Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Per political party: Americans' Attitudes on Individual or Racially Inflected Genetic Inheritance

Americans' Attitudes on Individual or Racially Inflected Genetic Inheritance. Jennifer Hochschild, Maya Sen. On Reconsidering Race: Social Science Perspectives on Racial Categories in the Age of Genomics. Edited by Kazuko Suzuki, Edited by Diego A. von Vacano. https://global.oup.com/academic/product/reconsidering-race-9780190465285

From the Nov 2013 paper, about Importance of individual, and of racial or ethnic, genetic inheritance, by partisan affiliation:

Democrats and Republicans hold roughly similar views, while the category of Independents, Undecided, and “Other” differ systematically from both sets of partisans. With regard to racial or ethnic genetic inheritance (shaded columns), Independents are less likely than the other two groups to see racial inheritance in six of the eight characteristics. That includes the three items that are generally assumed to be heritable (eye color, sickle cell anemia, and cystic fibrosis), for which the Independents are arguably mistaken. But it also includes the more ambiguous category of intelligence.

With regard to individual genetic inheritance, Democrats and Republicans again resemble one another, while Independents differ. Setting aside homosexuality, Independents are again  The least likely to make genetic attributions to the three genetically-linked traits, but they are most likely to make genetic attributions to the three ambiguous traits of heart disease, intelligence, and aggressiveness. Again, reassuringly we see no variation in the very low proportions attributing the flu to either type of inheritance.

We need further research to explain the anomaly of the Independents, and how or why partisanship relates to other possible associations (for example, education, gender, and race with views about genetic determinism. But these results conform to the general finding in the academic literature that “pure” Independents and nonpartisans (the Undecided or Others) are less knowledgeable about current events and political and social facts (Keith et al. 1992). The surprising and intriguing result is the lack of difference between Republicans and Democrats in the degree to which they concur with the social constructivist view, either with regard to racial or ethnic inheritance or individual ancestral inheritance. If the GKAP survey represents Americans in general, the question of biological or social causation is not polarized in the public in the way that it is among knowledgeable experts.

This similarity is reinforced by the overall average likelihood of making genetic attributions. As we have found in every previous analysis, for all items in all groups, there are fewer attributions to racial or ethnic inheritance than to individual ancestral inheritance. But within that framework, Republicans and Democrats closely resemble one another in accepting both types of genetic causes, while Independents are less likely to accept either individual genetic inheritance or, especially, racial or ethnic genetic inheritance. That is not what we expected, and it warrants further study.

The surprise deepens when we look only at the five items that are not generally understood as heritable. For those items, Independents are the most likely to make genetic attributions, both for individual ancestral inheritance and for group-based inheritance – but Democrats are more likely than Republicans to do so, again for both types of inheritance. Even setting aside the three items that are arguably not socially constructed, Republicans are closer to being social constructivists than are Democrats. In light of the normative valences with which this chapter started, that finding needs further exploration.

The Anomalous Case of Homosexuality: We have noted several times that responses to the item, “being gay or lesbian,” differ from responses to the other three traits (heart disease, intelligence, and a tendency toward violence) for which genetic and environmental or choice-based explanations are more ambiguous. We turn finally to a direct consideration of this item. Hypothesis H5.5 posits that views on homosexuality are an exception to our overall expectation about the link between partisanship (or ideology) and social constructivism, and that is indeed the case. As table 5 shows, Democrats are much more likely than Independents or Republicans to attribute being gay or lesbian to “genes,” and slightly more likely to attribute being gay or lesbian to “race or ethnicity.” Indeed, Democrats’ relatively high agreement with “genes” for that item helps to explain the fact that overall they are less socially constructivist than Republicans.10 [10 It does not fully explain that surprising result, however, since Democrats are also just as likely or slightly more likely than Republicans to explain heart disease, intelligence, and aggression through genetic causes]

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