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Fear is a pervasive aspect of political life and is often explored as a transient emotional state manipulated by events or exploited by elites for political purposes. The psychological and psychiatric literatures, however, have also established fear as a genetically informed trait, and people differ in their underlying fear dispositions. Here we propose these differences hold important implications for political preferences, particularly toward out‐groups. Using a large sample of related individuals, we find that individuals with a higher degree of social fear have more negative out‐group opinions, which, in this study, manifest as anti‐immigration and prosegregation attitudes. We decompose the covariation between social fear and attitudes and find the principal pathway by which the two are related is through a shared genetic foundation. Our findings present a novel mechanism explicating how fear manifests as out‐group attitudes and accounts for some portion of the genetic influences on political attitudes.
American Journal of Political Science – Wiley
Published: Apr 1, 2013
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