Liberal or conservative? It may be down to your genes

Having a specific variant of the gene DRD4, which is involved in our risk taking and decision making processes, may determine how we vote

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Whether you class yourself as conservative or liberal may not be down to your world view, but your genes, according to new research.

A study by the National University of Singapore, found that a specific variant of the gene DRD4, dubbed the “adventure gene” and which is involved in our risk taking and decision making processes, may determine how we vote.

The research published by the Royal Society and led by Richard P. Ebstein and Chew Soo Hong surveyed over 1,700 Singaporean Chinese undergraduates from NUS to find out whether they identified as liberal or conservative.

Blood and DNA samples were also taken from the students and compared to their surveys.

Everyone has the DRD4 gene but the tests revealed that less that 50 per cent of the participants had the variant of the gene which is associated with high risk behaviours and attitudes.

It was found that women in particular who had the 4R/4R variant of the “adventure gene” were more likely to have low risk attitudes and therefore to be politically conservative.

Researchers believe that this variant of the gene is associated with higher levels of dopamine activity, which releases chemicals in the brain associated with feelings of pleasure and reward.

Those with higher levels are less prone to take risks and more predisposed to be politically conservative.

This latest study confirms past findings by scientists from the United States who also found that the DRD4 gene influences political attitudes.

In the US study a person’s political view was dependent on the number of friends they had. This latest Singapore study, however, is believed to be the first to show the direct effect of genes on our political dispositions.

“Our findings have shown that despite a country's political system or even culture, political ideology is in part hard wired by our genes,” said Chew.

“The results of our Singapore study also suggest that attempts to change ideology may be difficult since some of our beliefs are built in and hence less sensitive to peer pressure and propaganda from various sources.”