturally groupish, others not so much. Some people are sexually free, others sexually repressed.

"Some part of these differences is from rearing and culture, but massive variation exists even within the same household. One's overall genetic disposition has some role in the formation of one's psychological architecture," notes Peter K. Hatemi, associate professor of political science and microbiology at Penn State University, as well as a research fellow at the USSC-University of Sydney and the primary investigator of the study.

The review, which was published in this week's issue of Trends in Genetics, notes more research needs to be done to better understand the genetic influences of our social views and why certain genes cause reactions in certain people when political views are expressed.

“The concept that thousands of genes interacting with the environment lead to different cognitive and emotive states that result in different political views has value," explains Hatemi.

"Rather than people on opposing sides of the political fence yelling at each about who is right, or trying to show or convince the other is wrong, maybe this research can help the public and policy makers recognize that people see the same thing differently, and at times no amount of yelling or 'proof' will sway them.”

soundoff (164 Responses)
  1. Gatesbe

    Genetics? I voted for Goldwater, Nixon, Carter, and Obama, according to the study, I'm mutating! The point is lots of things go into a vote, maybe (maybe) genetics is one.

    August 28, 2012 at 16:54 | Report abuse | Reply
    • oreo

      Goldwater was a good choice, the rest – not so much. 🙂

      August 28, 2012 at 17:06 | Report abuse |
    • Jimmy

      Yes, it's called entrpophy

      August 28, 2012 at 17:10 | Report abuse |
    • veggiedude

      Of all of them, Nixon had the most progressive health care plan.

      August 28, 2012 at 17:14 | Report abuse |
    • bigjohnson

      The article didn't say you must stick to one political view. changing political views may be part of your genetics, that is. Once you learn how your genetic information controls your entire being you'll understand.

      August 28, 2012 at 17:30 | Report abuse |
    • Steve O

      No voting for 30 years?

      August 28, 2012 at 17:31 | Report abuse |
    • Makocee

      Pretty much a worthless piece. My Father was/is a screaming heart Lib, Pro Abortion, Pro Sodomite, Pro gun control and Illegals, just the kind of helpless pheasant BO wants. Easy to control and tell what to do. Furtuanly, I saw the truth early in life and have been on the right side for 30 years. I have 4 children that also vote on the right side and don't need a government to tell them how to live or stand around waiting for a hand out like good little Libs.

      August 28, 2012 at 18:09 | Report abuse |
    • Joy

      this is BS!!!!

      August 28, 2012 at 19:10 | Report abuse |
  2. Jason

    The discussion in these comments is based on the idea that people are "liberals" or "conservatives". Hogwash. Historical movements are liberal or conservative. An individual is too complex for the terms to truthfully apply. If you say you are a "liberal" or a conservative", what you really mean is that you decided to support one political movement or the other; you chose a team.

    August 28, 2012 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Darth Cheney

      Not hogwash. Your choices are the end product of a series of influences, some environmental, and as this study indicates, heredity may be a factor as well. Don't see things in such a dichotomous light.

      August 28, 2012 at 17:28 | Report abuse |
    • bigjohnson

      Your genetics decides your thought process when voting, which may be quite complex. Which way you vote is the outcome of that process. This is really nothing new, as genetics determines every aspect of the human life, including all thought processes. Some of us choose to be simple minded, and become religious. Others choose to be inquisitive, and become scientists, for example.

      August 28, 2012 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
  3. Just a guy

    Tea leaves and goat entrails work for some folks with out all the fancy degrees.

    August 28, 2012 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Misty

    I have seldom read such idotic statements as those above! I believe we were supossed to be comments on Mr. Romney's stance on pre-existing conditions. He states that is a person had had continuing coverage he would of, course be covered. How could a person who could not GET insurance because of a pre-existing condition HAVE continuing coverage? What I object to, and it is on both sides, is the politicians belief that people are not intelligent enough to see through the double-speak and find the bottom- lying truth. Of course, from the above comments, I have the horrible feeling that they are correct!
    I am 76 years old, a retired high school teacher who came from a Democratic family but started out Republican. One of my first Superintendants was a Republican. He liked me, so when ever I said I needed a personal day, I got it. One of my fellow teachers asked for time to go home for the funeral of his mother and was denied the time off!!! Then, we voted in the Teacher's Union (Yes, I voted for it as well), and inequalities like this were no longer possible. This is not a comment about the man, but about what happens where there wre not unions, a favorite target of Republians. After closely observing the political system over the years, I am now a Democrat.

    If anyone cares about facts, check the record of the Congressional Budget Office. Under every Republican President since 1970, the deficit grew, and under every Democratic President the deficit became smaller. The facts are there. Look at them if you dare.

    Why don't those of you above who screech about the opinions of others look to your own. Look at the facts, the logic of the various plans, and see what their impact would be upon your own life.

    August 28, 2012 at 16:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Jimmy

      The deficit became samller under Obama? What facts are you looking at??

      August 28, 2012 at 17:14 | Report abuse |
    • veggiedude

      I suspect the deficit grew bigger, because that is the nature of compound interest for the past 30+ years. The president with the least amount of spending in modern history is Obama. PolitiFACT's site confirms this.

      August 28, 2012 at 17:18 | Report abuse |
  5. susan

    It matters not. What does matter is that we all have the ability to compromise, even when our point isn't accepted.

    August 28, 2012 at 17:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. oreo

    well the Red team vs blue team mentality has turned most of americans into zombies.

    August 28, 2012 at 17:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. pop

    This is the biggest crock of crap this week for cnn.

    What next, murderers and pedophiles... it's just in their genes?, give me a break,
    every person has a freedom of choice... it's as simple as that.

    August 28, 2012 at 17:18 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rntusnarky

      I know!! Please don't tell mom and dad that I am a [insert party affiliation here]!!! omg, they will wonder where they went wrong!! Who cheated on whom to produce this errant child? How did the family gene pool get polluted?

      August 28, 2012 at 17:38 | Report abuse |
    • basketcase

      I don't see why genetic predisposition to murder (or more generally violence) or pedophilia should be such a strange concept. Your thoughts (or choices) don't occur in an abstract vacuum (the "mind") as we like to think they do, they originate from your brain. Genetic differences can without a doubt change how your brain works, thus changing your thoughts.

      That being said, genetic predisposition is not a free pass to do as you like. There is still a right and wrong, there are still consequences to your actions, and you are still responsible for harm you cause to others.

      August 28, 2012 at 17:43 | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      It may be genetic... but, our society has been set up for people to take personal responsibility (we hope) for their behavior. The actions aren't genetic– the predisposition for some actions may be. This is what happens when a popular media author interprets scientific findings.. sometimes things get lost in translation.

      August 28, 2012 at 17:46 | Report abuse |
    • Nate Higgers

      To be fair, blacks are genetically predispositioned for crime and murder. Maybe directly, maybe not. It could just be caused by their sub-human intellect, which in turn would be caused by their faulty genetics.

      August 28, 2012 at 18:45 | Report abuse |
  8. lod Gord

    If compassion and empathy people have for strangers could be measured and plotted on a graph its distribution would be a bell curve, with most people close to the center. However while the center may move left or right over time and in different places the overall distribution remains the same. These are inherit traits that are present in all social groups including non human groups. However as humans we have the capacity to override our base instincts and appeal to our higher logical brains.
    We will always have the conservatives because without them there are no liberals, without down there is no up, without dark there is no light. But we can lessen the tragedies from the extreme conservatives. i.e. a woman just stoned to death by the Taliban for adultery. Similarly in the west women where routinely burnt at the stake for bogus reasons too, but no more. We fought for fewer tragedies on the bases of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, wealth, nationality, and religion.

    August 28, 2012 at 17:23 | Report abuse | Reply
    • rntusnarky

      lod gord: amen, in your somewhat holy name, amen:)
      extremism is bad, regardless of what affiliation it has. And it is not just a 'conservative' issue. Extreme Dems are the 'progressives' who seek to create their little 'utopia', whether those who would rather make their own way in life agree, or not.

      That is extreemism in progressiveness, and is no more healthy, or respectable than conservative extreemism.

      August 28, 2012 at 17:43 | Report abuse |
    • lod Gord

      @rntusnarky Conservatives regardless of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, wealth, nationality, or religion etc. are defined by their lack of compassion for people outside the group(s) they associate themselves with. The further right you look the less empathy and compassion you will find, the ultra-right, (the most conservative of them all) are generally psychopaths totally incapable of empathy for others.
      Liberals in contrast are defined by their compassion for EVERYONE including those outside their group. extreme liberals are those actively fighting for the rights of those outside their group i.e.
      Black for the White;
      Straight for the Gay;
      Woman for the Man;
      Rich for the Poor;
      Israeli for the Palestinian.
      Muslim for the Christian.
      Native for the immigrant.

      Where they can get annoying is when they seek to extend those same rights to plants and animals. But its nothing compared to the horrors of extreme conservatism.

      August 28, 2012 at 18:04 | Report abuse |
  9. Mrs.Bones

    WoW! I was surprised to see this on front page CNN today. This "voting in your genes" idea has been studied for a long time. I researched previous studies and wrote a paper on it in college 10 years ago! It's nice to see a familiar topic where ten years ago people thought your were nuts!

    August 28, 2012 at 17:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. dd

    This is one scary story that could make the ugly headlines as it says that the predisposition to crime could be genetic. That means that criminals should be separated from the rest of the population for life! The funny thing is that most people already know that. Repeat offenders are the norm; now we may have science that says lock 'em up for good. Obama was a drug user ... once a criminal, always a criminal .... who vetted Obama? genetically predisposed to be a criminal and now proving it.

    August 28, 2012 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Boo

      And your comment exposes your flaw.....STUPIDITY.

      August 29, 2012 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
  11. John M

    This article is a perfect example of "scientists gone wild." Empirical science has done an outstanding job of making predictions about the physical world, because the physical world is a network of causes. However, too many scientists uncritically assume that they can treat the human mind as explicable solely in terms of physical causes.

    The only evidence this scientist has is some flimsy correlations between family groups and political values, and these correlations can be explained in many other ways. He then helps himself to wild conjectures which extend far, far beyond his data. What a buffoon!

    August 28, 2012 at 18:05 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Ed

    Another inane CNN article. Isn't this the "Cable News Network"?

    August 28, 2012 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Richard

    How I vote is always against socialism and communism. I do not want government leading me around by the nose.
    "NOBAMA 2012"

    August 28, 2012 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Boo

      And your comment illustrates your genetic flaw.......NOT USING YOUR BRAIN AND LETTING SOMEONE ELSE TELL YOU WHAT TO THINK."

      August 29, 2012 at 13:28 | Report abuse |
  14. Faith-Isn't-a-Preacher

    Now we are being told that we have no choice in our fate.
    Tyranny at its most beguiling.

    August 28, 2012 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Turfscape

      How do you figure that you're being told you have no choice in your fate? Genetic predisposition doesn't eliminate the power of the human mind to choose. One can have a genetic predisposition for heart disease, but can still choose to exercise and eat more healthful foods.

      Also, fate...by definition...is an inevitable outcome. So, fate...again, by definition...cannot be controlled by choice.

      August 28, 2012 at 18:23 | Report abuse |
  15. Turfscape

    It's truly amazing how little people understand the concept of genetics. Reading these comments, I must assume that every CNN reader skipped out of science class all through school.

    August 28, 2012 at 18:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. chaoticidealism

    This isn't news. Your genetics influence your personality; your personality influences how you vote. All together now: No Duh!

    August 28, 2012 at 19:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. VancCanadian

    "Some people are sexually free, others sexually repressed." Instead of "repressed," how about "others are sensible, or far-sighted, or wise, or practical, or considered, or std-free" ?? Was this written by a man?

    August 28, 2012 at 19:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. RBSG

    Stupidity and conservatism tend to go hand in hand; I'm sure it's partially genetic.

    August 28, 2012 at 20:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Marion

    The concept that thousands of genes interacting with the environment lead to different cognitive and emotive states that result in different political views has value," explains Hatemi.

    "Rather than people on opposing sides of the political fence yelling at each about who is right, or trying to show or convince the other is wrong, maybe this research can help the public and policy makers recognize that people see the same thing differently, and at times no amount of yelling or 'proof' will sway them.”

    This is a total bunch of hogwash and a WORTHLESS STUDY. What you have here is a researcher trying to justify his grant to do this study. It has "value"??? right! We really needed someone to tell us that "people see the same thing differently"?? What nonsense.

    August 29, 2012 at 08:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Timmy Suckle

    I kissed my way up to VP at a health insurance company. Now I take over $500,000 of your health care dollars for NO VALUE ADDED to your health care. And that’s just me. Now think about how many other VPs, Directors, Managers, etc. are at my company alone. Now multiply that by thousands of others at hundreds of other health insurance companies. From 10 to 25% of your health care dollars go towards administration that adds NO VALUE to your health care. But my company’s PAC dollars will continue to fool you little people into thinking that a single payer system will be bad. Little people like you are so easy to fool. Little people also don’t realize that a single payer system is the ONLY system that would allow little people (as an entire country) to negotiate better health care prices. Little people don’t realize that the Medical Cartels already know that. And that is the reason why the Medical Cartels spend so much PAC money from the hospitals and doctors lobbying against a single payer system. Some little people say that a single payer system would cost you little people more. But if that were true, then wouldn’t the hospitals and doctors WANT that extra money? Yes they would. So why do the Medical Cartels lobby against a single payer system? It’s because the Medical Cartels know it would allow little people to negotiate better health care prices. And that’s what the Medical Cartels are afraid of. Period.
    But us big wigs at insurance companies, hospitals, and pharmacy companies don’t ever need to worry about health care no matter what it costs. We get our health care paid for one way or another by you little people. And we get the little people that work at our companies to contribute to our PACs. And us big wigs say it’s to protect the little peoples’ jobs. But in reality it would be in the little peoples’ best interest to NOT contribute to the PAC. Again, little people are so easy to be fooled. I won’t ever have to worry about losing my job with so many little people being brain washed by the Medical Cartels’ PAC money. Not only that, the Medical Cartels’ PAC money is used to elect so many republicans that will never allow a single payer system. Republicans have always fought against any meaningful health care reform. But that’s what our Medical Cartels’ PACs pay them for. Politicians can be bought so easily.
    Pretty soon the only people that will be able to afford health care is us big wigs. And that’s the way it should be. We don’t want you little people using up the resources when we need them. And once again, I thank you little people for capping my SS tax at the $106,800 level. Now I only pay 1.3% SS tax and you little people pay 6.2%. Also, thank you for extending my tax breaks. I’m using the extra money on my vacation houses.

    August 29, 2012 at 14:12 | Report abuse | Reply
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