Poll: Liberal Parents Focus On Creativity, Tolerance; Conservatives On Obedience, Religion

Image via Flickr

Image via Flickr

A new poll found that liberal parents put a much greater emphasis on teaching their children to be creative and tolerant towards others, while conservative ones focus on ensuring children are obedient and religious. And doesn’t that just sum up our nation’s ideological divide right there?

According to a recently released survey done by Pew Research Center, there is a lot of commonality between American parents. In almost every category, there is little difference between conservative and liberal parents. This isn’t surprising, because there are some things that every parent agrees is important to a child’s well being. Every parent wants, for example, to teach their child to be responsible and hard-working. Consequently, most parents surveyed reported feeling very passionately about imparting a sense of responsibility and work ethic into their children.

In fact, lots of categories looked like that. Here is what Pew found to be the most commonly shared priorities:

9-17-2014_03But there are differences. And while they may not be exactly revolutionary, they may help to explain why it sometimes feels like conservatives and liberals are talking passed each other.

When it comes to certain life lessons, conservative parents and liberal parents are completely different animals. Which are the biggest?

In the case of liberals, one of the highest priorities is to teach their children to be tolerant of other people and ideas. A full 88 percent of those who identify as “consistently liberal” said they find tolerance to be of the utmost importance. Conservatives, not so much. The same question, put to those who are “consistently conservative,” found that just 41 percent felt “tolerance” was important for kids to learn.

In another example, liberals were adamant about teaching their children things like creativity, curiosity and empathy. In all three categories, almost all of the most consistently liberal parents felt strongly about these issues. Conservatives couldn’t be more different. In “empathy,” for example, just 55 percent said they felt it was important their children learned to empathize with others.

That isn’t to suggest that conservative parents were just more apathetic to their children’s learning in general. There were other things that conservatives felt strongly about.

For one, conservatives were much more committed to teaching their children about religion . Over 80 percent of the conservative parents felt that this was vitally important, but as parents moved from more conservative to less, the “religious faith” priority fell off drastically. Just 26 percent of consistently liberal parents felt the same way (cue the “godless liberals” stereotype).

Pew speculated that this has to do with how important religion is to the parent. If they feel strongly about their own faith, then that passion is projected onto their children.

The relationship between ideology and opinions about the importance of teaching religious faith is partly, but not wholly, explained by the strong association between religious affiliation and ideological consistency. About four-in-ten (42%) consistent liberals are religiously unaffiliated, compared with just 6% of consistent conservatives. However, differences among ideological groups in these opinions hold even after controlling for religious affiliation and demographic factors.

Another area that liberals and conservatives disagreed was on teaching their children to be obedient. Very conservative parents felt the strongest about this compared to every other group. Very liberal parents placed the least importance in it.

While certainly not the only factor, there is research to suggest that these differences in parenting account for who children grow up to be (and what they grow up to believe). In a widely cited study published in the journal Psychological Science in 2012, researchers found that parents who focused on discipline, punishment, and obsessive adherence to rules raised kids who were much more likely to grow up to become conservatives.

Pacific Standard explains:

Those who strongly agreed with such statements as “the most important thing to teach children is absolute obedience to whoever is in authority” were categorized as holding authoritarian parenting attitudes. Those who robustly endorsed such sentiments as “children should be allowed to disagree with their parents” were categorized as holding egalitarian parenting attitudes.

“Parents who endorsed more authoritarian parenting attitudes when their children were one month old were more likely to have children who were conservative in their ideologies at age 18,” the researchers report. “Parents who endorsed more egalitarian parenting attitudes were more likely to have children who were liberal.”

It’s important to note that being a conservative doesn’t necessarily mean you are, by default, an authoritarian parent. The study merely shows that those who emphasize that belief system often wind up making mini-Mitt Romneys.

So next time you see a Fox News pundit lament the fact that political correctness is taking away his right to discipline his child, just remember that ensuring that his children are obedient is extremely important to him. It is no wonder that he feels such anger over it. You might as well be telling him he can’t teach his children about Jesus.