You’ve seen the photo on the internet – an older man clad in a Trump shirt standing next to his daughter, who glares in her Bernie t-shirt. It’s an odd contrast to see extreme conservatism next to extreme liberalism, but many Northwestern students are in this same boat.
Guess who's paying taxes https://t.co/5c6D4pK6mN— Pigeon Today (@PigeonToday) April 5, 2016
Communication freshman Rob Mayo is one of those students. Although he grew up in a conservative Mormon home, he found himself to be much more liberal than his parents.
“I didn’t know my parents’ politics until I knew my own. All of a sudden they would say something and I’d be like ‘Oh my god, you think that?’” Mayo said. “When the officer who shot Mike Brown wasn’t indicted and there were protests everywhere, they were like ‘This is ridiculous!’ towards the protestors.”
Mayo cites the website Tumblr as his gateway to more liberal thought.
“My parents aren’t aware of the history of colonialism, imperialism and exploitation that defines the world we live in today. I honestly think they don’t know anything about that,” Mayo said.
Yet Mayo is not an anomaly. According to a study published by the American Sociological Association in November, 51 percent of children misperceive or reject their parents’ political beliefs. A common belief that parents who discuss their political beliefs will transmit them to their children was found false; in fact, discussion could lead to argument just as much as agreement.
As Derek Thompson writes in The Atlantic, the vast majority of youth lean to the left for multiple reasons. First, younger people are often more liberal than their parents. Second, minority groups tend to be left-leaning, and the under-30 generation is the most ethnically diverse one yet. However, Thompson also writes that young white men and women are also more liberal than parents, especially on LGBT+ rights, marijuana legalization and immigration reform.
But not all students differ so intensely from their parents in political beliefs. Generation Y still holds almost identical views on gun rights and abortion as their parents.
“My dad grew up on welfare, and he has relatives who had taken advantage of the system and tried taking advantage of him. So now he’s a Republican,” said a Communication freshman who requested anonymomity to avoid disclosing her political views publicly. “My dad was very concerned about sending me here. He said would stop paying for my college tuition if I became a liberal."
In general, she tries to avoid discussing politics with her family.
However, she knows she doesn’t want Donald Trump as president, while her parents have voiced that they would vote for him over Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders. She said it's probably not worth convincing them to do otherwise.
"Growing up in such a progressive place, it doesn’t really matter, because whether you’re a Democrat or Republican, everybody’s already pretty stuck in their own ways," she said.