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
Date Written: June 8, 2008
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.
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