Special Issue: Genes and Politics
Over the course of the last 30 years of research, the view that preferences are almost exclusively environmentally driven has eroded. Over the last 5 years in particular, it has become widely accepted that genetic factors contribute to individual differences in political and social behaviors. This special issue recognizes how research has begun to link genetic findings to broader aspects of political behaviors. The articles included strive to move beyond discovery and focus more on the integration of behavioral genetic models with mainstream theories of political behavior to analyze problems of interest to political scientists. This special issue is designed to answer: where are we now; where can we go with the use of genetic analysis; and why and how do genes matter for understanding complex and important political behaviors.
A recent stream of influential research suggests that the inclusion of behavioral genetic models can further inform our understanding of political preferences and behaviors. But it has often remained unclear what these models mean, or how they might matter for the broader discourse in the political science literature. The initial wave of behavioral genetic research focused on foundational discovery, and has begun to outline the basic properties of genetic influence on political traits, while a second wave of research has begun to link genetic findings to broader aspects of political behaviors. In the introduction to this special issue, we explicate how genes operate, the most common forms of behavioral genetic analyses, and their recent applications toward political behaviors. In so doing, we discuss what these findings mean for political science, and describe how best to interpret them. We note potential limitations of behavioral genetic approaches and remain cautious against the overextension of such models. The five articles that follow strive to move beyond discovery and focus more on the integration of behavioral genetic models with mainstream theories of political behavior to analyze problems of interest to political scientists.
Peter K Hatemi, Enda Byrne and Rose McDermott (2012). Introduction: What is a ‘gene’ and why does it matter for political science? Journal of Theoretical Politics, 24 (3) : 10.1177/0951629812437752;