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Trickle Up Political Socialization: The Impact of Kids Voting USA on Voter Turnout in Kansas

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Abstract

Can a school curriculum influence the political socialization of students? And if so, can such socialization “trickle up” to influence the political socialization of these students' parents? We examine the effects of Kids Voting USA in Kansas to answer these questions. By the 1996 presidential election, Kids Voting was implemented in several Kansas counties. Consequently, we are able to compare turnout—and change in turnout across different elections—in such counties with those that did not adopt the program. After controlling for a variety of county-level characteristics that are likely to affect turnout, regression analyses indicate a positive and significant contribution of Kids Voting to county turnout, and change in turnout across elections. We address the practical implications of this study and emphasize its theoretical contribution to theories of political socialization.
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State Politics and Policy Quarterly, Vol. 2, No. 1 (Spring 2002): pp. 24–36
Trickle Up Political Socialization: The Impact
of Kids Voting USA on Voter Turnout in Kansas
Amy Linimon, University of Kansas
Mark R. Joslyn, University of Kansas
abst rac t
Can a school curriculum influence the political socialization of students? And if so,
can such socialization “trickle up” to influence the political socialization of these
students’ parents? We examine the effects of Kids Voting USA in Kansas to answer
these questions. By the 1996 presidential election, Kids Voting was implemented in
several Kansas counties. Consequently, we are able to compare turnout—and change
in turnout across different elections—in such counties with those that did not adopt
the program. After controlling for a variety of county-level characteristics that are
likely to affect turnout, regression analyses indicate a positive and significant con-
tribution of Kids Voting to county turnout, and change in turnout across elections.
We address the practical implications of this study and emphasize its theoretical
contribution to theories of political socialization.
As Americans continue to believe that voter turnout is on the decline
(McDonald and Popkin N.d.), concerned citizens and political organiza-
tions have promoted various programs to increase political participation.
For example, the 1993 federal Motor Voter law was designed to encourage
turnout by removing administrative barriers to voter registration. Several
states have attempted to reduce other costs of voting with early voting pro-
grams (Stein 1998). Still other programs, such as MTV’s “Rock the Vote,”
have focused on mobilizing youth, an increasingly detached segment of the
electorate (Burgess et al. 2000). However, while each of these programs of-
fers a unique approach to stimulating turnout, they all tend to treat political
participation superficially. Simplified registration processes and short-term
social incentives fail to affect the more fundamental political socialization
that is ultimately responsible for shaping many political behaviors (Jennings
and Niemi 1981; Sears 1990).
In contrast, the goal of Kids Voting USA is to socialize children to politi-
cal affairs early and broadly (Carlin and Wagner 1993; Simon and Merrill
1998). The program targets elementary and secondary students with a special
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spring 2002 / state politics and policy quarterly 25
school curriculum that culminates in actual ballot participation in mock
elections. Kids Voting also encourages children to accompany their parents
to the polls on Election Day, where special ballots are provided for students
to cast their votes for president. The designers of the program anticipate that
its benefits will be two-fold (Kids Voting USA 2000). First, children receiving
information about candidates, issues, and the electoral process will be more
politically active as adults. Second, the parents of children participating in
the program will be more likely to vote, since they may escort their children
to the polls on Election Day.
Thus, while Kids Voting may increase voter turnout in the long run—as
children participating in the program turn 18 and begin to vote at a higher
rate than they would have otherwise—it is also possible that adults involved
with the program, whether as parents, educators, or volunteers, will be more
likely to vote in the short run. Kids Voting USA highlights this effect on their
web site, claiming that voter turnout has increased 5–10 percent where the
program has been adopted.1 Several published studies have focused on the
sort of “second chance socialization” that Kids Voting implies, especially
among those of low economic status (McDevitt and Chaffee 1998; Simon
and Merrill 1998). But a direct linkage between Kids Voting and voter turnout
has yet to be established firmly.
Kids Voting also offers a test of political socialization theory. In sharp
contrast to established top-down models of political socialization, where
children are seen as adopting their parents’ political orientations (Greenstein
1965), Kids Voting suggests a “trickle-up” effect of children on parents. If Kids
Voting does lead to higher turnout among adults, we may need to consider
alternative models of political socialization.
Thus, this article explores the effects of Kids Voting on voter turnout for
both theoretical and practical reasons. Specifically, we compare turnout for
the 1996 presidential contest in Kansas counties where the program was in
place prior to the election to those where it was not. Our findings indicate
that indeed Kids Voting increased voter turnout in the short run. Additional
analyses also show that in counties adopting Kids Voting, turnout increased
over time and that first time voters in Kids Voting counties voted at a higher
rate than their counterparts in other counties. We conclude with a discus-
sion of the implications of these results for the larger literatures on political
socialization and voting behavior.
kids voting usa
Kids Voting USA is a voter participation program created to address declining
turnout across the nation (Simon and Merrill 1998). Based in Arizona, Kids
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26 linimon and joslyn
Voting began in 1988 on a limited basis in six Arizona communities. By 1992,
a national pilot program was initiated in 11 states, and Kids Voting has now
been implemented in 40 states. Kansas has the second largest program in the
country, behind Arizona. In 1996, approximately 165,000 Kansas students
participated in the program.2
The Kids Voting K-12 curriculum emphasizes cooperative learning,
group problem-solving, and hands-on experiences. For example, grade
school students participate in classroom elections and role-playing, while
high school students consider policy alternatives within a structured debate
format. Teachers generally dedicate several classroom hours to Kids Voting
in the fall prior to an election (Simon and Merrill 1998). The program thus
depends heavily on classroom teachers’ participation, but assistance from
school administrators and hundreds of community volunteers on Election
Day is also required. Kids Voting also relies on large corporate donations
for funding. Businesses such as JC Penney, Blockbuster Video, and Price
Waterhouse have not only supported the program financially, they have also
lent it credibility through visible public support. Finally, Kids Voting involves
parents. Homework assignments invite children to discuss candidates and
issues with parents and other family members. These assignments are de-
signed to reinforce classroom instruction and to enhance parents’ interest in
electoral politics. Perhaps most importantly, parents are encouraged to take
their children with them to vote at the Kids Voting booth on Election Day. The
booths are located in actual election polling sites, thereby permitting parents
to vote with their children. It is this partnership with schools, community
leaders, businesses, and parents that lead its advocates to suggest that Kids
Voting will not only have an impact on the students’ political socialization,
but also that it will have the important secondary effect of increasing the
political awareness and participation of the adults involved in it.
political socialization and school curriculum
The genesis of much political socialization research has been in concerns
about how to socialize children and adolescents into those political orienta-
tions and behaviors that are valued by adults and society (Sears 1990). Early
on, scholars identified the family as the primary agent of political socializa-
tion (Berelson, Lazarsfeld, and McPhee 1954; Campbell et al. 1960; Hyman
1959), although schools were seen as important secondary agents (Almond
and Verba 1963; Greenstein 1965; Easton and Dennis 1969). More recently,
researchers have emphasized the mass media (Atkin and Gantz 1978; Chaffee
and Yang 1990) and political events as influences on pre-adult political de-
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spring 2002 / state politics and policy quarterly 27
velopment (Sears and Valentino 1997).
According to Hess and Torney (1967), the elementary school plays a
key role in shaping beliefs and attitudes about political processes (see also
Almond and Verba 1963). In the earliest grades, children appear to form
supportive opinions toward political affairs (Moore, Lare, and Wagner 1985),
and by grades 4–8, they begin to use voting and representative institutions
when explaining government (Dennis 1973). Greenstein observed (1965,
1), “during the first five years of elementary school, children move from
near—but not complete—ignorance of adult politics to awareness of most
of the conspicuous features of the adult political arena.”
However, while schools generally appear to be instrumental in developing
support for the existing political system, research on the effects of specific
curricula has produced inconsistent findings. The most influential of the ini-
tial research in this area (Langton and Jennings 1968; Riccards 1973; Jennings,
Ehrman, and Niemi 1974) showed that students’ exposure to, for example,
civics courses was essentially irrelevant to their level of political interest,
discussion, and general participatory orientation. Early scholars rarely found
that curriculum innovation of any type influenced political behavior outside
the classroom (Patrick 1977). In contrast, more recent research suggests a
civics curriculum may contribute to political learning (Niemi and Junn 1998;
Conway, Damico, and Damico 1996; Klassen 1992). For example, Chaffee,
Morduchowicz, and Galperin (1997) found a link between a program using
local newspapers in grades 5 and 6 and students’ exposure to and interest
in opinion expression, tolerance of diversity, and discussion of politics with
family and friends.
Existing studies of Kids Voting tend to support this more recent literature.
Examining public and private schools in San Jose, California, McDevitt and
Chaffee (1998) demonstrated that the Kids Voting curriculum increased
students’ attention to the news media, initiated discussion of political affairs
with friends, and increased expression of opinions on political issues. The
effects of the program were found to transfer to the home, as well. Parents
with children in Kids Voting increased their use of the news media, were more
likely to discuss politics and know more about the candidates, and increased
the frequency of partisan expression. Other studies have linked Kids Voting
to voter turnout. For example, using survey data and voter turnout figures,
Simon and Merrill (1998) found that adult turnout was higher and student
discussion about elections greater in areas with Kids Voting in the schools,
relative to comparable areas without Kids Voting (see also Chaffee, Pan, and
McLeod 1995). This trickle-up effect of children on parents was especially
prominent in families of lower socio-economic status.
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28 linimon and joslyn
While these initial studies of Kids Voting are promising for its support-
ers’ claims, the validity of their conclusions is nevertheless threatened by
confounding the effect of selection with that of socialization (Cook and
Campbell 1979; Langton and Jennings 1968). That is, is the higher voter
turnout in an area caused by its use of Kids Voting, or did that area adopt
Kids Voting because of some heightened interest in politics? Simon and
Merrill (1998) carefully qualified their conclusions in this respect, noting
several research design limitations that prohibited more definitive conclu-
sions regarding cause and effect. We consider these issues in greater detail
in the next section.
More generally, Kids Voting poses interesting questions and opportuni-
ties for political socialization scholars. For instance, if former Kids Voting
students voted at higher rates than those who had never been in the program,
this would be evidence of the capacity of school curricula to affect student
behavior, at least in the short-run. We explore this possibility by examining
first-time voters in Kansas. Also, if Kids Voting is associated with higher adult
turnout levels overall, we may infer that school curricula not only affected
students, but that children may also have an influence on their parents’
political socialization. This could lead to a broadening of the established
top-down model of political socialization, in which influence is assumed to
flow unidirectionally from parent to child. If this is true, schools may serve
as a central socializing agent, activating the child’s political interests while
prompting second-chance socialization of parents (McDevitt and Chaffee
1998). More profoundly, this would be evidence of behavioral, as opposed
to simple attitudinal, change resulting from Kids Voting, behavior that tran-
scends the classroom and impacts the larger community.
data and methods
To examine the relationship between voter turnout and Kids Voting, we ex-
ploited the quasi-experimental condition that existed in Kansas during the
1996 presidential election. By 1996, 16 counties in Kansas, or 15 percent, had
implemented the Kids Voting curriculum in their schools. Given advocates’
expectations for the program, these counties should have, ceteris paribus,
higher voter turnout than those counties without the program. Of course,
separating the potential effects of Kids Voting from other factors influencing
voter turnout is an important component of this study.3
The dependent variable is the reported level of turnout in each of Kansas’s
105 counties, measured as the number of votes recorded for president in the
1996 general election in each county divided by the county population. By
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using this proportion, we control for population differences among counties.4
The office of the Kansas Secretary of State made available these data.
The presence or absence of a Kids Voting program in a county is the
key independent variable. From Kansas’s Kids Voting USA fact sheet, we
constructed a dummy variable with a value of 1 for counties where the pro-
gram was in place prior to the 1996 presidential election, and 0 otherwise.
Approximately 15 percent of the 105 Kansas counties used Kids Voting in
their schools in 1996 or before.5
In our statistical model, we control for other factors that may influence
county turnout rate. Most of our controls are individual-level characteristics
aggregated by county. Since age is an important predictor of voter turnout
(Rosenstone and Hansen 1993), the median age for each county is included
in our models. The racial composition of counties is also included. Although
differences in turnout rates between blacks and whites have decreased over
the years, a disparity remains, even after controlling for socioeconomic status
(Abramson and Claggett 1984). Accordingly, we anticipate an inverse rela-
tionship between county turnout and the percentage of minority residents.
Education is also a strong determinant of voting behavior (Wolfinger and
Rosenstone 1980), and we model it as measured by the proportion of college-
educated people in a county. Similarly, because higher income is associated
with higher turnout, we include per capita income for each county in our
models. We recognize the potential effects of gender on voting behavior by
including the percentage of men living in a county.6 Finally, we control for
the impact of electoral competition by including the absolute difference be-
tween votes cast for the top two presidential candidates in 1996 in a county
(Franklin and Hirczy de Mino 1998). We expect more competitive counties
to exhibit higher turnout than less competitive ones. In formal terms, our
model is given by the following equation:
Turnout 96 = b0 + b1(KVUSA) + b2(education) + b3(age) + b4(gender)
+ b5 (minorities) + b6(income) + b7(electoral competition) + e
analysis results
Model 1 in Table 1 presents ordinary least squares (OLS) regression estimates
from our model of voter turnout in Kansas counties in the 1996 presidential
election. In Model 1, the coefficient estimates for education, age, minority
population, and income, are statistically significant with the anticipated sign.
More important for our purposes, the presence of Kids Voting programs in
a county’s schools is estimated to be associated with higher voter turnout,
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and the coefficient is statistically significant. Even after controlling for other
factors, turnout in Kids Voting counties was approximately 2.1 percent higher
than in non-Kids Voting counties.7
Thus, this first cut at the data supports the hypothesis that Kids Voting
mobilizes adult voters. However, recall that selection problems in previous
research resulted in the inability to conclude whether variation in turnout
was a result of Kids Voting or rather that existing differences among regions
led to the adoption of the program in the first place. We address this issue
by controlling for a county’s past voter turnout for three reasons. First, this
allows us to control for any county-level characteristics that could affect
turnout but that were left out of our original model. Second, as a purely
probabilistic matter, high levels of county turnout are unlikely to be followed
by even higher turnout levels. Including a pre-1996 county turnout measure
in our model controls for this tendency of regression toward the mean (Cook
and Campbell 1979; Campbell and Kenny 1999). Third, and most important,
the presence of prior county turnout levels in the model fundamentally alters
the interpretation of the estimated relationships in a manner consistent with
our goal of determining causality. By including a county’s prior turnout in
the model, the coefficients of the other independent variables will indicate
their impact on the change in county turnout between past elections and
Table 1. Kids Voting and Turnout in Kansas Counties—1996 Presidential Election
Independent Variables Model 1 Model 2 Model 3
Kids Voting .021** .020** .082*
(.011) (.009) (.036)
Prior turnout .386*
(.078)
Education .258* .191** .629**
(.105) (.095) (.325)
Age .009* .007* .012
(.001) (.001) (.007)
Gender –.135 –.020 2.405**
(.337) (.306) (1.31)
Minority –.480* –.352* –.222
(.092) (.087) (.271)
Income .000003* .000001** .000
(.000) (.000) (.000)
Electoral competition –.000 –.000 .000
(.008) (.000) (.000)
Constant .072 –.032 –1.129
(.182) (.165) (.797)
R2 .73 .78 .49
N 105 105 28
*p < .01, ** p < .05 one-tail tests. OLS estimates. Standard errors in parentheses.
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spring 2002 / state politics and policy quarterly 31
the 1996 election (Finkel 1995). This provides a conservative, yet appropri-
ate, test for the effect of our key explanatory variable and gives leverage on
the critical issue of causality by allowing us to compare change in turnout
within counties across time, in addition to the cross-sectional across-county
comparison that our first model provided.8 Turnout for the 1992, 1988, and
1984 presidential elections was averaged for each county to serve as our
measure of prior turnout.9
Model 2 in Table 1 presents OLS estimates for the voter turnout change
model. These estimates show that Kids Voting enhanced a county’s growth
in turnout in 1996. This estimate indicates that turnout change was 2.0
percent higher in Kids Voting counties than in non-Kids Voting counties.
Importantly, this effect emerges even after controlling for the substantial
impact of prior turnout, as well as for other independent variables.
In our final model, we explore how having participated in Kids Voting
affected first-time voters. The Kansas Secretary of State provided us with
the percentage of registered 18–year-olds who voted in 1996, but only in 28
counties. Fortunately, 12 of these 28 counties adopted Kids Voting prior to
1996. Although not from an ideal research design, these data make possible
a tentative comparison of voting rates among 18–year-olds in Kids Voting
counties versus non-Kids Voting counties.10 Overall, the average turnout in
1996 for 18–year-olds was 59 percent in Kids Voting counties and 53 percent
in the remaining counties in this sample. Model 3 in Table 1 examines this
relationship in a multivariate context. After accounting for key county-level
characteristics, this difference is statistically significant, with higher turnout
for 18–year-olds in Kids Voting counties. Although we cannot assess causality
with these data, they are clearly suggestive of a direct effect of Kids Voting
on 18–year-old’s voting behavior.
discussion
Our analyses have demonstrated that Kids Voting USA increases political
participation. After controlling for relevant county-level demographics and
electoral characteristics, we have shown that Kids Voting programs enhance
county-level voter turnout (Model 1). Not only did the Kansas counties in
our data set that had Kids Voting have higher turnout than those that did not,
but Kids Voting also accelerated the change in turnout. Turnout increased
in 1996 disproportionately in those counties that had implemented Kids
Voting (Model 2). Finally, our results suggest that in Kids Voting counties,
18–year-olds facing their first presidential vote in 1996 participated in greater
numbers than their counterparts in non-Kids Voting counties. While these
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findings may not be surprising in light of the stated intentions of Kids Vot-
ing, our study represents the first hard evidence of the program’s behavioral
impact. The trickle-up effect of Kids Voting on the political participation of
parents demonstrated by prior survey research (McDevitt and Chaffee 1998)
is supported by our county-level analyses of voter turnout, as is the more
direct effect on first-time voters.
Our findings have several practical implications. While caution in gen-
eralizing these results beyond the Kansas experience is important, they are
nevertheless encouraging for proponents of Kids Voting and other programs
aimed at engaging the public politically (Johnson, Hays, and Hays 1998).
Policymakers should consider the potential of programs of this sort for in-
creasing a community’s stock of social capital (Putnam 1995). The partici-
pation of hundreds of community volunteers, school personnel, students,
and parents represents a considerable social network to address a range of
community needs, political or otherwise. While the structure of electoral
processes undoubtedly have a crucial impact on voter turnout, our findings
suggest that programs targeted at educating the public about such rules
are also important determinants of Election Day behavior (Burgess et al.
2000).
Perhaps more important, and surprising, are the implications of our
analyses for theories of political socialization. The apparent success of Kids
Voting USA invites rethinking of common assumptions about political so-
cialization. The fact that parents are mobilized by their children’s involvement
suggests that scholars should look more closely at the socialization influences
between parents and children. After decades of careful research documenting
the family’s dominance in shaping the political character of the young (Sears
1990), scholars should begin to probe the contribution of children to politi-
cal socialization within the family. The political values of older generations
will continue to be passed to younger generations, but children may renew
or spark parents’ interests in political affairs. Just as parents are viewed as
“middlepersons” in political socialization (Beck and Jennings 1972), having
received the political legacy of their own parents and then passing it on to
their children, the political experiences of children may reinforce or trigger
parents’ political motivations. The long-standing emphasis on top-down
models of political socialization has undoubtedly caused many researchers
to neglect this possibility (McDevitt and Chaffee 1998).
The disappointing results of many early studies of school-driven political
socialization discouraged educators from using their curricula to prepare
students to become active citizens in the larger democratic society. Our results
contradict this initial pessimism and support the recent literature that sug-
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spring 2002 / state politics and policy quarterly 33
gests that school curricula can influence political socialization. Indeed, our
findings support a hopeful view of educational innovation in encouraging
a politically active, engaged, and informed citizenry.
endnote s
1. Kids Voting USA Online: http://kidsvotingusa.org/itworks.html
2. Kids Voting Kansas Online: http://kidsvotingkansas.org
3. Ideally, we would test these hypotheses with individual-level data. However, beyond
the survey evidence presented in Simon and Merrill (1998), we are unaware of any indi-
vidual-level data on the Kids Voting program. While we conduct our inquiry at a fairly low
level of aggregation, the county, we acknowledge the ecological inference issues involved
(King 1997). In this regard, we are careful to present our design and findings in the proper
context, referring to the county (as opposed to individuals within the county) as our unit
of analysis.
4. We measure turnout as the total votes cast in a county divided by the county’s 1990
population for several practical reasons. First, we were unable to obtain contemporary
data on the number of adults eligible to vote by county to use as the denominator in our
measure. The number of registered voters in each county was available, but inspection of
these data revealed significant problems. For example, several of the resulting proportions
were greater than one, indicating a greater number of votes cast than the number of vot-
ers registered in the county. (Note that Kansas does not have same day registration). The
major bias likely to emerge from using the 1990 county population as the denominator
for our measure is that significantly more youthful counties would show a lower turnout
rate than those without as many children. We attempt to address this by controlling for
median age in the county in our statistical models. Our measure would also be biased
if the counties had widely different rates of population change from 1990–96. However,
we have no evidence to suggest this.
5. Admittedly, this is a crude indicator of the extent of program use in a county. Kids
Voting reports statistics on the number of students “voting” on Election Day in each state,
but it does not report these figures at the county level. While the number of students
participating in Kids Voting in a county would be preferable to our dichotomous measure,
our measure is quite conservative and does not bias our analyses in favor of finding a
positive effect for the program.
6. County data for education, age, minorities, income, and gender were taken from the
Kansas Statistical Abstract (Helyar 1998).
7. We tested for heteroskedasticity with a visual inspection of residuals against several
of the independent variables and the Cook-Weisberg test. Neither approach indicated
the presence of a heteroskedastic disturbance.
8. When we use a difference in turnout measure as the dependent variable, while in-
cluding prior turnout as an independent variable, the substantive coefficient estimates
are identical to those reported in Model 2, but the variance accounted for by the model is
reduced by approximately 20 points. The greater predictive power in the reported model
accrues entirely because of the consistency between the average of previous turnout
measures and the 1996 turnout.
9. We averaged three previous elections to measure prior turnout mainly to avoid bias
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34 linimon and joslyn
due to the idiosyncrasies of a given national election. We are grateful to an anonymous
referee for bringing this point to our attention. However, conclusions drawn on the effect
of Kids Voting on turnout remain virtually the same when analyses of turnout change
are conducted separately for each of these three election years.
10. The 28 counties used in our analyses represented data from a prior work by the
authors (unpublished and quite informal analyses requested from the Secretary of State)
and were thus readily available upon request. Similar data for every county was more
difficult to obtain and beyond our resources.
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... Children's political knowledge is derived from a variety of sources. Parents and schools, for example, are important sources of political knowledge for children (Andolina, Jenkins, Zukin, & Keeter, 2003;Linimon & Joslyn, 2002;McIntosh, Hart, & Youniss, 2007). News media, such as television and newspapers, are also influential (Cho & McLeod, 2007;McDevitt, 2005;Sugarman, 2007). ...
... Evidence suggests that the type of civics education employed at the classroom or school level affects the type and depth of knowledge that students have about the political system. Much of this evidence stems from studies of special programs designed to increase political knowledge or participation (e.g., Kids Voting USA; Linimon & Joslyn, 2002;Meirick & Wackman, 2004). These studies demonstrate that school-based programs have the potential to influence students' political knowledge and attitudes. ...
... Parents may avoid discussing political topics with young children due to the belief that (a) children will not understand the relevant issues, (b) such topics are too distressing for young children, or (c) politics is irrelevant for young children and thus would bore them. It is also likely that exposure to information from nonparental sources (e.g., civics lessons or media exposure) will be greater for older children who, in turn, will be more likely than younger children to initiate political conversations with their parents (e.g., Linimon & Joslyn, 2002). ...
Article
In this monograph, we argue for the establishment of a developmental science of politics that describes, explains, and predicts the formation and change of individuals' political knowledge, attitudes, and behavior beginning in childhood and continuing across the life course. Reflecting our goal of contributing both theoretical conceptualizations and empirical data, we have organized the monograph into two broad sections. In the first section, we outline theoretical contributions that the study of politics may make to developmental science and provide practical reasons that empirical research in the domain of politics is important (e.g., for identifying ways to improve civics education and for encouraging higher voting rates among young adults). We also review major historical approaches to the study of political development and provide an integrative theoretical framework to ground future work. Drawing on Bronfenbrenner's ecological systems model as an organizing scheme and emphasizing social justice issues, we describe how factors rooted in cultural contexts, families, and children themselves are likely to shape political development. In the second section of the monograph, we argue for the importance and utility of studying major political events, such as presidential elections, and introduce the major themes, rationales, and hypotheses for a study of U.S. children's views of the 2016 U.S. presidential election. In addition, we apply a social-justice lens to political thought and participation, addressing the role of gender/sex and race/ethnicity in children's political development broadly, and in their knowledge and views of the 2016 U.S. presidential election specifically. In interviews conducted within the month before and after the election, we examined two overarching categories of children's political attitudes: (a) knowledge, preferences, and expectations about the 2016 election, and (b) knowledge and attitudes concerning gender/sex and politics, particularly relevant for the 2016 election given Hillary Clinton's role as the first female major-party candidate for the presidency. Participants were 187 children (101 girls) between 5 and 11 years of age (M = 8.42 years, SD = 1.45 years). They were recruited from schools and youth organizations in five counties in four U.S. states (Kansas, Kentucky, Texas, and Washington) with varying voting patterns (e.g., Trump voters ranged from 27% to 71% of county voters). The sample was not a nationally representative one, but was racially diverse (35 African American, 50 Latinx, 81 White, and 21 multiracial, Asian American, Middle Eastern, or Native American children). In addition to several child characteristics (e.g., age, social dominance orientation [SDO]), we assessed several family and community characteristics (e.g., child-reported parental interest in the election and government-reported county-level voting patterns, respectively) hypothesized to predict outcome variables. Although our findings are shaped by the nature of our sample (e.g., our participants were less likely to support Trump than children in larger, nationwide samples were), they offer preliminary insights into children's political development. Overall, children in our sample were interested in and knowledgeable about the presidential election (e.g., a large majority identified the candidates correctly and reported some knowledge about their personal qualities or policy positions). They reported more information about Donald Trump's than Hillary Clinton's policies, largely accounted for by the substantial percentage of children (41%) who referred to Trump's immigration policies (e.g., building a wall between the United States and Mexico). Overall, children reported as many negative as positive personal qualities of the candidates, with negative qualities being reported more often for Trump than for Clinton (56% and 18% of children, respectively). Most children (88%) supported Clinton over Trump, a preference that did not vary by participants' gender/sex or race/ethnicity. In their responses to an open-ended inquiry about their reactions to Trump's win, 63% of children reported negative and 18% reported positive emotions. Latinx children reacted more negatively to the election outcome than did White children. Girls' and boys' emotional responses to the election outcome did not differ. Children's personal interest in serving as U.S. president did not vary across gender/sex or racial/ethnic groups (overall, 42% were interested). Clinton's loss of the election did not appear to depress (or pique) girls' interest in becoming U.S. president. With respect to the role of gender/sex in politics, many children (35%) were ignorant about women's absence from the U.S. presidency. Only a single child was able to name a historical individual who worked for women's civil rights or suffrage. Child characteristics predicted some outcome variables. For example, as expected, older children showed greater knowledge about the candidates than did younger children. Family and community characteristics also predicted some outcome variables. For example, as expected, participants were more likely to support Trump if they perceived that their parents supported him and if Trump received a greater percentage of votes in the children's county of residence. Our data suggest that civic education should be expanded and reformed. In addition to addressing societal problems requiring political solutions, civics lessons should include the histories of social groups' political participation, including information about gender discrimination and the women's suffrage movement in U.S. political history. Providing children with environments that are rich in information related to the purpose and value of politics, and with opportunities and encouragement for political thought and action, is potentially beneficial for youth and their nations.
... Youth can also use these same communication pathways to exert influence on parents. For example, the trickle-up perspective suggests youth can learn about politics from self-directed news use, discussions with peers, and institutional sources such as public school curriculum, and then communicate the political information they acquire to parents via meaningful, youth-led interpersonal exchanges (e.g., Linimon & Joslyn, 2002;McDevitt, 2005;McDevitt & Chaffee, 1998, 2000Saphir & Chaffee, 2002). ...
... For instance, researchers have found that school-based interventions aimed at promoting political competence and engagement among adolescents can inspire them to initiate political discussions with parents. In turn, these discussions can stimulate parent political engagement and opinion formation (McDevitt & Chaffee, 1998), political information-seeking and news use (McDevitt & Chaffee, 2000), voting (Linimon & Joslyn, 2002; see also Dahlgaard, 2018), and "concept-oriented" family communication patterns that encourage unencumbered political expression and aid in political identity formation (McDevitt, 2005;Saphir & Chaffee, 2002). Such trickle-up effects on parents, it should be noted, are especially likely to occur among low socioeconomic status (SES) parents and parents who have little interest in politics due to a perceived lack of incentives or an absence of the material and cognitive resources needed to learn about politics. ...
Article
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Using data from a three-wave, parent–child panel survey and Slater’s Reinforcing Spirals Model (RSM) as an analytical framework, three rival communication pathways to political socialization are tested: “top-down” from parents to kids, “trickle-up” from kids to parents, and “reciprocal.” I ultimately document a trickle-up process whereby baseline levels of youth news use, and political discussion with peers predict future political discussion with parents. Implications for theorizing about communication processes that facilitate socialization and suggestions for modeling communication variables using parent–child dyadic data are discussed.
... For example, one study examined the effect of the Kansas kids voting program, a program aimed at educating children about voting. They found higher voter turnout rates among their parents of children participating in this program [50]. This example of "trickle up" socialization emphasizes what is identified in cultural socialization between children and their parents in how a child can positively influence an adult to make meaningful behavioral changes [51]. ...
Article
Full-text available
The idea of faculty engaging in meaningful dialogue with different publics instead of simply communicating their research to interested audiences has gradually morphed from a novel concept to a mainstay within most parts of the academy. Given the wide variety of public engagement modalities, it may be unsurprising that we still lack a comprehensive and granular understanding of factors that influence faculty willingness to engage with public audiences. Those nuances are not always captured by quantitative surveys that rely on pre-determined categories to assess scholars’ willingness to engage. While closed-ended categories are useful to examine which factors influence the willingness to engage more than others, it is unlikely that pre-determined categories comprehensively represent the range of factors that undermine or encourage engagement, including perceptual influences, institutional barriers, and scholars’ lived experiences. To gain insight into these individual perspectives and lived experiences, we conducted focus group discussions with faculty members at a large midwestern land-grant university in the United States. Our findings provide context to previous studies of public engagement and suggest four themes for future research. These themes affirm the persistence of institutional barriers to engaging with the public, particularly the expectations in the promotion process for tenure-track faculty. However, we also find a perception that junior faculty and graduate students are challenging the status quo by introducing a new wave of attention to public engagement. This finding suggests a “trickle-up” effect through junior faculty and graduate students expecting institutional support for public engagement. Our findings highlight the need to consider how both top-down factors such as institutional expectations and bottom-up factors such as graduate student interest shape faculty members’ decisions to participate in public engagement activities.
... Importantly, the direction of influence in political socialization does not only flow from parents to children; children are active agents in their own learning, and children's interest in politics can "trickle up" to influence parent-child conversations as well as parents' own political engagement (Linimon & Joslyn, 2002;McDevitt & Chaffee, 2002;Ojeda & Hatemi, 2015;Wong & Tseng, 2008;York, 2019). Thus, parents' perceptions of their children's interest in politics likely influence the parents' political socialization approaches. ...
Article
The current study examined parents’ attitudes toward political socialization and political socialization messages related to the 2020 United States presidential election, using a sample of 185 parents of 6‐ to 12‐year‐old children from across the United States. Overall, parents viewed political socialization as somewhat important. However, a meaningful number of parents indicated beliefs that political socialization was not important, that their children were too young to learn about politics, or a desire to shield their children from knowledge of politics. Parents reported engaging in a variety of socialization practices, but reported higher levels of indirect approaches to socialization (e.g., watching political news while the child was present) compared to more direct approaches (e.g., reading books about politics with the child). As with frequency, the content of parents’ socialization messages varied widely, including explicit endorsement of candidates and policies, messages about the importance of respecting all opinions, and messages related to negative partisanship. Parents’ political interest, engagement with politics, and extremity of political ideology predicted their approaches to socialization. Community‐level factors (e.g., heterogeneity of voting patterns) were largely unrelated to parents’ attitudes and practices.
... Trickle-up effects, whereby children influence parents or employees influence supervisors, have been identified in other areas. [33][34][35] In this project, the trickleup effect resulted in some parents reporting that the program was influencing their food choices at home. Additionally, some teachers commented on their improved dietary behaviors as a result of their schools participating in the program and are generally supportive of improving school nutrition, which is similar to findings in previous studies. ...
Article
Comprehensive multicomponent programs in schools include farm-to-school programs to address healthy eating. Little research has addressed parents’ and teachers’ perspectives on these programs as they are implemented. The implementation and evaluation of Good Food for Oxford Schools, a multicomponent farm-to-school program, included surveys of parent and teacher perspectives. Parents and teachers reported that the program increased students’ willingness to try new foods and increased students’ intake of fruits and vegetables. An unexpected outcome was noted, where parents reported that children discussed what they learned at home, and parents are increasing fruit and vegetable intake as a result.
... Although most research on political socialization emphasizes socialization practices directed by adults, it is also the case that children may serve as drivers of political socialization by initiating conversations with parents or other adults (Linimon & Joslyn, 2002;McDevitt, 2006). As with other sensitive or complex topics (Heath, Moulton, Dyches, Prater, & Brown, 2011), picture books could serve as a mechanism to inspire or frame conversations about politics in school or home settings, whether these conversations are initiated by children or adults. ...
Article
Despite the importance of political engagement, the topic has been the subject of little empirical research in developmental psychology, particularly with preadolescent samples. As a commonly available and developmentally appropriate source of media messages, picture books may inform young children about politics and influence their political engagement and aspirations. This study presents a content analysis of all books included on The New York Times best sellers list for children’s picture books from 2012 to 2017. Books were reviewed for depictions of political issues, political processes, political leaders, symbols associated with politics or political leadership, and government employees. Nearly half of the books in the sample included at least one instance of politically relevant content. Relatively few books included depictions of political issues or processes. More books contained depictions of political leaders. Democratic leaders represented were predominantly historical figures, and were largely men and White. Relative to democratic leaders, monarchical leaders were more likely to be girls or women and to be children and were less likely to engage in political processes or decisions. The findings suggest that although many picture books contain some politically relevant content, picture books represent a missed opportunity for many aspects of political socialization.
... Civic education programs that include direct participation through mock elections have also shown evidence for potential change in voter turnout. Linimon and Joslyn (2002), using re- gression analyses, found that first-time voters in counties using Kids Voting USA curriculum were more likely to vote than their counterparts in other counties. Well-documented factors that in- fluence political participation include the media (Atkin, 1981;Sotirovic & McLeod, 2001) and dis- cussion with peers (Lake & Huckfeldt, 1998) and family (Beck & Jennings, 1982;Westholm, 1999). ...
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Full-text available
The 21th century is the era of information. Modern technology has brought to the museums several tools and facilities which resulted in “the moments of success”: data integration, accessibility, mobility and interaction. This paper shows an overall vision of these advantages from the experience and the achievements in Russian museums. While initially computer technology has been seen as positive, the high level of expenses and the lack of interaction with the museum public have generated a feeling of technological disappointment. Technology seemed to be a novelty rather than a source of knowledge. The proposed concept of museographic game is based on fruitful work with the young generation.
Article
Full-text available
This paper examines the development of the impact of family background on young people’s political engagement during adolescence and early adulthood in order to test a number of hypotheses derived from the impressionable years and family socialization perspectives. The study analyses data of the British Household Panel Study and Understanding Society to assess these hypotheses. Political interest and voting intentions are used as outcomes of political engagement. The study finds parental education to have no effect on initial levels of these outcomes at age 11 but to be positively related to the change in these outcomes between ages 11 and 15. This indicates that the effect of parental education becomes stronger over time and that social disparities in political engagement are widening significantly during early adolescence. In contrast, parental political engagement is positively related to initial levels of voting intentions at age 11 but not related to the change in voting intentions between ages 11 and 15, which supports the hypothesis drawn from the family socialization perspective. Neither parental education nor parental political engagement are related to post-16 changes in political engagement. These results point to early adolescence as a crucial period for the manifestation of social inequalities in political engagement. They provisionally suggest that the influence of parental education runs through educational conditions in lower secondary and that these conditions could play an important role in amplifying the said inequalities.
Democratic theorists tend to assume, without a great deal of argument, that age-based discrimination in access to the franchise is justified. In this paper, I challenge the orthodoxy. I argue that all major, plausible accounts of the justification of democracy converge upon a requirement to enfranchise a substantial proportion of the child population. Along the way, I consider and respond to several challenges that have been raised to child enfranchisement.
Article
Existing literature assumes a link between voting and individuals’ political socialization, but no study has explored how political upbringing affects the most important attitudinal predictor of turnout: the duty to vote. Following previous research about the formation of attitudes related to the electoral process and social norms, this study focuses on the socialization agencies and dynamics that might first instill the belief during childhood that voting is a duty. The study also intends to contribute to political socialization theory by adopting a longitudinal perspective, by building upon developmental psychology theory and by simultaneously considering the two main childhood socialization agencies: family and school. A series of multivariate models confirms the role of family's socioeconomic status, parental engagement with children's education and non-authoritarian parenting styles, a positive effect that appears stronger than the effects on duty observed for Catholic schools and schools with democratic governance.
Chapter
Participation is important for the political education of democratic citizens. But perhaps the strongest factor that explains participatory differences among democratic citizens is the education variable (for example, academic-track/college-bound students are more democratic, participatory, and active). Along with sociodemographic and certain relevant high school variables, our study examines what happens inside schools (for example, extracurricular activities) to measure the effects of this informal education on students’ democratic beliefs. We also consider whether or not these beliefs affect patterns of community and political participation among young adults. In the study, we used data from the US National Longitudinal Study of the High School Class of 1972, wherein the National Center for Education Statistics surveyed a representative national sample of all high school seniors. Five follow-up surveys were done. Based on the 1972 base-year survey and the 1974 and 1976 follow ups, our most important finding is that participation in high school activities significantly predicts the holding of democratic beliefs which, in turn, is related to patterns of political and community participation among young adults.
Article
The apparent decline in voter participation in national elections since 1972 is an illusion created by using the Bureau of the Census estimate of the voting-age population as the denominator of the turnout rate. We construct a more accurate estimate of those eligible to vote, from 1948-2000, using government statistical series to adjust for ineligible but included groups, such as noncitizens and felons, and eligible but excluded groups, such as overseas citizens. We show that the ineligible population, not the nonvoting, has been increasing since 1972. During the 1960s the turnout rate trended downward both nationally and outside the South. Although the average turnout rates for presidential and congressional elections are lower since 1972 than during 1948-70, the only pattern since 1972 is an increased turnout rate in southern congressional elections. While the voting age was lowered to 18 in 1971, the lower turnout rate of young voters accounts for less than one-fourth of reduced voter participation.
Article
Attempts to map the political development of individuals inevitably become involved with the relative contribution of different socialization agencies throughout the life cycle. Research has focused to a large extent on the family and to a much lesser degree on other agents such as the educational system. At the secondary school level very little has been done to examine systematically the selected aspects of the total school environment. To gain some insight into the role of the formal school environment, this paper will explore the relationship between the civics curriculum and political attitudes and behavior in American high schools. A number of studies, recently fortified by data from Gabriel Almond and Sidney's Verba's five-nation study, stress the crucial role played by formal education in the political socialization process. [None of the other variables] compares with the educational variable in the extent to which it seems to determine political attitudes. The uneducated man or the man with limited education is a different political actor from the man who has achieved a high level of education. ¹ Such conclusions would not have greatly surprised the founders of the American republic, for they stressed the importance of education to the success of democratic and republican government. Starting from its early days the educational system incorporated civic training. Textbooks exposing threats to the new republic were being used in American schools by the 1790's. By 1915, the term “civics” became associated with high school courses which emphasized the study of political institutions and citizenship training.
Article
Journal of Democracy 6.1 (1995) 65-78 As featured on National Public Radio, The New York Times, and in other major media, we offer this sold-out, much-discussed Journal of Democracy article by Robert Putnam, "Bowling Alone." You can also find information at DemocracyNet about the Journal of Democracy and its sponsor, the National Endowment for Democracy. Many students of the new democracies that have emerged over the past decade and a half have emphasized the importance of a strong and active civil society to the consolidation of democracy. Especially with regard to the postcommunist countries, scholars and democratic activists alike have lamented the absence or obliteration of traditions of independent civic engagement and a widespread tendency toward passive reliance on the state. To those concerned with the weakness of civil societies in the developing or postcommunist world, the advanced Western democracies and above all the United States have typically been taken as models to be emulated. There is striking evidence, however, that the vibrancy of American civil society has notably declined over the past several decades. Ever since the publication of Alexis de Tocqueville's Democracy in America, the United States has played a central role in systematic studies of the links between democracy and civil society. Although this is in part because trends in American life are often regarded as harbingers of social modernization, it is also because America has traditionally been considered unusually "civic" (a reputation that, as we shall later see, has not been entirely unjustified). When Tocqueville visited the United States in the 1830s, it was the Americans' propensity for civic association that most impressed him as the key to their unprecedented ability to make democracy work. "Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of disposition," he observed, "are forever forming associations. There are not only commercial and industrial associations in which all take part, but others of a thousand different types -- religious, moral, serious, futile, very general and very limited, immensely large and very minute. . . . Nothing, in my view, deserves more attention than the intellectual and moral associations in America." Recently, American social scientists of a neo-Tocquevillean bent have unearthed a wide range of empirical evidence that the quality of public life and the performance of social institutions (and not only in America) are indeed powerfully influenced by norms and networks of civic engagement. Researchers in such fields as education, urban poverty, unemployment, the control of crime and drug abuse, and even health have discovered that successful outcomes are more likely in civically engaged communities. Similarly, research on the varying economic attainments of different ethnic groups in the United States has demonstrated the importance of social bonds within each group. These results are consistent with research in a wide range of settings that demonstrates the vital importance of social networks for job placement and many other economic outcomes. Meanwhile, a seemingly unrelated body of research on the sociology of economic development has also focused attention on the role of social networks. Some of this work is situated in the developing countries, and some of it elucidates the peculiarly successful "network capitalism" of East Asia. Even in less exotic Western economies, however, researchers have discovered highly efficient, highly flexible "industrial districts" based on networks of collaboration among workers and small entrepreneurs. Far from being paleoindustrial anachronisms, these dense interpersonal and interorganizational networks undergird ultramodern industries, from the high tech of Silicon Valley to the high fashion of Benetton. The norms and networks of civic engagement also powerfully affect the performance of representative government. That, at least, was the central conclusion of my own 20-year, quasi-experimental study of subnational governments in different regions of Italy. Although all these regional governments seemed identical on paper, their levels of effectiveness varied dramatically. Systematic inquiry showed that the quality of governance was determined by longstanding traditions of civic engagement (or its absence). Voter turnout, newspaper readership, membership in choral societies and football clubs -- these were the hallmarks of a successful region. In fact, historical analysis suggested that these networks of organized reciprocity and civic solidarity...
Book
This book provides a solution to the ecological inference problem, which has plagued users of statistical methods for over seventy-five years: How can researchers reliably infer individual-level behavior from aggregate (ecological) data? In political science, this question arises when individual-level surveys are unavailable (for instance, local or comparative electoral politics), unreliable (racial politics), insufficient (political geography), or infeasible (political history). This ecological inference problem also confronts researchers in numerous areas of major significance in public policy, and other academic disciplines, ranging from epidemiology and marketing to sociology and quantitative history. Although many have attempted to make such cross-level inferences, scholars agree that all existing methods yield very inaccurate conclusions about the world. In this volume, Gary King lays out a unique--and reliable--solution to this venerable problem. King begins with a qualitative overview, readable even by those without a statistical background. He then unifies the apparently diverse findings in the methodological literature, so that only one aggregation problem remains to be solved. He then presents his solution, as well as empirical evaluations of the solution that include over 16,000 comparisons of his estimates from real aggregate data to the known individual-level answer. The method works in practice. King's solution to the ecological inference problem will enable empirical researchers to investigate substantive questions that have heretofore proved unanswerable, and move forward fields of inquiry in which progress has been stifled by this problem.