FAMILY VALUES COULD SCORE WITH PARENTS VOTING IN '96 ELECTION

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Parents responded positively to the "family values" theme pushed by the Republicans in the 1992 presidential election -- and could do the same in 1996, a new study suggests.

The study found that in 1992 George Bush received about half of the votes of white people with children under 6 years old, compared to only 30 percent for Bill Clinton.

People who held traditional views about the family were also more likely to vote for Bush than Clinton.

The results suggest an appeal to family values may be worthwhile for the presidential candidates this year, said Herbert Weisberg, co-author of the study and a professor of political science at Ohio State University.

"The Republican family values strategy shouldn't be dismissed because Bush lost," Weisberg said. "The strategy was successful in attracting parents. The problem was that there were not enough voters who were parents of young children to

secure victory."

The key is to attract parental voters without alienating the larger bloc of single voters -- something Bush failed to do, Weisberg said.

Weisberg conducted the study with Laura Arnold, a doctoral student in political science at Ohio State. Their results appear in this month's issue of American Politics Quarterly.

Weisberg and Arnold said they were somewhat surprised by the results of the study. They figured that even if parents were more likely to vote for Bush, it was because of other related factors -- for example, married people tend to have higher incomes, which often leads to voting Republican. Thus, married people with children would be more likely to support Bush. But the study found that parents were more likely to vote for Bush even after researchers took into account socioeconomic factors, party identification, and attitudes that may affect voting choice.

"The results suggest that the 'family values' debate had a noticeable affect on voters," Arnold said. "The emphasis on family values helped to make Bush more popular with parents and those who support traditional views of the family."

The issue was first brought up in May 1992 by Vice President Dan Quayle, when he criticized the television character Murphy Brown for becoming a single mother. Family values then became one of the battlegrounds of the 1992 campaign.

Weisberg and Arnold's study included about 1,600 people who participated in the National Election Studies, a nationwide survey conducted under a grant from the National Science Foundation. The study found:

Weisberg said it's not clear whether parents will show a favorite in this year's presidential election as they did in 1992. It may depend on whether family values is a hot-button issue again. If the Republicans decide to make it an issue, they will have to be more careful than they were in 1992, according to Weisberg. Some of the pro-family rhetoric seemed to go too far and hurt Bush's support among singles and those outside the traditional family.

"Republicans can continue to appeal to the traditional family, though possibly in a less divisive manner that does not alienate other voters," he said.

Contact: Herb Weisberg, (614) 292-6572; hweisber+@osu.edu

Written by Jeff Grabmeier, (614) 292-8457; grabmeier.1@osu.edu


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