In newly published findings that challenge earlier research, Dalton Conley of New York University and Emily Rauscher of the University of Kansas found that having more daughters than sons and having a daughter first “significantly reduces the likelihood of Democratic identification and significantly increases the strength of Republican Party identification.”
Not only is the daughter effect statistically significant, it’s substantively large. They found that overall, “compared to those with no daughters, parents with all daughters are 14% less likely to identify as a Democrat….[and] 11% more likely to identify as a Republican than parents with no daughters,” they write in the journal Sociological Forum.
As a woman with a daughter, I’m perhaps qualified to theorize about this. But as a woman who’s been sure about her ideological and policy leanings from about the age of 8, I’m perhaps not a good analog for the average parent of daughters. This study challenges the findings of other studies, which have found at different times that politicians with more daughters vote more liberally or that having more daughters increases indentification with the Liberal and Labor Parties in Britain.
I imagine liberals looking to scorn their conservative counterparts would credit parents’ literally paternalistic view of their daughters with a tendency toward what they view as the allegedly paternalistic, patriarchal treatment of women by the GOP. These rubes, their thinking goes, just want to “control” women because they’re super-scared of vaginas. But this bit seems to cut against that theory:
The daughters effect is considerably stronger among better educated and wealthier parents, they find. But among those farther down the socioeconomic ladder, it weakens to statistical insignificance.
Are the highly educated generally among those basing their public policy on debilitating vagina fear? As a woman who believes the Democratic Party is the platonic form of paternalism when it comes to speaking to women, I have different thoughts. The researchers’ theory:
But why would having a daughter cause parents to become more Republican? The authors speculate that men and women might want more socially conservative policies when they have daughters and thus be more attracted to the GOP.
That may be true, but isn’t it possible it has something to do with the Democratic Party’s incessant appeal to women voters as if they are only sexual organs? Every discussion is about vaginas. Every bit of rhetoric is uterus-related. The party assumes that every single decision a woman makes is based on access to abortion and a mythical threat to birth control. Perhaps living with actual women allows one to see the possibility that they think about tax policy and education and, gasp!, foreign affairs. I can imagine this approach to politics and women might be off-putting to some who love their wives, daughters, and sisters. Just a thought.
Another recent study seems to back up the researchers’ guess, when it comes to brothers who grow up with sisters:
“Having sisters makes males more politically conservative in terms of their gender role attitudes and their partisanship,” they wrote. “Particularly for gender role attitudes, we find that these political socialization effects persist until respondents are well into adulthood.”
The analysis is based on surveys of more than 3,000 individuals each that were conducted in 2006 and 2008 as part of the ongoing National Longitudinal Survey of Youth’s Children and Young Adults. The survey series, which began in 1987, follows the progress of children 10 years of age and older who were born to women who participated in an earlier large-sample survey fielded by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Respondents were in their 20s and 30s at the time of the 2008 survey, though most of the respondents “were on the young side of this range,” the authors wrote…
At the extreme, they found that young men who grew up with sisters but no brothers in their household are 8.3 percentage points more likely to identify with the Republican Party than boys who grow up with only brothers.