I will be the first to admit that the first time I heard someone argue that there’s a genetic factor to political attitudes I was immediately skeptical and thought it was border-line ridiculous. However, over the past few years there have been more and more research studies independently providing persuasive evidence that there is a biological component of political attitudes and dispositions. I am not quite a “firm believer” just yet, but I will candidly admit that I’m much more persuaded than I was just a few years ago. To be clear: these studies are not arguing that political attitudes are simply inherited and predetermined. The argument is that people are genetically pre-disposed to have certain characteristics (e.g. be generally calm vs. jumpy, organized vs. disorganized, etc.) that tend to be associated with certain political attitudes. These influential characteristics work together with a host of other factors (social class, demographic characteristics, group identities, socialization, etc.) to lead to one’s political attitudes.
Individuals who call themselves liberal tend to have larger anterior cingulate cortexes, while those who call themselves conservative have larger amygdalas. Based on what is known about the functions of those two brain regions, the structural differences are consistent with reports showing a greater ability of liberals to cope with conflicting information and a greater ability of conservatives to recognize a threat, the researchers say.