Friendships Moderate an Association Between a Dopamine Gene Variant and Political Ideology

Journal of Politics, Forthcoming

35 Pages Posted: 9 Jun 2008 Last revised: 18 Nov 2010

See all articles by Jaime Settle

Jaime Settle

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Christopher T. Dawes

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science

Nicholas A. Christakis

Harvard University - Department of Health Care Policy

James H. Fowler

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences; UC San Diego School of Medicine

Date Written: June 8, 2008

Abstract

Scholars in many fields have long noted the importance of social context in the development of political ideology. Recent work suggests that political ideology also has a heritable component, but no specific gene variant associated with political ideology has so far been identified. In this article we hypothesize that individuals with a genetic predisposition towards seeking out new experiences will tend to be more liberal, but only if they are embedded in a social context that provides them with multiple points of view. Using data from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health, we test this hypothesis by investigating an association between self-reported political ideology and the 7R variant of the dopamine receptor D4 gene (DRD4), which has previously been associated with novelty-seeking. We find that the number of friendships a person has in adolescence is significantly associated with liberal political ideology among those with DRD4-7R. Among those without the gene variant there is no association. This is the first study ever to elaborate a specific gene-environment interaction that contributes to ideological self-identification, and it highlights the importance of incorporating both nature and nurture into the study of politics.

Suggested Citation

Settle, Jaime and Dawes, Christopher T. and Christakis, Nicholas A. and Fowler, James H., Friendships Moderate an Association Between a Dopamine Gene Variant and Political Ideology (June 8, 2008). Journal of Politics, Forthcoming. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1142623 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1142623

Jaime Settle

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

Christopher T. Dawes

University of California, San Diego (UCSD) - Department of Political Science ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://dss.ucsd.edu/~cdawes/

Nicholas A. Christakis

Harvard University - Department of Health Care Policy ( email )

25 Shattuck Street
Boston, MA 02115
United States

James H. Fowler (Contact Author)

UC San Diego Division of Social Sciences ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
Code 0521
La Jolla, CA 92093-0521
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

UC San Diego School of Medicine ( email )

9500 Gilman Drive
MC 0507
La Jolla, CA 92093
United States

HOME PAGE: http://jhfowler.ucsd.edu

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