Why do people run for office?
Candidates often spend a great deal of money to go around talking to people — most of whom don’t want to talk to them.
What’s the result? Usually they get accused of being evil or stupid by political opponents. If they win, they spend countless hours raising money and talking to even more people.
Political scientists offer many factors as to why someone would like to run for office: personality type, a sense of civic duty, opportunity…
But anyone who thinks about all the family political dynasties must have a gut sense there’s something else going on as as well.
Remember the Bushes? The Adamses? The Trudeaus? The Kennedys or Roosevelts?
An article in Political Behavior from Uppsala University says that there’s a biological factor, too. There may be “pre-birth” factors like genes and pre-natal environment that are related to people’s decision to run for office.
This effect is certainly not trivial. Their results show that people who have a biological parent who ran for office are more than twice as likely to run themselves.
In Sweden, 2.3% of people ran for office when they didn’t have a biological parent who ran, but having a biological parent who ran more than doubled that percentage.
How do they know this? Sweden keeps a Multi-Generation Registry that allowed these researchers to identify large samples of adopted children and their biological and adoptive parents as well as non-adapted children and their biological parents.
Having an adoptive parent who ran for office increased the child’s probability of running by 3.4% — even though the biological parents had no contact with the child since she was one year old!
So biology matters in the likelihood someone will run for office.