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Is Genetics Responsible for Liberals?


Are you a liberal and proud of it, or do liberals and their views get under your skin? In either case, genetics may be responsible for this particular political outlook, according to researchers.

Being liberal may be in your genes

In the first study to name a specific gene that predisposes people to adhere to certain political views, researchers from the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard University have named a dopamine receptor gene called DRD4 as a responsible party. The research appears in the latest edition of the Journal of Politics.

To arrive at their conclusion, the investigators evaluated 2,000 participants in The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. When they compared genetic information with the subjects’ social networks, they discovered that individuals who had a certain variant of the DRD4 gene were more likely to be liberals once they reached adulthood. This was true, however, only among those who were active socially during adolescence.

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Although this is the first time a specific gene has been matched with being liberal, previous research has suggested a relationship between a variant of the gene and people who are novelty seekers, a behavior associated with personality characteristics related to political liberalism.

According to James H. Fowler, professor of political science and medical genetics at UC San Diego and the study’s lead researcher, “These findings suggest that political affiliation is not based solely on the kind of social environment people experience.”

Fowler and his team suggest that individuals with the gene variant tend to be more interested in learning about others’ points of view, which leads them to seek out more people and friends and have broader exposure to different lifestyles. This may make them more liberal than average. They noted that “it is the crucial interaction of two factors—the genetic predisposition and the environmental condition of having many friends in adolescence—that is associated with being more liberal.”

In today’s volatile political environment, the suggestion that genetics may be behind one’s liberal views may become interesting fodder for the media and politicians alike.

University of California, San Diego