What Shapes One’s Political Opinion?

It is widely believed that the political standpoint in a given household has strong influence on the political beliefs of the adolescents whom grew up there. Given that the 2016 presidential election is right around the corner, I’ve decided to explore this topic and attempt to recognize how political opinions are shaped. Not to mention the overwhelming amount of people that approach you in the hub on the daily asking the question that everyone dreads, “Are you registered to vote?”, make it hard to forget about the election…

Many conclude that the political views of others within an individuals exposed environment juggle with and/or manipulate their political stance when engaged in conversation on the topic. While this may be true, additional third confounding variables have been identified that sway the political opinions of young children. In a scholarly paper written by Andrew Healy whom attended Loyola Marymount University, and Neil Malhotra whom attended Stanford University, a newly conceived notion is closely dissected. Healy and Malhotra analyzed a fairly large natural study conducted by the University of Michigan Political Socialization Panel (PSP), and the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY), which solely focuses on the influence gender of siblings has on political beliefs.

The experimenters hypothesized that boys with sisters are more likely to possess conservative views leading up to adulthood than males with brothers. While this can be labeled as the alternative hypothesis, the null hypothesis would be that the gender of siblings has no effect on political opinions. The putative causal variable (X variable) being tested is sibling gender and gender roles in a given household, and the putative response variable (Y variable) being measured is whether the older male siblings identify as Democrats or Republicans as they grow older. The data collected in this experiment is entirely survey based, therefore, a potential barrier is that respondents might not be completely honest in their answers.

In 1965, the PSP gathered a group of 17-19 year olds for the first wave of the study, and followed up with them in 1973, 1982, and 1997. The surveys asked a series of questions pertaining to their opinion on a woman’s stance in the workforce. The respondents were to rate these statements/questions on a 1-7-point scale, 1 being the most liberal choice, and 7 being the most conservative choice. Similarly, the NLSY respondents were given statements regarding gender roles and were asked to rate them from strongly disagree-strongly agree. The data collected by this organization is fairly more modern given that the survey was handed out in 1986, followed up in 2006 and 2008, and ended in 2011. One advantage the NLSY has over the PSP is that it contains detailed information of the respondent’s childhood experiences prior to the experiment. However, both the NLSY and PSP possess background information on the families of those who were surveyed.


  1. Data from both the PSP and NLSY showed a massive amount of males with sisters whom possessed conservative and traditional views on gender roles.
  2. Men with sisters are less likely to perform typical female chores around the house, but the gender of a female’s sibling(s) does not alter their household tasks.
  3. Correct decision and a consistent result

Take home message: Political opinions are shaped by multiple surrounding factors, and are linked to gender. The results of this study does not prove that ALL males with sisters tend to classify themselves as republicans, but it does raise an interesting point that should be further researched. As a female who grew up in a house entirely made up of woman, I tend to fall more on the liberal side of the political spectrum. However, a handful of my girlfriends have brothers with political views that would further prove the conclusion of this study!


  1. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2013/06/27/why-boys-with-sisters-are-more-likely-to-be-republicans/
  2. http://myweb.lmu.edu/ahealy/papers/sibling_politics_jop_submit.pdf
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f5mJE7zIPUY

2 thoughts on “What Shapes One’s Political Opinion?

  1. Sean Patrick Hickey

    personally, my political beliefs come from a combination of family and my own contemplation. My initial beliefs came from my family, before I really knew what politics was or bothered pay attention to it, I adopted the conservative beliefs of my family. As i got older and I began to develop my own political beliefs, I diverged from some of my family’s beliefs but I would still call myself a conservative. Perhaps my conservative base is the reason I am still conservative, but I believe strongly in the beliefs that I hold now and I am not simply parroting my family. I do not have any siblings so I don’t know how that would have affected my beliefs, but regardless I enjoyed your post. You should check this out, http://www.geocurrents.info/geopolitics/elections/u-s-political-party-strength-index-map , maybe geographical location could be another variable.

  2. jnb5450

    Very interesting and relatable post considering it is most of our first times voting in the election and some of us are just starting to form our political beliefs. It was cool too see how politics was turned into a science study. I think they should make a study about how a third variable effects people’s political opinion; such as family. Here is a link that talks about that: http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/05/parents-political-beliefs/361462/ and how outside factors change us.

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