Vote May Widen Gap Between Children, Parents

November 1, 2008 at 6:50 am Leave a comment

Growing up in northeast Ohio, Tara Moncheck and her three younger
sisters were always taught to form their own opinions. Now they have. All four are voting for Democratic candidate Barack Obama. Their
parents are supporting Republican John McCain and voted for President
Bush in the last two elections.

“There was a chance I could have voted Republican,” said Moncheck, a
27-year-old television producer in New York who said she’s not
registered with any party. “Actually, I really liked John McCain in
2000 when he ran. This time around I feel Obama is a better candidate.”

In
some ways Moncheck and her sisters are an anomaly. The authors of “The
American Voter Revisited,” published this year, found that parents who
have the same party affiliation pass it to their children about 75
percent of the time.

But polling suggests that more children may break from their parents’ preferred candidate this election.

In
the latest Pew Research Survey, Obama enjoyed a nearly
45-percentage-point lead among 18-to-29-year-olds, a group that John
Kerry won by just 9 points in 2004. The same survey showed Obama had
only a 10-point lead with 50-to-64-year-olds.

In essence, it’s
more likely for a young liberal to be from a conservative family than
for a young conservative to come from a liberal family, said Mike
McDevitt, associate professor at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

McDevitt’s
research has found that young people who identify themselves as
Democrat or as liberals are programmed differently from their
conservative counterparts.

Almost 79 percent of students surveyed
in Colorado, North Carolina, Ohio and Pennsylvania who said they will
vote for McCain reported that their parents will vote the same way,
according to a CBS News/UWIRE/Chronicle of Higher Education poll out
this week. That compares to 58 percent of Obama supporters who said
they share the same candidate preference as their parents.

In
Washington, Sara Herbst, who was not part of the survey, said she would
fit into the additional 20 percent of Obama supporters in the CBS poll
who agree with one parent and not the other. She thinks her mom will
end up voting for Obama, but her dad is a registered Republican in
Westchester County, N.Y., who plans to vote for McCain.

“I
wouldn’t say I’m a die-hard liberal, but I am passionate about what I
believe and he’s passionate about what he believes,” said Herbst, a
23-year-old graphic designer for a Democratic political marketing
company in Washington. “It can cause conflict just walking through the
kitchen.”

Jonathan Herbst said he’s not disappointed his daughter has branched off politically.

“I wouldn’t want Sara to have only my views,” he said. “Sara is 23, and I’m 58. I was once her age.”

Whether
it’s a single issue or a complete partisan shift, some young people are
eager to separate themselves from their parents, McDevitt said.

“That’s
just a normal, healthy part of human development,” he said. “Children
need to assert an identity that is at least somewhat autonomous from
parents.”

Some are not convinced that there will be an extraordinary number of parent-child political splits this year.

Kent
Jennings, a political science professor at University of California in
Santa Barbara, has studied shared political party and candidate
preference among parents and children since 1965. In a study following
the same sets of parents and children and eventually the children’s
children, he found remarkably similar rates of agreement through 1997.

“In
1964, for example, there was a huge tide toward the Democratic side, so
you had kids who were defecting from their Republican parents,”
Jennings said. “I doubt if we have that much of a tide this year.”

McDevitt
said a lot has changed over the last 10 years, particularly the
influence of the media and Internet social networks. College students
are no longer just concerned with the job market but whether the jobs
will offer health insurance, he said.

Then there is the Obama
factor. His unique appeal with young voters and his aggressive Internet
campaign to mobilize them could also contribute to a wider separation
between parents and offspring this election, McDevitt said.

Source: AP

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