Read it for the articles

I honestly had no idea Playboy still tried to publish serious articles.  I know it used to have a reputation for such, leading to the old “I read if for the articles” joke, but, in fact, Playboy did consistently publish high quality interviews, etc.  Anyway, FB friend linked to a new piece about biopolitics, i.e., how our biology affect political attitudes and behaviors (and it does).  The article was a really nice summary of a number of interesting and related strands of political science research.  I was really quite impressed.  It’s honestly the type of piece I like to assign to my undergrads.  Anyway, check it out (safe for work and family if you don’t click around the site).

Among other things, it gives a nice summary of Alford and Hibbing’s twin studies which suggest a strong genetic impact on ideology:

 Other social scientists had used studies comparing dizygotic (fraternal) twins, who share 50 percent of their DNA, with monozygotic (identical) twins, who have virtually identical DNA, to tease out hereditary factors; the differences in agreement between the first and second groups constitute the hereditary component. This had become such a popular technique that there were tens of thousands of twin pairs in various databases around the world. Alford and Hibbing got their hands on one large database in Virginia with the hope of fingering a genetic component for political ideology from surveys the twins had taken.

What Alford and Hibbing discovered was that all the old poli-sci formulations about how political attitudes were primarily shaped early in life or by proximate occurrences such as life experiences, conversations or the media were wrong and that inheritance played at least as large and probably even larger—actually twice as large—a role as environment. They found that the estimate for the heritability of conservatism was 43 percent, while shared environment constituted 22 percent and unshared environment (the individual twins’ unique experiences) was 35 percent. The heritability component was even higher, 53 percent, when one factored out parental political agreement. In short, upbringing didn’t matter for politics any more than it did for personality—not how autocratic a parent was, how close children felt to their parents, how often the family discussed politics or how important politics was to the family. Issues didn’t matter either. What mattered most was genetics.

I read the study myself some time ago and found it pretty compelling.  That said, I remain convinced that it was the actual real-world influence of my mom– more so than her genes– that made me a liberal.  I always felt like my natural instincts were quite authoritarian, judgmental, and prone to black-and-white thinking– characteristics I associate with conservatism.  But my mom quite consciously seemed to work against these predispositions in our many political conversations.   As a dad, I also cannot help but thing our actual conversations as much as my genes have contributed to David being a budding young liberal (“why should anybody care so much if two men want to get married?  It doesn’t affect them”).  Then again, he’s got two liberal parents sharing their liberal genes.  [Also worth mentioning that there’s a nice bit on ideology and assortative mating.]

Photo of the day

From a cool set of abandoned buildings and places:

A view of the abandoned city of Prypiat near the failed Chernobyl nuclear power plant, on April 15, 2011. (Reuters/Gleb Garanich)

Does Santorum need Gingrich?

So, I said in class yesterday, “Newt Gingrich might as well be on Romney’s payroll right now.”  Sure, not all of Gingrich’s supporters would go to Santorum, but it’s a safe bet that it’s more than half.  Certainly seems this would help Santorum to presumably beat Romney in some more states.  So, a few hours later I read Eugene Robinson’s column, and he has me thinking I should eat my words.  Basic point, it would be really hard for Santorum to catch Romney in delegates and get to the magic 1144– even without Gingrich taking some of the delegates.  Rather, Santorum has pretty much taken to arguing that his goal is to keep Romney from getting to 1144 and then it’s anyone’s (presumably his) game.  If that’s the strategic goal, it seems pretty likely that Santorum plus Gingrich are more likely to keep Romney from reaching 1144 than Santorum on its own.

Certainly has a clear logic to it.  May very be the case.  That said, if is is just Santorum against Romney (no, Ron Paul gets no love) and Santorum still fails to win key states (i.e., not just the really conservative ones) then Romney is definitely on the path to 1144.  I suspect we’ll never know, though, as I suspect Gingrich’s vastly overblown sense of self-importance makes it very unlikely he’ll drop out.

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