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Genetic predictors of educational attainment and intelligence test performance predict voter turnout

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  • Lene Aarøe
  • Vivek Appadurai, Institute of Biological Psychiatry
  • ,
  • Kasper M Hansen, University of Copenhagen
  • ,
  • Andrew J Schork, Institute of Biological Psychiatry
  • ,
  • Thomas Werge, Institute of Biological Psychiatry
  • ,
  • Ole Mors
  • Anders D Børglum
  • David M Hougaard, Lundbeck, University of Copenhagen, Center for Genomics and Personalized Medicine
  • ,
  • Merete Nordentoft, University of Copenhagen
  • ,
  • Preben B Mortensen
  • Wesley Kurt Thompson, University of California at San Diego
  • ,
  • Alfonso Buil, University of Southern Denmark
  • ,
  • Esben Agerbo
  • Michael Bang Petersen

Although the genetic influence on voter turnout is substantial (typically 40-50%), the underlying mechanisms remain unclear. Across the social sciences, research suggests that 'resources for politics' (as indexed notably by educational attainment and intelligence test performance) constitute a central cluster of factors that predict electoral participation. Educational attainment and intelligence test performance are heritable. This suggests that the genotypes that enhance these phenotypes could positively predict turnout. To test this, we conduct a genome-wide complex trait analysis of individual-level turnout. We use two samples from the Danish iPSYCH case-cohort study, including a nationally representative sample as well as a sample of individuals who are particularly vulnerable to political alienation due to psychiatric conditions (n = 13,884 and n = 33,062, respectively). Using validated individual-level turnout data from the administrative records at the polling station, genetic correlations and Mendelian randomization, we show that there is a substantial genetic overlap between voter turnout and both educational attainment and intelligence test performance.

Original languageEnglish
JournalNature Human Behavior
Pages (from-to)281-291
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

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