The Journal of Politics


Partisanship, Voting, and the Dopamine D2 Receptor Gene

Christopher T. Dawesa1 and James H. Fowlera2

a1 University of California

a2 University of California


Previous studies have found that both political orientations (Alford, Funk, and Hibbing 2005) and voting behavior (Fowler, Baker, and Dawes 2008; Fowler and Dawes 2008) are significantly heritable. In this article we study genetic variation in another important political behavior: partisan attachment. Using the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we show that individuals with the A2 allele of the D2 dopamine receptor gene are significantly more likely to identify as a partisan than those with the A1 allele. Further, we find that this gene's association with partisanship also mediates an indirect association between the A2 allele and voter turnout. These results are the first to identify a specific gene that may be partly responsible for the tendency to join political groups, and they may help to explain correlation in parent and child partisanship and the persistence of partisan behavior over time.

(Received March 03 2008)

(Accepted November 22 2008)


Christopher T. Dawes is Ph.D. student in political science, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA 92093.

James H. Fowler is associate professor of political science, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, CA92093.