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How you vote may be in your genes

How you vote may be in your genes
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012 - 9:38am

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."

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