Monday, January 06, 2014

Children of activists less likely to share their parents' views as adults

Liberal Democrats tend not to approve of church schools, arguing that children should be left to form their own religious views later in life.

But, as I once pointed out in an article on the Guardian website, that is not how we behave when it comes to politics:
And it is not how Liberal Democrats behave in practice. One of the most important jobs on election day is getting the numbers from the tellers at the polling stations back to the committee room. And, having worked in many local byelections, I have come to the conclusion that the best people to do it are 10-year-olds on their bikes. They are quick and they insist on going back to the polling station every five minutes. 
You could say these children are too young to understand politics and should be kept out of it until they are old enough to make up their own minds. How can a 10-year-old be a Liberal Democrat or a supporter of any other party? 
But they have the rest of their lives to get cynical and bored by politics, to remain in the Liberal Democrats or rebel by joining the Trotskyites or the Young Conservatives. In the mean time let them enjoy being part of something larger than themselves.
I thought of this passage when I read a piece on the London School of Economics blog EUROPP. Elias Dinas argues that children from politically engaged homes are less likely to share their parents' politics when they are adults than are children from other homes.

He argues that while you may well learn a tendency to be involved in politics from your parents, your later views will owe more to the political and social climate that pertained when you were a young adult.

Dinas writes:
A typical context within which many young adults find themselves is the university – a left-leaning institution. Consistent with the argument presented here, it turns out that offspring from right-wing politicised homes are more likely to shift towards a more left-wing direction than children that stem from less politicised right-wing families. 
Furthermore, when an important political event takes place, be it a war or a scandal, young adults from more politically active families are more likely to update their partisan preferences accordingly. 
The evidence shows that parent-child divergence is not confined to instances in which the political context prompts young people to develop more liberal stances. For instance, during the 1960s, the civil-rights movement led the American South away from the Democratic party. Consistent with the hypothesis advanced here, it was the young Southerners growing up in politically engaged homes who primarily drove the shift away from the Democrats.
So enjoy those helpful Lib Dem children while you can.

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