CIRCLE’s new working paper, Spiral of Rebellion: Conflict Seeking of Democratic Adolescents in Republican Counties, “shows a
striking pattern of Democratic youth thriving in political expression and debate when exposed to Republican ideological climates.”
The study compares Democratic adolescents to Republican adolescents, and further breaks down the comparison into those living in Democratic, balanced, and Red counties. They found that Democratic youth were more politically expressive than Republican youth, and that Democratic youth in Republican areas were more expressive than those living in blue or balanced areas.
A couple findings of note:
When asked what they perceived to be the greatest influence on their political beliefs, “the largest difference occurs with religion, particularly at post-election, when 24.8% of Republicans identified religion as the greatest influence compared with 1.5% for Democrats.”
There are large differences between factors in partisan identity strength (PID) among Republican and Democratic youth:
At T2 (Post-Election), knowledge becomes the sole correlate of Republican ID strength. PID strength among Democrats correlates with more indicators of political involvement: talking with friends, initiating talk, and comprehension at T1 (Pre-Election), and testing out opinions, listening to opponents, classroom discussion, confronting parents, knowledge, and news attention at T2. Thus, we might say that a firm allegiance to the Republican Party is manifest in knowledge during adolescence, while Democratic ID is expressed more holistically, in political cognition but also interpersonal communication.
By knowledge, they are referring to perceived knowledge of the political parties.
An intriguing implication is that dynamics of formative partisan identity resonate with the philosophical tension between progressive and conservative visions of “the good citizen.” Progressive ideology celebrates the inter-subjectivity of civic and political engagement, in conceptions such as the public sphere, social capital, deliberative democracy, and communitarianism (Murphy, 2004). In conservative visions of the ideal citizen, civic virtue springs from the pursuit of self-interest and the guarding of individual autonomy (Murphy, 2003; Westheimer, 2004).
From the results of the study, the authors recommend the following:
In more pragmatic terms, results from this study suggest a need for peer-centered discussion about topical issues in U.S. social studies curricula. We have documented a significant gap in interpersonal political engagement between liberal and conservative youth. A strikingly consistent pattern of deliberative deficits appeared among Republican youth. However, recent research shows that schools can promote equality of civic and political development by allowing students to wrestle with contentious issues (Hess, 2004; Hess & Ganzler, 2007). Unfortunately, conflict-avoidant instincts of school boards, teachers, and parents preclude this kind of instruction in many communities (McDevitt & Caton-Rosser, 2009). Still, an argument put forth by Hibbing and Theiss-Morse in 1996 still resonates. Civics is not enough. If we can tolerate and even promote agonistic expression in classrooms, more youth would benefit from deliberative development.