Hyper-partisanship begins at home, apparently.
That at least is the surprising new finding from a large survey on parenting and family life conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. According to a survey of 3,243 adults in April and May of last year, the gap between red and blue child-rearing styles is as wide as that of Fox News and MSNBC.
For example, 81 percent of respondents with consistently conservative views consider it important to teach children religious faith, compared with only 26 percent of liberals. Meanwhile, 88 percent of liberals say that teaching tolerance is important, compared to a mere 41 percent of conservatives.
Respondents were asked to pick among 12 options which that were the most important values to teach children. Liberals picked creativity, curiosity and empathy for others; Conservatives picked religious faith and responsibility as the most characteristics. Liberals were least likely to name obedience as an important characteristic, while conservatives were least likely to name curiousitycuriosity.
Questioners determined the degree to which respondents were liberal or conservative by asking them a series of questions about their political attitudes, among them thoughts on the size and scope of government, the importance of the social safety net, and their feelings on immigration, homosexuality, business, the environment, foreign policy and race.
Those desperate to find a middle ground in this political muddle could find some silver linings in the survey findings. Across ideological grounds, respondents rated a number of qualities as important to teach children, including responsibility, hard work, good manners, helping others, independence and persistence.
The survey comes as the partisan divide in Washington—and in the nation as a whole—grows worse seemingly by the year. While in the past it was possible for bills to become law with a regional coalition, or with some conservative-leaning Democrats or Republicans from the big cities and the coasts, laws now mostly a function of which party has the upper hand in Congress. , as Lliberal lawmakers have been purged from red states, and conservative lawmakers have been tossed from blue ones.
The divide is reflected in the voting public, with ticket-splitting—the notion of voting one party for one office, and another for a different office—at a century-long low. Social scientists have speculated as to what explains this divide, and whether it is a combination of a partisan media environment, which allows news consumers to filter out information which that does not fit into their worldview, or a more mobile culture, which permits people to move near those who share like views.away from people they disagree with.
A succession of candidates for president have run for office promising to lower the partisan temperatures in Washington, from George W. Bush’s promise to be a “uniter, not a divider,” to Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign, which promised to turn the page on the partisan battles of the past. Even Hillary Clinton, who as first lady was one of the most divisive figures in the nation, has touted her ability to work across the aisle in her pre-campaign appearances.
If this latest survey research is to be believed, however, the political debate is a symptom of a divided nation, not a cause of it.
The full results can be seen here.