Do issues, free will, or genetics determine your political persuasion?

Can you CHANGE your political persuasion?

Read this page to learn what research has discovered.

Updated August 9, 2004


Do you control your political persuasion?

What is your political persuasion? Left? Right? Authoritarian? Libertarian?

Take this 5 minute Political Compass Test and find out.

I'll wait...

Done? Good.

Now that you know where you stand politically, read on...

I found the following fascinating and important: From the opening paragraph of chapter 16 in The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (sources are cited in the book):

"When identical twins who were separated at birth are tested in adulthood, their political attitudes turn out to be similar, with a correlation coefficient of .62 (on a scale of -1 (absolutely reliable negative relationship) to 0 (no linear relationship) to +1 (absolutely reliable positive relationship)) Liberal and conservative attitudes are heritable, not of course because attitudes are synthesized directly from DNA, but because they come naturally to people with different temperaments. Conservatives, for example, tend to be more authoritarian, conscientious, traditional, and rule bound. But whatever its immediate source, the heritability of of political attitudes can explain some of the sparks that fly when liberals and conservatives meet. When it comes to attitudes that are heritable, people react more quickly, emotionally, are less likely to change their minds, and are more attracted to like-minded people."

A correlation of .62 is VERY strong when applied to a social question like this. Correlations above .5 are rare. Several studies reach similar results. This is confirmed in another source Twins : And What They Tell Us About Who We Are (page 147) where similar high correlations (.6) were found for radicalism, toughmindedness and religious leisure time interests. The conclusion I draw is that roughly 2/3rds of your political persuasion is as unchangeable as your eye color. MOST people are literally incapable of changing their political persuasion. Genes stop us from changing our political minds! It is mostly impossible! You feel the way you do because you can't feel otherwise. The debates between liberals and conservatives are a natural genetic part of the human evolutionary process. The opposition, YOUR opposition regardless of the side you are on, will likely NEVER go away (unless genes trigger alternatives with age).

Genetics control the temperaments that influence political persuasion, therefore genetics encourage team choosing in political debate, and has done so for centuries. Political differences are as natural as the fact that there are men and women. I no longer try to persuade people to radically change their opinions (they can't), but merely try to provide information and perspectives for my opposition to consider. Limited information perpetuates limited perspectives. After all, that swayable 1/3rd (genetically undecided) is still lingering out there!

Also from The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature page 286: "If you learn that someone is in favor of a strong military, for example, it is a good bet that the person is also in favor of judicial restraint rather than judicial activism. If someone believes in the importance of religion, chances are she will be tough on crime and in favor of lower taxes. Proponents of laissez-faire economic policy tend to value patriotism and the family, and they are more likely to be old than young, pragmatic than idealistic, censorious than permissive, meritocratic than egalitarian, gradualist than revolutionary, and in business rather than a university or government agency. The opposing positions cluster just as reliably: if someone is sympathetic to rehabilitating offenders, or to affirmative action, or to generous welfare programs, or to tolerance of homosexuality, chances are good that he will also be a pacifist, an environmentalist, an activist, an egalitarian, a secularist, and a professor or student."

From page 287: "Liberals are liberal about sexual behavior but not about business practices; conservatives want to conserve communities and traditions, but they also favor the free market economy that subverts them. People who call themselves "classical liberals" are likely to be called "conservatives" by adherents of the version of leftism known as political correctness."

Interestingly, chapter 12 of The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life has found that socioeconomic class has a low correlation to political activity, but that intelligence, regardless of socioeconomic status, has a high correlation! In other words, people with a high IQ tend to be more politically active than those who are duller, regardless of economic status. This is an important distinction because high IQ people can choose non-financial, non-formal education, alternative lifestyles. They are smart enough to be successful (as they define it) within an unconventional lifestyle. This is well documented in The Bell Curve. While duller people are less inclined to be politically active AND more inclined to come from a lower socioeconomic class, higher IQ people can choose to be politically active from ALL socioeconomic classes. Remember too that there are multiple kinds of intelligence, not just IQ. For these details see Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice or simply view this quick summary.

Beware! If someone is politically active, regardless of their socioeconomic status, they are probably smart in multiple ways!

In politics, it is certain that the winners will ALWAYS be challenged, regardless of which side won because there is no absolute answer to the questions of the day, the environment keeps changing, and our genes ensure that there will always be people on both sides of an issue.

The bottom line for me: I am absolutely certain that, in the perpetual debate of politics, whoever is the most determined and organized wins the moment and whoever quits first loses.