Ideology and your parents

Thomas Edsall, writing for the New York Times, covers ongoing research into the heritability of political mindsets. If you find yourself voting against your economic interests, for example, the fault may lie in your genes. Take, for example, the people of West Virginia.

West Virginia embodies this paradox. The state is very poor. Median family income puts West Virginia 48th in the nation, just above Mississippi and Arkansas. Nearly one out of five residents, 18.4 percent, received food stamps in 2012 and more, 22 percent, are on Medicaid — a percentage that is expected to approach 25 percent as more residents take advantage of the Affordable Care Act expansion.

The percentage of workingage West Virginians with a disability, 16.4 percent, is the highest in the country. But in 2012, West Virginia rejected President Obama out of hand. Mitt Romney won all of West Virginia’s 55counties, 41 of them with more than 60 percent of the vote. Nineteen out of 20 West Virginians, 94 percent, are white, a level topped only by Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire and Idaho.

When historian Thomas Frank banged his head against the wall wondering “What’s the Matter with Kansas?”—his home state—he might have been better served by capturing DNA samples. Birth is girth, and genetics may be politics.

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