Friendships moderate an association between a dopamine gene variant and political ideology

Jaime E. Settle, Christopher T. Dawes, Nicholas A. Christakis, James H. Fowler

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

    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.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)1189-1198
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Politics
    Volume72
    Issue number4
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Oct 1 2010

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science

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