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The Heritability of Foreign Policy Preferences

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2012

Skyler J. Cranmer*
Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina, USA
Christopher T. Dawes
Department of Politics, New York University, USA
Address for Correspondence: Skyler J. Cranmer, Department of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 311 Hamilton Hall, CB#3265, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-3265, USA. Email:


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Attitudes towards foreign policy have typically been explained by ideological and demographic factors. We approach this study from a different perspective and ex amine the extent to which foreign policy preferences correspond to genetic variation. Using data from the Minnesota Twin Family Study, we show that a moderate share of individual differences in the degree to which one's foreign policy preferences are hawkish or dovish can be attributed to genetic variation. We also show, based on a bivariate twin model, that foreign policy preferences share a common genetic source of variation with political ideology. This result presents the possibility that ideology may be the causal pathway through which genes affect foreign policy preferences.

Special Section: The Intersection of Behavioral Genetics and Political Science
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012