A polygenic score for educational attainment partially predicts voter turnout

Christopher T. Dawes, Aysu Okbay, Sven Oskarsson, Aldo Rustichini

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    Twin and adoption studies have shown that individual difference in political participation can be explained, in part, by geneti variation. However, these research designs cannot identify whic genes are related to voting or the pathways through which the exert influence, and their conclusions rely on possibly restrictiv assumptions. In this study, we use three different US sample and a Swedish sample to test whether genes that have bee identified as associated with educational attainment, one of th strongest correlates of political participation, predict self-reporte and validated voter turnout. We find that a polygenic scor capturing individuals’ genetic propensity to acquire education i significantly related to turnout. The strongest associations w observe are in second-order midterm elections in the United State and European Parliament elections in Sweden, which tend t be viewed as less important by voters, parties, and the medi and thus present a more information-poor electoral environmen for citizens to navigate. A within-family analysis suggests tha individuals’ education-linked genes directly affect their votin behavior, but, for second-order elections, it also reveals evidenc of genetic nurture. Finally, a mediation analysis suggests that ed ucational attainment and cognitive ability combine to account fo between 41% and 63% of the relationship between the geneti propensity to acquire education and voter turnout.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numbere2022715118
    JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
    Issue number50
    StatePublished - Dec 14 2021


    • Cognitive ability
    • Education
    • Polygenic score
    • Turnout
    • Voting

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • General


    Dive into the research topics of 'A polygenic score for educational attainment partially predicts voter turnout'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this