Study: Political Participation Rooted in Genes

After having studied the factors that are traditionally thought to influence political participation or non-participation—namely, social factors (education, social class, age, etc.), political factors (alienation, cynicism, partisanship, etc.), and structural factors (registration requirements, two-party system, electoral college, etc.)—I ran accross a new study that found evidence for biological factors (genes) to have an impact on political participation:


“The results also suggest that, contrary to decades of conventional wisdom, family upbringing may have little effect on children’s future participatory behavior. […] ‘These findings are extremely important for how we think about political behavior,’ said Fowler.  For example, it is widely known that parents and children exhibit similar voting behavior, but this has always been interpreted as learned behavior rather than inherited behavior.” (Science Daily)


Beyond being an argument for interdisciplinarity in scholarship, the study left me wondering. How big of an influence do the genes have in comparison to other factors? What does that mean for campaigns? And does it affect strategies to increase participation? After all, you can change social, political, and structural factors, biological factors not so much. Although, admittedly I am not a biologist, so maybe it is possible.


  1. James H. Fowler and Christopher T. Dawes. Two Genes Predict Voter Turnout. Journal of Politics, Volume70, Issue 3, July 2008 [link]