Every day we see news about foreign policy on TV or in newspapers. A state’s foreign policy is its strategies concerning its interactions with other states, such as becoming (or not becoming) a member of an economic union or intergovernmental military alliance. The establishment of the United Nations or the European Union is one example. Views on foreign policy can be classified as political preferences, and there has been growing enthusiasm for the use of molecular genetic data in social science research.
Recently, molecular genetic studies in economic and political behavior have drawn the attention of economists and political scientists because of their potential to predict behavior. Suppose a set of genetic markers is able to sufficiently lead to these predictions. In that case, scientists could use genetic markers as control variables, instrumental variables, or, under certain conditions, as factors for identifying at-risk individuals. However, most studies establishing genetic associations with economic and political traits typically have only had several hundred individuals. No study has used a sample larger than 3,000 individuals until more recently.
This study investigated the underlying genetic effects on economic and political preferences using single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNP) data obtained from 9,836 Swedish twins. A part of the Political Attitudes Battery was used to measure five dimensions of political preferences: immigration/crime, economic policy, environmentalism, feminism/equality, and foreign policy. As for measuring foreign policy, participants were asked to indicate their opinions of various proposals regarding the current government’s foreign policy. On each question, the respondents rated their attitude toward a policy on a 5-point scale from (1) “very good proposal” to (5) “very bad proposal.” This was used to measure whether someone's opinion was supportive or unsupportive of the foreign policy. Results showed that rs12125250 was associated with the foreign policy with suggestive significance: Allele C of rs12125250 showed the tendency to oppose the current foreign policy, and allele A showed the opposite trend in this study.
However, the analysis of SNPs did not reveal any genome-wide significance at an individual level. But, the researchers did note that the results are unsurprising in light of the more and more evidence that the effects of common variants on complex outcomes are small, especially in the context of social science traits. In addition, these results suggest that much of the “missing heritability” for social science traits reflects the fact that these traits have a complicated genetic architecture, and it’s difficult to explain more than small fractions of variations. Thus a larger smaller is needed to detect those variants. Read more about the study here:
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