Politicians love to cite their daughters as the reason why they can’t condone boasts of sexual assault. If they’re influential enough to get some Republicans to rescind their endorsements of Donald Trump, could female offspring get their parents to support Hillary Clinton?
“Voters with daughters are much more likely to support Hillary Clinton for president,” read a Washington Post headline from Monday, citing its own poll conducted with ABC News. The post’s URL promised a great reveal: “The fascinating connection between having sons and daughters and support for Hillary Clinton.” I think I’ve got it: People with daughters have a more intimate understanding of the challenges women face, so they’re more attuned to the sexism Clinton has battled throughout her career. Maybe they’re disgusted by Trump’s lifelong objectification of women and the multitude of sexual assault allegations against him. Perhaps they’d like a woman in the White House as a role model for their daughters. Fascinating!
So it would seem. Polled parents of just daughters and no sons supported Clinton over Trump by a margin of 21 points, 58 percent to 37 percent. Only 42 percent of parents of sons and daughters support Clinton—5 points below the average of all voters—and just 40 percent of people with only sons do.
But wait, the Post author hedges in the second paragraph: “having daughters matters—although perhaps not in the way one might expect.” It turns out that this group of polled parents who have just daughters, who support Clinton far more than other parents, are far more likely to identify as Democrats or Democratic-leaning than the general population of likely voters (55 percent versus 48 percent). Thus, the Post suggests, Clinton’s advantage with parents of daughters might have to do with a simple advantage in party affiliation.
Previous studies have drawn no clear conclusions on what effect, if any, children’s genders have on their parents’ politics. Daughters make people more likely to identify as Republicans, one 2013 study claimed. No, said another, they make parents lean left. Actually, a 2014 paper suggested, maybe a child’s gender isn’t enough to change anyone’s vote. The parents of daughters in the most recent Washington Post poll were just about as likely as the voting population at large to think that Trump’s treatment of women belonged in campaign discussion at all, and they were equally as unlikely to be turned off by the Access Hollywood recording that set off this latest round of misogyny accusations.
People without children, on the other hand, are firmly in the Clinton camp. The new poll found that 56 percent of non-parents support Clinton, perhaps because they’re mostly younger than the median age of the voting populace. Or maybe it’s because they have no miniature gender puppets on whom to project their insecurities, and no little monsters exhausting their minds to the point where they need an authoritarian like Trump to tell them who to blame for their existential rage. Who can tell?
It seems clear, though, that daughters make parents at least a little likelier to support a woman who’s made gender equity her life’s cause and to reject the candidacy of a man who says he likes to barge in on beauty pageant contestants while they’re changing their clothes. Nice work, daughters, and please don’t sleep on your relevant Congressional races.