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Are Political Orientations Genetically Transmitted?

  • JOHN R. ALFORD (a1), CAROLYN L. FUNK (a2) and JOHN R. HIBBING (a3)

We test the possibility that political attitudes and behaviors are the result of both environmental and genetic factors. Employing standard methodological approaches in behavioral genetics—specifically, comparisons of the differential correlations of the attitudes of monozygotic twins and dizygotic twins—we analyze data drawn from a large sample of twins in the United States, supplemented with findings from twins in Australia. The results indicate that genetics plays an important role in shaping political attitudes and ideologies but a more modest role in forming party identification; as such, they call for finer distinctions in theorizing about the sources of political attitudes. We conclude by urging political scientists to incorporate genetic influences, specifically interactions between genetic heritability and social environment, into models of political attitude formation.

Corresponding author
John R. Alford is Associate Professor, Department of Political Science, Rice University, Houston, TX 77251 (
Carolyn L. Funk is Associate Professor, L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond, VA 23298 (
John R. Hibbing is Foundation Regents Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Nebraska—Lincoln, Lincoln, NE 68588 (
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American Political Science Review
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