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The Genetics of Political Intensity

January 19, 2010

Elisabeth Best in Miller-McCune:

Your genes may determine whether you cling furiously to your political beliefs or cast them aside at a shift in the breeze.

With the New Year here, many of you may have resolved to exercise a little moderation for 2010. But when it comes to politics, moderation is hardly the word of the day.

Few would argue that the “middle” in American politics is alive and well — recent research indicates that the opposite is true. As our Emily Badger points out, polarization in Congress has reached record highs; another Idea Lobby post argues that Americans’ political differences have also increased.

New research in Political Research Quarterly suggests that there may be a reason for this political fervor, and it’s not what you’d expect. Peter HatemiJohn AlfordJohn Hibbing,Nicholas Martin and Lindon Eaves determined that partisan intensity is genetically influenced. Their research suggests that although your genes don’t predict which party you’ll belong to, they appear to play a major role in determining the extent to which you’ll belong.

By their reckoning, genes are half responsible for the degree of your party commitment — unique experience counts for the other half. [More]

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