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The Origins of Political Attitudes and Behaviours: An Analysis Using Twins

  • Edward Bell (a1), Julie Aitken Schermer (a2) and Philip A. Vernon (a2)

Abstract. This article provides a behaviour genetic heritability analysis of several political issues, including social and economic conservatism, general interest in politics, attitudes toward the major Canadian federal parties, federal party identification and national vote choice. Substantial genetic effects were found for four of six political attitude scales, with heritability values ranging from 41 per cent to 73 per cent. Genetic effects are also reported for several individual items (including feelings toward the major federal parties, party identification and vote choice), with heritabilities from 33 per cent to 62 per cent. The implications of these results for conventional political analyses are explored. Also presented is a theoretical interpretation of political heritability that is derived from an evolutionary perspective which suggests that political personalities or temperaments have evolved that are analogous to the heritable personality structures proposed by psychologists.

Résumé. Cet article propose une analyse sur l'héritabilité de la génétique du comportement concernant plusieurs questions politiques, y compris le conservatisme social et économique, l'intérêt général pour la politique, les attitudes envers les principaux partis fédéraux canadiens, l'identification à un parti et le choix de vote au niveau national. Des effets génétiques notables ont été recensés pour quatre des échelles politiques d'attitude sur six, les taux d'héritabilité s'étendant de 41 pour cent à 73 pour cent. Des effets génétiques ont également été recensés pour plusieurs autres éléments étudiés (y compris les sentiments envers les principaux partis fédéraux, l'identification à un parti et le choix de vote), les taux d'héritabilité allant cette fois-ci de 33 pour cent à 62 pour cent. Cette étude explore l'incidence de ces résultats sur des analyses politiques conventionnelles. Il s'agit aussi d'une interprétation théorique de l'héritabilité politique dérivant d'une perspective évolutionnaire, qui suggère que les personnalités ou les tempéraments politiques ont évolué et que ces derniers sont analogues aux structures de personnalité transmissibles proposées par les psychologues.

Corresponding author
Edward Bell, Department of Sociology, Brescia University College (at The University of Western Ontario), 1285 Western Road, London ON N6G 1H2,
Julie Aitken Schermer, Management and Organizational Studies, The University of Western Ontario, London ON N6A 5C2,
Philip A. Vernon, Department of Psychology, The University of Western Ontario, London ON N6A 5C2,
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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Jerome H. Barkow 2006. “Introduction: Sometimes the Bus Does Wait.” In Missing the Revolution: Darwinism for Social Scientists, ed. J.H. Barkow . New York: Oxford University Press.

V.O. Key 1966. The Responsible Electorate: Rationality in Presidential Voting 1936–60. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.

H. McClosky and J. Zaller . 1984. The American Ethos. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

M. C. Neale and L.R. Cardon . 1992. Methodology for Genetic Studies of Twins and Families. Norwell MA: Kluwer.

Neven Sesardic . 2005. Making Sense of Heritability. New York: Cambridge University Press.

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Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue canadienne de science politique
  • ISSN: 0008-4239
  • EISSN: 1744-9324
  • URL: /core/journals/canadian-journal-of-political-science-revue-canadienne-de-science-politique
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