Just like your mom and dad

Research shows political views can be influenced by your parents.

Brian Arola

As students prepare to vote in the upcoming election, their parents’ views may weigh more heavily into their decisions than they realize.

Research has shown that parents can have an enormous influence on their children’s political leanings.

The process is called political socialization, and there are three generations of evidence on the subject, said Laura Stoker, associate political science professor at University of California-Berkeley.

Researchers began interviewing subjects in 1965, but Stoker said she came on in 1997 for the fourth wave of data.

“A lot of what we’re trying to do is look at how the political views the parents express while the child is still in the home help us understand the child’s political views and behavior as they move through adulthood,” she said.

Stoker said politically outspoken parents are most likely to influence their
offspring.

“Most of [the research] demonstrates that especially parents that are politically involved and put out the same message year after year tend to produce children that have political views very similar to the parents,” Stoker said.

Along with political involvement, there are other factors involved in their influence on their kids.

“The socialization is strongest when the parents are very vocal, both parents agree and both parents communicate the same kind of messages year after year when the child is going through their pre-teen and adolescent years,” she said.

Researchers are also looking into whether genetics play some role in political views, Stoker said.

She said genetic inheritance could be what has been previously thought of as parental influence.

Stoker said that, in political socialization research, the college timeframe is known as “the impressionable years.”

“As young people leave home and move into independence for the first time, it’s the place in a life cycle where there’s maximal change,” she said.

Students weigh in

University of Minnesota students were uncertain whether their parents have influenced their own political beliefs.

Elementary education sophomore Kate Schumacher said she wanted to find a different view from her mom while growing up and ended up being influenced by other members of her family.

“My brother, he’s older than me, so I guess he formed my opinions more greatly than my mom,” Schumacher said.

Astrophysics freshman Modi Hammarstedt  said his parents’ liberal views “definitely” influenced him growing up, but being away from them has changed him a little.

“Now that I’m away from home, I’m broadening my horizons and taking more in,” he said. “But [my views are] probably not going to change that much.”

Communication studies senior Liv Sherman said her parents didn’t talk much about politics growing up, but her political viewpoints still align with them.

“I’m pretty far left. I’m a democrat,” Sherman said. “And both my parents are democrats.”