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Surprising Science

Twins Research Shows Genes Help Cast Your Vote

A new study out of the UK determined that an inclination to vote for certain parties has as much to do with nature as it does nurture.

Just in time for election season in the UK, a new study out of the Department of Twin Research at King’s College London offers some results about how much one’s decision for whom to vote can be influenced by nature rather than nurture. Drawing from the TwinsUK database, researchers polled groups of both identical and nonidentical twins to determine if anomalous patterns could be gleaned from their responses. Tim Spector, one of the researchers, wrote all about the experiment this week at The Conversation:

“Twins provide a unique natural experiment for research. Identical twins share 100% of their genes, while nonidentical twins — like non-twin siblings — share about 50%. Both identical and nonidentical twins normally share the same environment while growing up. By comparing the differences and similarities between them we can identify how much of a quirk, disease, or trait is due to a genetic predisposition or environmental and cultural factors. Because twin studies adjust for culture and upbringing, they are an ideal way to study political allegiances.”

What the researchers found most interesting was that the decision to vote for certain parties — particularly those further to the right on the political spectrum — appears to be more highly influenced by genetics than one would suppose:

“We found that voting Conservative (or not) is strongly influenced by genetics. When it came to voting Tory, we found that 57% of the variability (differences or similarity) between people’s voting preferences were due to genetic effects. This percentage is called heritability. That means the identical twins were more likely to vote the same way than the nonidentical twins — suggesting an underlying genetic influence was stronger than environmental or random factors.”

The variability rate for UKIP was about 52%; Labour and the Green Party were at 48%. Liberal Democrats, on the other hand, proved to be a major exception. The decision to vote for them appears to be completely environmental, which is to say genetics have little to no influence:

“Identical twins showed exactly the same level of disparity in preference for the Lib Dems as nonidentical twins. Geography also played a possible role — as voting for the SNP in Scotland was also completely environmental.”

This new research fits well with previous studies, which also found that strong feelings toward right-wing politics — both in support of and against — are heavily influenced by genetics. Spector goes as far as to say that additional research suggests our genes have much more influence on our personalities than many of us would guess. Perhaps, compared to nurture, nature isn’t yet getting the credit it deserves.

Read more at The Conversation.

Below, geneticist Bryan Sykes offers a basic lesson in genetics by comparing your genes to a deck of playing cards:

Photo credit: mrkornflakes / Shutterstock


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