Voting Behavior

The 5th Gradient of War, 5GW, relies on altering the observations of an enemy. This is often taken to mean that 5GW means secrecy, but it can involve manipulating perceptions in a way that changes behavior without a change of “heart” (which would be the role of 4GW). Two recent articles present possibilities for the 5GWarrior. First, Aherring’s “Where You Vote and How You Vote: Proto-5GW Thinking in a Study of the Context of Voting” explicitly ties changing perceptions into 5GW. The post is doubly exciting because I had previously worked on original research where we demonstrated something similar. Secondly, Razib’s “Heritability of voting includes the remarkable line: 53% of the variance in turnout behavior can be accounted for by additive genetic effects .

The second link is most interesting in the context of xGW. If some future 5GWarrior would attack the genetic code of some population to change the behaviors they engage in, would that be one of the already discussed gradients of warfare, or something else?

10 thoughts on “Voting Behavior”

  1. I actually heard the NPR report on my commute.

    It was interesting until the end of the report, when they admitted that there was a noticable change in voting behavior, but that change amounted to a shift in less than 1%. Trying to neutralize this 1% shift would likely cause more problems than it would fix, because it would require the further gerrymandering of districts, which is more likely to skew the results than the influence of voting in a church or school.

    Also, the report only tackled single-issue votes (things like referenda for increases in school budgets, etc.). They did not tackle the influences, if any, on voting for a candidate of a political party. To me, it seems that any shifts in party-voting behavior based on voting location would be further damped by the fact that parties aggregate issues into a single platform, and often these issues work at cross purposes (for example, organized labor and environmentalism often work against eachother as Democrat Party constituenticies).

    Therefore I surmise that the influence on voting location with regard to voting behavior represents two things:

    1) A nice grad school research project.
    2) A huge amount of omphaloskepsis for the rest of us.

    Here is something I have been pondering: If individual politics are so inheritable by way of genetics, how does this change the politics of entire polities? One might surmise that certain forms of politics are either dominant or repressed in our genetic makeup, and therefore an increased incidence of certain political traits would appear in the general population, greatly affecting the politics of that polity.

    Imagine this: A new reason for the decline and fall of the Roman Empire: It wasn’t Germanic invasions, lead poisoning, Christianity, or the welfare state. The cause was genetic drift in the population, which caused a lack of civic duty in the Empire, as well as political decadence.

    This might be plausable if one accepts that politics are determined by genetic inheritance. I still don’t buy that, although I’m open to it.

  2. Smitten,

    It was interesting until the end of the report, when they admitted that there was a noticable change in voting behavior, but that change amounted to a shift in less than 1%. Trying to neutralize this 1% shift would likely cause more problems than it would fix, because it would require the further gerrymandering of districts, which is more likely to skew the results than the influence of voting in a church or school.

    I didn’t explore it in the post, but this raises a great point. Genetics appear to explain 50% of variation in whether people vote or not. But the location of voting explains, as you mention, 1% of the variation.

    Here is something I have been pondering: If individual politics are so inheritable by way of genetics, how does this change the politics of entire polities? One might surmise that certain forms of politics are either dominant or repressed in our genetic makeup, and therefore an increased incidence of certain political traits would appear in the general population, greatly affecting the politics of that polity.

    In one of our seminars, a student asked the professor (a self-described “atheist, wine-drinking, Kerry-voting, liberal Democrat” if there was any research he thought it was impossible to do because of the political climate. He said yes, and then discussed the question you had.

    I’ve thought the same. Is it possible that the World Wars killed off a high enough fraction of Germans with certain traits that the political equilibrium of the country is now different? Could World War II have killed off enough Japanese who truly believed in war as an instrument of state policy that the country is now different, not just culturally but genetically?

  3. “I’ve thought the same. Is it possible that the World Wars killed off a high enough fraction of Germans with certain traits that the political equilibrium of the country is now different? Could World War II have killed off enough Japanese who truly believed in war as an instrument of state policy that the country is now different, not just culturally but genetically?”

    Then again, the changes in the German state might have been due to the fact that the Wehrmacht was routed, the Nazi government destroyed, and the political will smashed by legions of Shermans and T-34s. In the case of Japan, it might have had something to do with the destruction of Japanese commerce, the willingness of entire Marine Regiments to annihilate themselves with the goal of the destruction of the Japanese army, and perhaps the repeated atomic bombing of Japanese cities.

    Also, it should be remembered that much of the youth of France, Germany, and the UK were destroyed by WWI. With so much of that vigorous, nationalist youth destroyed, it would appear that the genetic argument for the rise of National Socialism would be gone, as the apparent genetic strength of the German Army was removed from reproduction in WWI. Yet it appears that Nazi genes (if there were any) managed to survive just fine.

  4. Smitten,

    Then again, the changes in the German state might have been due to the fact that the Wehrmacht was routed, the Nazi government destroyed, and the political will smashed by legions of Shermans and T-34s. In the case of Japan, it might have had something to do with the destruction of Japanese commerce, the willingness of entire Marine Regiments to annihilate themselves with the goal of the destruction of the Japanese army, and perhaps the repeated atomic bombing of Japanese cities.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/27/opinion/27tue4.html?ex=1212552000&en=f31954c7f92ffdad&ei=5070&emc=eta1

  5. Dan-

    The article suggested that genetic traits influence the rates of political participation. I do not disagree.

    Putnam suggests that rates of participates in bowling leagues also influences political participation.

    Until they isolate the bowling gene, I’m afraid that genetic inheritance is only one factor among many that inflence voting participation.

    I can personally vouch for my attitude about voting: Before my first deployment I rarely voted. Since that deployment I have voted at every opportunity where I know the candidates and issues, right down to the local school board and commissioner of elections. For me, voting has not been about genetics (my genome has not changed significantly). Voting has depended on my evolving concept of personal civic duty. Granted, they might even isolate genes that support or inhibit concepts of civic duty, but for me civic duty has always been strong, but it has also changed to encompass behaviors like voting, etc. I suspect that this is true for many people, especially the elderly. I understand that anecdote represent anything greater than a single datapoint.

    The article did not discuss the causes of the outcome of WWII, but I’m sure that the threat and application of violence has much to do with the implosion of Nazi and Japanese Imperial politics.

    I jest, I suggest that you think we need to do a better job of protecting our “precious bodily fluids.” Ha!

  6. Smitte

    Thanks for the comment!

    The article suggested that genetic traits influence the rates of political participation. I do not disagree.

    Putnam suggests that rates of participates in bowling leagues also influences political participation.

    Until they isolate the bowling gene, I’m afraid that genetic inheritance is only one factor among many that inflence voting participation.

    I agree completely, except that genetic inheritant will continue to be one factor among many even after genes for bowling are uncovered.

    I don’t know of anyone who says that genetics are the only variables that matter. I’ve run into many people who argue that “environmental” variables are the only one that matter.

    We accept environmental manipulation as part of policy. Accepting genetic manipulation as part of policy is just as sensible.

    I can personally vouch for my attitude about voting: Before my first deployment I rarely voted. Since that deployment I have voted at every opportunity where I know the candidates and issues, right down to the local school board and commissioner of elections.

    Some of this is doubtless because of environmentally-driven maturation. Some of this is doubtless because of genetically-driven maturation. Some of this is doubtless an interaction, or something else.

  7. “I don’t know of anyone who says that genetics are the only variables that matter. I’ve run into many people who argue that “environmental” variables are the only one that matter.”

    In a different post you claimed a 50-80% determinability. 50% is extremely high, and 80% is about as close as you’ll get to 100% determinability in any social experiement. At any rate, you often give the impression of being a genetic determinist.

    “Some of this is doubtless because of environmentally-driven maturation. Some of this is doubtless because of genetically-driven maturation. Some of this is doubtless an interaction, or something else.”

    Completely agree on this.

    And I see you refuse to comment on precious bodily fluids. Perhaps I need to bust out my Kubrick collection…

  8. In a different post you claimed a 50-80% determinability. 50% is extremely high, and 80% is about as close as you’ll get to 100% determinability in any social experiement. At any rate, you often give the impression of being a genetic determinist.

    If someone turns an 80% reality into a 100% strawman, and then attacks the strawman, the error is his, not mine.

    Another way to see figures like this is, keeping in mind that the more similar environments are, the more genetics will explain difference in outcomes, environments are now similar enough for genetics to explain 80% of variation.

    The goal, of course is 100% predictability of variation (or at least something close enough, such as is used in industry [1]).

    Quality control relies on valid objective measures, whether you’re talking a factory in Guangdong, in school in Chicago, or a prison in New York. We’re further away from this goal in some areas than others, but what is exciting about genetics is that we are quickly leapfrogging a century of environment-based social science in terms of variatoin explained.

    [1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Sigma

  9. “Before my first deployment I rarely voted. Since that deployment I have voted at every opportunity where I know the candidates and issues,” (-Smitten Eagle)

    Excellent point Mr. Eagle, as I have changed in a similar way. Before going to Iraq, I never really cared about politics even after being in the Army for 3 1/2 years. The experience of combat has totally changed my need for political attentiveness. While voting isn’t really that important to me, thinking about and discussing politics and international affairs has becoming a great need of mine. Before going to combat, I didn’t think politics mattered, now I realize that “I might not care about politics, but politics cares about me.”

    So obviously this change was not genetic. I’m still undecided on why this happened though?

  10. So obviously this change was not genetic. I’m still undecided on why this happened though?

    Depends on what you mean by genetic. It may have been genetically-driven development (as discussed by thinkers as diverse as Jean Piaget and John Tooby). It may have been exclusively environmental. It may have been an interaction of these.

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