Leaning left or right, red or blue? Answer may be in your genes

  • Ed Lippman, 58, wears a message on his jacket on Election Day while walking home, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Hoboken, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)Ed Lippman, 58, wears a message on his jacket on Election Day while walking home, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Hoboken, N.J. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
  • Voters cast their votes at the Boys and Girls Club Tuesday on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Andrew Shurtleff)Voters cast their votes at the Boys and Girls Club Tuesday on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Charlottesville, Va. (AP Photo/The Daily Progress, Andrew Shurtleff)
  • Poll worker Leon Levy attaches stickers to a tabletop on election day on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. After a grinding presidential campaign President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, yield center stage to American voters Tuesday for an Election Day choice that will frame the contours of government and the nation for years to come. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)Poll worker Leon Levy attaches stickers to a tabletop on election day on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Nashville, Tenn. After a grinding presidential campaign President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, yield center stage to American voters Tuesday for an Election Day choice that will frame the contours of government and the nation for years to come. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
  • A man tries to hand his ballot, top right, to an election worker, standing in the doorway, as voters crowd an apartment building hallway, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in the Coney Island section of New York. Voting in the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)A man tries to hand his ballot, top right, to an election worker, standing in the doorway, as voters crowd an apartment building hallway, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in the Coney Island section of New York. Voting in the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history. AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)
  • An unidentified person votes at a polling place located inside a car dealership in La Vista, Neb., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)An unidentified person votes at a polling place located inside a car dealership in La Vista, Neb., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
  • Voters pack the South Starkvile Voting Precinct trying to get their vote in before heading to work on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in Starkville, Miss.  (AP Photo/Kerry Smith)Voters pack the South Starkvile Voting Precinct trying to get their vote in before heading to work on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in Starkville, Miss. (AP Photo/Kerry Smith)
  • A light wet snow covers the roof and ground around the Jenkins Town Hall as early voters casts their ballots Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in Jenkins, Minn. Jenkins is located in Crow Wing County in northern Minnesota. (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)A light wet snow covers the roof and ground around the Jenkins Town Hall as early voters casts their ballots Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in Jenkins, Minn. Jenkins is located in Crow Wing County in northern Minnesota. (AP Photo/Tom Olmscheid)
  • Citizens fill the voting booths on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, at the Stockton Community Center in Stockton, Minn.  After a grinding presidential campaign, Americans headed into polling places across the country. (AP Photo/Winona Daily News, Andrew Link)Citizens fill the voting booths on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, at the Stockton Community Center in Stockton, Minn. After a grinding presidential campaign, Americans headed into polling places across the country. (AP Photo/Winona Daily News, Andrew Link)
  • Susan Mardas celebrates Election Day by wearing a festive hat Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, while waiting for her mother to vote in Scarborough, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)Susan Mardas celebrates Election Day by wearing a festive hat Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, while waiting for her mother to vote in Scarborough, Maine. (AP Photo/Robert F. Bukaty)
  • Poll Manager, Melvin Davis Jr. unlocks the voting machines  at Grady High School,  Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, John Spink)Poll Manager, Melvin Davis Jr. unlocks the voting machines at Grady High School, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal-Constitution, John Spink)
  • Dave Reyes II waits to be the first voter in his precinct outside of the polling station set up in the garage of the Gallegos residence in Stockton, Calif., Tuesday, Nov.  6, 2012. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)Dave Reyes II waits to be the first voter in his precinct outside of the polling station set up in the garage of the Gallegos residence in Stockton, Calif., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
  • Mervel Parker fills out his ballot to vote in the election at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/The Montgomery Advertiser, Julie Bennett)  Mervel Parker fills out his ballot to vote in the election at Aldersgate United Methodist Church in Montgomery, Ala., Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/The Montgomery Advertiser, Julie Bennett)
  • Voters cast their ballots in the general election at Kirkwood Community Center Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Kirkwood, Mo.  (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) Voters cast their ballots in the general election at Kirkwood Community Center Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Kirkwood, Mo. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
  • A voter signs in to cast a ballot at the old Brown School on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in rural Wellsville, Kan. After a grinding presidential campaign President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, yield center stage to American voters Tuesday for an Election Day choice that will frame the contours of government and the nation for years to come. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)A voter signs in to cast a ballot at the old Brown School on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in rural Wellsville, Kan. After a grinding presidential campaign President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, yield center stage to American voters Tuesday for an Election Day choice that will frame the contours of government and the nation for years to come. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
  • Indiana gubernatorial candidate Libertarian Rupert Boneham laughs as he's told by poling place volunteer Carol Mapier that he "has a great body" as he greeted voters outside a poling place in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.  Boneham faces Democrat John Gregg and Republican Mike Pence in the gubernatorial race. Boneham was a contestant on the reality show Survivor. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)Indiana gubernatorial candidate Libertarian Rupert Boneham laughs as he's told by poling place volunteer Carol Mapier that he "has a great body" as he greeted voters outside a poling place in Indianapolis, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Boneham faces Democrat John Gregg and Republican Mike Pence in the gubernatorial race. Boneham was a contestant on the reality show Survivor. (AP Photo/Michael Conroy)
  • Hal Pigg casts his vote, reflected in an image of a flag, on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Jamul, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)Hal Pigg casts his vote, reflected in an image of a flag, on Election Day Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Jamul, Calif. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)
  • A resident in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., walks to the Atlantic Highlands Emergency Services Building to vote Nov. 6, 2012, as power outages from superstorm Sandy forced the town to condense all the districts into one location. (Associated Press)A resident in Atlantic Highlands, N.J., walks to the Atlantic Highlands Emergency Services Building to vote Nov. 6, 2012, as power outages from superstorm Sandy forced the town to condense all the districts into one location. (Associated Press)
  • Mike Maloney briefly stops traffic so Elizabeth Rahn can cross the street to get to her polling place, outside the Rochester Senior Center, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in Rochester, Minn. Maloney was  encouraging people to vote. (AP Photo/The Post-Bulletin, Jerry Olson)Mike Maloney briefly stops traffic so Elizabeth Rahn can cross the street to get to her polling place, outside the Rochester Senior Center, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012 in Rochester, Minn. Maloney was encouraging people to vote. (AP Photo/The Post-Bulletin, Jerry Olson)
  • After voting, Mike Weigart, 30, carries his ballot and his surfboard to the ballot box at the polling place at the Venice Beach lifeguard headquarters in Los Angeles Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Weigart said "It's awesome the polling place is where I surf." (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)After voting, Mike Weigart, 30, carries his ballot and his surfboard to the ballot box at the polling place at the Venice Beach lifeguard headquarters in Los Angeles Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Weigart said "It's awesome the polling place is where I surf." (AP Photo/Reed Saxon)
  • William Wright, left, and India Johnson, right, both freshman at ODU, wait on line  to vote at Larchmont Elementary School in Norfolk, Va. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Wright and Johnson, both 18 and from Richmond, were excited to cast their first votes in the Presidential election. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Amanda Lucier) William Wright, left, and India Johnson, right, both freshman at ODU, wait on line to vote at Larchmont Elementary School in Norfolk, Va. on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Wright and Johnson, both 18 and from Richmond, were excited to cast their first votes in the Presidential election. (AP Photo/The Virginian-Pilot, Amanda Lucier)
  • Victor "Snake Mann" Wolder, marks his choices while voting during Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson) Victor "Snake Mann" Wolder, marks his choices while voting during Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)
  • A sign directs people to a polling site in a school that is also serving as a donation site for victims of Superstorm Sandy in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island, New York, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012.  Voting in a the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)A sign directs people to a polling site in a school that is also serving as a donation site for victims of Superstorm Sandy in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island, New York, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. Voting in a the U.S. presidential election was the latest challenge for the hundreds of thousands of people in the New York-New Jersey area still affected by Superstorm Sandy, as they struggled to get to non-damaged polling places to cast their ballots in one of the tightest elections in recent history. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
  • Early morning voters were not deterred by the cold rain Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, as they come to cast their ballots at Haverhill Town Hall, northeast of Rochester, Minn.  Americans are heading to polling places across the country Tuesday.  (AP Photo/The Rochester Post-Bulletin, Jerry Olson)Early morning voters were not deterred by the cold rain Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, as they come to cast their ballots at Haverhill Town Hall, northeast of Rochester, Minn. Americans are heading to polling places across the country Tuesday. (AP Photo/The Rochester Post-Bulletin, Jerry Olson)
  • Voters wait in line tocast their ballots at a polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Miami. After a grinding presidential campaign President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, yield center stage to American voters Tuesday for an Election Day choice that will frame the contours of government and the nation for years to come. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald, Tim Chapman)  MAGS OUTVoters wait in line tocast their ballots at a polling station, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Miami. After a grinding presidential campaign President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, yield center stage to American voters Tuesday for an Election Day choice that will frame the contours of government and the nation for years to come. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald, Tim Chapman) MAGS OUT
  • Kezia Gipson, 3, waits with her grandparents Doris Ross and Freddie Irvin in a voting line at the International Longshoreman's Association Office in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. After a grinding presidential campaign President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, yield center stage to American voters Tuesday for an Election Day choice that will frame the contours of government and the nation for years to come. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald,Joe Rimkus Jr. )  MAGS OUTKezia Gipson, 3, waits with her grandparents Doris Ross and Freddie Irvin in a voting line at the International Longshoreman's Association Office in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. After a grinding presidential campaign President Barack Obama and Republican presidential candidate, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, yield center stage to American voters Tuesday for an Election Day choice that will frame the contours of government and the nation for years to come. (AP Photo/The Miami Herald,Joe Rimkus Jr. ) MAGS OUT
  • A person walks through a makeshift shelter in a gymnasium at Toms River East High School on the way to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Toms River, N.J.  Voter turnout was heavy in several storm-ravaged Jersey shore towns, with many voters expressing relief and even elation at being able to vote at all, considering the devastation. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)A person walks through a makeshift shelter in a gymnasium at Toms River East High School on the way to vote on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Toms River, N.J. Voter turnout was heavy in several storm-ravaged Jersey shore towns, with many voters expressing relief and even elation at being able to vote at all, considering the devastation. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)
  • Snow surrounds the polling precinct in Terra Alta, W.Va., as Peter Hough heads to work after casting his ballot on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)Snow surrounds the polling precinct in Terra Alta, W.Va., as Peter Hough heads to work after casting his ballot on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)
  • Early morning voting is under way at Bishop Molloy Recreational Center on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Point Lookout, N.Y., one of several voting locations that were created as a result of superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)Early morning voting is under way at Bishop Molloy Recreational Center on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Point Lookout, N.Y., one of several voting locations that were created as a result of superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
  • Poll workers (from right) Eva Prenga, Roxanne Blancero and Carole Sevchuk try to start an optical scanner voting machine in the cold and dark at a polling station in a tent in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island in New York on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. The original polling site, a school, was damaged by superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)Poll workers (from right) Eva Prenga, Roxanne Blancero and Carole Sevchuk try to start an optical scanner voting machine in the cold and dark at a polling station in a tent in the Midland Beach section of Staten Island in New York on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. The original polling site, a school, was damaged by superstorm Sandy. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig)
  • Voters fill out their ballots under a tent at a consolidated polling station for residents of the Rockaways on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in the Queens borough of New York. Turnout was heavy in several storm-ravaged areas in New York and New Jersey, with many voters expressing relief and even elation at being able to vote at all, considering the devastation. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)Voters fill out their ballots under a tent at a consolidated polling station for residents of the Rockaways on Election Day, Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in the Queens borough of New York. Turnout was heavy in several storm-ravaged areas in New York and New Jersey, with many voters expressing relief and even elation at being able to vote at all, considering the devastation. (AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)
  • Two National Guard members stand by in their truck at Bishop Molloy Recreational Center, where voting took place on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Point Lookout, N.Y., one of several voting locations that were created as a result of superstorm Sandy. Election Day turnout was heavy in several storm-ravaged areas in New York and New Jersey, with many voters expressing relief and even elation at being able to vote at all, considering the devastation.  (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)Two National Guard members stand by in their truck at Bishop Molloy Recreational Center, where voting took place on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, in Point Lookout, N.Y., one of several voting locations that were created as a result of superstorm Sandy. Election Day turnout was heavy in several storm-ravaged areas in New York and New Jersey, with many voters expressing relief and even elation at being able to vote at all, considering the devastation. (AP Photo/Kathy Kmonicek)
  • Leslie Fabian reacts after successfully voting electronically on Election Day at the 24-hour Su Nueva Laundromat in Chicago's 13th Ward on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)Leslie Fabian reacts after successfully voting electronically on Election Day at the 24-hour Su Nueva Laundromat in Chicago's 13th Ward on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)
  • As voters cast their ballots, a cat that resides at the Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilition Center wanders through on Election Day, Tuesday Nov. 6, 2012, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)As voters cast their ballots, a cat that resides at the Kindred Transitional Care and Rehabilition Center wanders through on Election Day, Tuesday Nov. 6, 2012, in South Bend, Ind. (AP Photo/Joe Raymond)
  • A voter walks through a makeshift shelter in a gymnasium at Toms River East High School on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, on the way to the polls in Toms River, N.J. Voter turnout was heavy in several storm-ravaged Jersey shore towns, with many voters expressing relief and even elation at being able to vote at all, considering the devastation. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)A voter walks through a makeshift shelter in a gymnasium at Toms River East High School on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2012, on the way to the polls in Toms River, N.J. Voter turnout was heavy in several storm-ravaged Jersey shore towns, with many voters expressing relief and even elation at being able to vote at all, considering the devastation. (AP Photo/Mel Evans)

That vote you’re about to cast may have been set in motion long ago — going all the way back to your birth and early years, when your genes and your developing brain helped determine whether you leaned conservative or liberal and how strongly you tilted that way.

Even as the presidential candidates canvas the battleground states pleading for last-minute voters to pick between them, some of the latest cutting-edge research suggests that those decisions are influenced by heritable factors that shaped those voters’ political identity long before they were presented the choice between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

“Somewhere between 20 and 50 percent of political behavior in the United States can be explained by genetics,” said James H. Fowler, professor of medical genetics and political science at the University of California at San Diego, who is one of the leading researchers in what has come to be called “genopolitics.”

Mr. Fowler said factors ranging from ideology and partisanship to likelihood of voting are influenced by genes — the only problem is that nobody knows exactly which ones and how they interplay with each other, and that makes predictions impossible.

“There’s a very strong role for genetics, but we cannot yet tell you which genes matter; therefore we cannot tell you which individuals are going to be altered in their predispositions by those genes,” he said.

The latest research suggests genes could control everything from the likelihood that someone turns out to vote down to how intense his or her support is for a political ideology.

Political scientists previously thought political decisions were almost exclusively the product of upbringing and social interaction. But now, four decades after researchers first showed conscious decisions are informed by unconscious attitudes, social scientists are asking whether that affects politics, too.

Crediting genes with political choices is the kind of suggestion that may make voters cringe. Pollsters and political consultants who make their money from guessing what voters want are likely to scoff.

And some analysts question the research altogether, saying it is still too early to draw conclusions.

Marcy Darnovsky, associate executive director at the Center for Genetics and Society in Berkeley, Calif., said the most that could be said is there is “some very complicated combinatorial situation” in which genes, along with a half-dozen other biological and environmental factors, might play a role.

“The steps of logic are so many, and each one of them is a speculative kind of step and a correlation, rather than something you could prove causation about,” she said.

As for controlling someone’s party preference, she said forget about it.

“The simple things of one gene tells you you’re going to vote red or going to vote blue — genes don’t change anywhere near as fast as political ideologies and political parties,” she said.

Indeed, in a review of the latest research, Peter K. Hatemi and Rose McDermott, writing in the October issue of Trends in Genetics, reported that political party identification appears to have little to do with genes. But they found overall ideology does appear to vary with genes, as do attitudes toward economics, race and sex.

Now the search is on for which genes may be at work.

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