Over the last few election seasons, we have been treated/subjected to the shallow labeling and pigeonholing that comes with terms like “soccer moms,” “security moms,” and “NASCAR dads.” There are assuredly more terms to bandy about (some less flattering than others) but the whole idea behind corralling these vast groups of people/parents into generalized groups with catchy monikers, is the notion that they (these parental voting blocks) all hold comparable political beliefs. In someway, shape, or form, parenthood (and specifically the type of parenting you engage in) definitively informs your political belief system. Parenting has become politicized.
Now comes sociological research out of North Carolina State University that asserts that the role of parenthood is moving mothers and fathers in opposite directions on political issues surrounding social welfare, education, and the very timely subject of health care. From data gathered from the recent 2008 presidential election, researchers noticed a trend revealing mothers moving toward a more liberal line of thinking, whereas fathers were decidedly more conservative. “Parenthood seems to heighten the political ‘gender gap,’ with women becoming more liberal and men more conservative when it comes to government spending on social welfare issues,” says Dr. Steven Greene, an associate professor of political science at North Carolina State and co-author of the study.
Now the details of the study are brief (to say the least) but the theory presented here suggests that the sheer act of parenting moves men and women in vastly different ways. Women, according to this study, become more permissive and compassionate, whereas men become more resolute and less broadminded when it comes to the social issues associated with social welfare, health care and education.
So this information predictably brings forth a few questions: By assuming the responsibilities of parenthood, are we also subtly (or not so subtly) changing our worldview? Does this ideological fissure represent foreseeable problems between mother and father in the near future? Or can this break be seen as consistent with other gender gap issues? How does this political spilt affect the children? And lastly (I had to ask), are same sex parents immune to this issue/phenomenon?
I, along with all of our fellow Care2 readers, would love to read what you have to say.
Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, N.Y. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.