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Journal Article

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

Jaime E. Settle, Christopher T. Dawes, Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler
The Journal of Politics
Vol. 72, No. 4 (Oct., 2010), pp. 1189-1198
DOI: 10.1017/s0022381610000617
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1017/s0022381610000617
Page Count: 10
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Friendships Moderate an Association between a Dopamine Gene Variant and Political Ideology
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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 or combination of variants associated with political ideology have so far been identified. Here, we hypothesize that individuals with a genetic predisposition toward 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. Among those with DRD4-7R, we find that the number of friendships a person has in adolescence is significantly associated with liberal political ideology. Among those without the gene variant, there is no association. This is the first study 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 political preferences.

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