The genetics of voting: An Australian twin study

Peter K. Hatemi, Sarah E. Medland, Katherine I. Morley, Andrew C. Heath, Nicholas G. Martin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

100 Scopus citations


Previously we and others have shown evidence for genetic influences on political attitudes and sociodemographic indicators (Martin 1987; Posner et al. 1996; Truett et al. 1992; Eaves et al. 1999). However, the nature of the relationship between political attitudes, social indictors and voting behavior has not been investigated. While heritability estimates for social and political attitudes have been reported in previous research, the heritability for vote choice has not. Furthermore, if vote choice is heritable, it is unclear whether the heritable component can be accounted for through the genetic influence on related social and political traits, or if there exists a unique genetic component specific to voting behavior. In mailed surveys of adult Australian twins, we asked respondents to indicate their usual voting preference as well as attitudes on contemporary individual political items. When vote choice was dichotomized as Labor versus Conservative, twin correlations were r mz = 0.81 (1661 pairs), and r dz = 0.69 (1727 pairs) consistent with modest genetic influence (a 2 = 0.24). However, multivariate genetic analysis showed no unique genetic contribution to voting preference; rather, the genetic influence in vote choice could be explained by shared genetic influences in perceived social class, church attendance and certain key political attitude items.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)435-448
Number of pages14
JournalBehavior Genetics
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2007

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Genetics
  • Genetics(clinical)


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