Do Political Attitudes and Religiosity Share a Genetic Path?

Amanda Friesen, Aleksander Ksiazkiewicz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Abstract

Social scientists have long recognized and sought to explain a connection between religious and political beliefs. Our research challenges the prevalent view that religion and politics constitute separate but related belief sets with a conceptual model that suggests the correlation between the two may be partially explained by an underlying psychological construct reflecting first principle beliefs on social organization. Moreover, we also push this challenge further by considering whether part of the relationship between political and religious beliefs is the result of shared genetic influences, which would suggest that a shared biological predisposition, or set of biological predispositions, underlies these attitudes. Using a classic twin design on a sample of American adults, we demonstrate that certain religious, political, and first principle beliefs can be explained by genetic and unique environmental components, and that the correlation between these three trait structures is primarily due to a common genetic path. As predicted, this relationship is found to hold for social ideology, but not for economic ideology. These findings provide evidence that the overlap between the religious and the political in the American context may in part be due to underlying principles regarding how to understand and organize society and that these principles may be adopted to satisfy biologically-influenced psychological needs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)791-818
Number of pages28
JournalPolitical Behavior
Volume37
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 4 2014
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Behavior genetics
  • Ideology
  • Religion and politics
  • Twin study

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

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