If you want to know someone’s politics, ask about his or her child rearing believes, and you’ll get a pretty good idea if the person will vote for the Democrats or the Republicans.
That’s the conclusion of a study cited by John Zaller in the January 26 lecture of his UCLA course Public opinion, mass media, parties, and elections (audio feed).
According to Zaller, asking about child rearing believes is a good proxy for asking about fundamental values. Thus researchers ask people to pick which is more important between a pair of child-rearing goals. For example, the respondents chose between
- independence versus respect for elders
- self-reliance versus obedience
- curiosity versus good manners
- being considerate versus being well behaved
- creativity versus discipline
People who choose mainly blue values tend to vote Democratic, and those who choose mainly red values choose to vote Republican. And people who have a mix of values tend to be swing voters who often make a political preference depending on how well the economy is doing.
Unfortunately Zaller does not give a citation for the study, but New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof recently wrote of similar research, which suggests that fundamentally different world views are behind our political preferences.
American politics decoded and explained