Researchers find a ‘liberal gene’

Liberals may owe their political outlook partly to their genetic make-up, according to new research from the University of California, San Diego, and Harvard University. Ideology is affected not just by social factors, but also by a dopamine receptor gene called DRD4. The study’s authors say this is the first research to identify a specific gene that predisposes people to certain political views.

Appearing in the latest edition of The Journal of Politics published by Cambridge University Press, the research focused on 2,000 subjects from The National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. By matching genetic information with maps of the subjects’ social networks, the researchers were able to show that people with a specific variant of the DRD4 gene were more likely to be liberal as adults, but only if they had an active social life in adolescence.

Dopamine is a neurotransmitter affecting brain processes that control movement, emotional response, and ability to experience pleasure and pain. Previous research has identified a connection between a variant of this gene and novelty-seeking behavior, and this behavior has previously been associated with personality traits related to political liberalism.

Lead researcher James H. Fowler of UC San Diego and his colleagues hypothesized that people with the novelty-seeking gene variant would be more interested in learning about their friends’ points of view. As a consequence, people with this genetic predisposition who have a greater-than-average number of friends would be exposed to a wider variety of social norms and lifestyles, which might make them more liberal than average. They reported 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.” The research team also showed that this held true independent of ethnicity, culture, sex or age.

Fowler concludes that the social and institutional environment cannot entirely explain a person’s political attitudes and beliefs and that the role of genes must be taken into account. “These findings suggest that political affiliation is not based solely on the kind of social environment people experience,” said Fowler, professor of political science and medical genetics at UC San Diego.

“It is our hope that more scholars will begin to explore the potential interaction of biology and environment,” he said. “The way forward is to look for replication in different populations and age groups.”

This research was supported by the National Institute on Aging and the National Science Foundation.

101 thoughts on “Researchers find a ‘liberal gene’

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  2. All the debate on this topic has proven that humans are idiots and that we are nowhere near ready to handle this kind of science. But it will proceed anyway, because scientists, despite studying humans, still have no clue as to how they operate outside of a lab.

    Like a “short gene”, a “fat gene”, or a “gay gene”, the possible discovery of “liberal gene” only stigmatizes liberals and treats them, not as humans, but sufferers of a disease that “needs fixing”. We are entering a brave new world of Eugenics where simple physical or personality traits that set one apart from the herd trigger a response of eradication.

    We all suffer from a genetic disease. It’s called being human. To pick us apart like this only opens individuals and sub-groups to all kinds of abuses.

  3. Jeepers everybody, get over yourslves!!! We are all in this together. No body is entitled to anything. We all need to be productive members of society….give back what you get. No, life is not fair nor is it equal, but do your best to treat everyone with respect. Scientific proof of liberalism or consertavism…..who cares?

  4. Did anyone notice that the commentary here is part of what the study studies? Competition for political dominance. We know why – more or less. You want to eat, you work to earn money to buy food. In the old days, we killed our food – and each other to get it. Politics in the “old days” was fairly simple – those with the bigger sticks won. We are trying to learn how we got to where we are today. All the pining here indicates that most don’t get it and probably never will. Whine on, majority – while your elected representatives do your mindless bidding and take some off the top for themselves in the process – because you are too busy pining and cannot see the forest for the trees.

  5. I guess it has not occurred to 99% of the citizens who have posted here that our political system is built on back-door economics.
    Dems and reps keep each other in business, and it Does Not Matter if you are liberal or conservative. We are ALL being lied to and we are ALL being ripped off.
    Only 585 people run the lives of 300 million people, and if they Wanted to solve the economic crisis, they could. They simply don’t want to.
    The State of Our Union is Permanent Confusion, fueled by politicians who are owned by corporations. It’s just the way it is.
    Happy Election Day.

  6. i will definitely be happy if we can pull it off to where the useless propaganda ceases and we can be united under the ideas of human equality and scientific understanding… it doesnt matter what team your on, if both teams are bickering and pushing for irrelevant issues…
    he did this and she did that.. doesnt it sound a bit middle school…

    if you know whats going on and you know so much about it..
    do some volunteer work in mentoring children..

    they certainly arent teaching kids to become self sufficient, self-directed or self correcting in our schools..

    might be because of the budget cuts that will go into the governors gas tank for that brand new car…or wedding or anything else thats oh so flagrantly frivolous… step your game up if you gotta problem..

    americans need to eat to work hard and we also need to learn to share openly and not shun the ignorant…

    teach somebody how to feed themselves…

  7. I really don’t care about any of it, but am thinking wow…what a great waste of research grant money that could have been used for something actually useful….like how could be better colonize mars and survive?

    • Actually, this sort of research is thought to be potentially quite useful, at least as far as the Department of Defense goes. They have helped funded research in the past that examines the link between physiological reactions to violent imagery and startle-inducing stimuli and self-reported political ideology. The goal is to help profile individuals and/or groups who may pose national security risks.

  8. I hear desperation in the voices of the left wing nut jobs. Tuesday their reign of power ends. Pelosi and obama stated that “elections have consequences” and by God you wing nuts will see that. Go get jobs or move to France or Greece and join the rioters in the streets because we are not supporting you or your left wing lazy friends.
    The bst way to starve a liberal…………hide their welfare check under their work boots.

    Let the whining begin!!!

    • Your “welfare check under their work boots” comment used to be a racial “joke” used against blacks, furthering the stereotype that all black people were lazy.

      Good job helping to bring society back a couple of decades. It’s people like you who stereotype and make sweeping generalizations that is holding society back, crushing progress, and trying to keep us rooted in the ignorance of our past mistakes.

      What’s next? A claim that we’re socialists, communists, Marxists, Maoists, Nazis, and God knows what else? Get a clue and join us in reality sometime. The air is fresh here.

    • Your comment is not only completely irrelevant to the topic at hand, it’s ignorant and intended as provocation. No doubt, you carry the Springer Guest gene.

      Perhaps you should join your brethren and move to Jerry’s studio.

  9. so your saying that the “liberal gene” makes for a shallow, pollyannic, social butterfly of a person with little to no impulse control , and is terribly susceptible to peer pressure? How sad, we must find a cure!

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