Study: Genetics influence liberal, conservative views

The AP

Genetics might not determine who you will vote for, but people might be born predisposed to liberal or conservative views, according to two University of Nebraska-Lincoln professors.

The Lincoln Journal Star reports that John Hibbing’s and Kevin Smith’s research suggests genetics predict political attitudes to some extent, although they say life experience plays a big role in shaping beliefs.

“We think part of what’s going on is people literally feel what’s right or wrong in their gut,” Smith said. “That raises the question: How can genes influence something as complicated as your ideology?”

Smith said the link between politics and genetics shows up in studies of identical twins and fraternal twins. The identical twins are more likely to share political views later in life, suggesting a genetic connection.

Smith and Hibbing published research on the subject in the December edition of the Political Psychology journal, and they hope their latest research will quiet their critics. The article is based on a 2009 survey of nearly 600 sets of twins in their 50s and 60s.

But prominent genetics researcher Evan Charney remains skeptical. The Duke University professor said studies of twins fail to account for differences in the way different types of twins are treated.

Charney said that identical twins are more likely than fraternal twins to be treated alike by their families and they are more likely to dress alike and spend more time together.

And Charney said studies of twins, including this one, tend to oversimplify how genetics works.

“I think this is just completely pseudoscience,” he said.

But Hibbing and Smith said their latest study still suggested a genetic link even when factoring in things like the common environment identical twins grow up in.

Even if the professors can’t identify a specific gene for conservative or liberal views, they say the research still supports a genetic link.