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Political Beliefs are Rooted in Genetics

Update Date: Dec 16, 2013 10:32 AM EST

The debate on whether or not it is nature or nurture that influences people's characteristics is a never-ending one. A recent twin study conducted at King's College London and published in PLOS ONE reported that genetics play a huge factor in children's educational achievement. In a new research paper based on a twin study, the authors reiterate the influence of genetics on people's political beliefs.

For this paper, the researchers borrowed data from a 2009 survey that interviewed around 600 sets of twins. At the time of the survey, the twins, who were contacted via the Minnesota Twin Registry, were in their 50s and 60s. The researchers explained that by comparing identical twins to non-identical twins who all grew up within the same household and environment, they could see whether or not genetics played a factor. For example, if identical twins, who share 100 percent of their genetics with one another, tend to agree with each other's political beliefs more so than non-identical twins do, one can conclude that genetics influenced these beliefs.

"The data from the twin studies is strong enough now that if you don't believe political attitudes and behaviors are genetically inherited, you can't believe that breast cancer is genetically inherited and you can't believe that addictions are genetically inherited," said Kevin Smith, a University of Nebraska-Lincoln political scientist who co-authored the study.

Research on the influence of genetics on political beliefs has continued to draw criticisms, with some experts stressing the importance the environment has on shaping one's beliefs. These critics state that despite the fact that identical twins share the same DNA, the assumption that they share identical environments should not be made.

"I know people get bent out of shape about this," Smith said reported by Medical Xpress. "The environment is important, it's just not everything. You can talk about biology and you can talk about the environment. Who we are is a combination of both."

The paper, "Genetic and Environmental Transmission of Political Orientations," was published in Political Psychology.

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