Hartwick’s Elder Bridges Gap in Gender, Politics Research

September 29, 2009

Hartwick College Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science Laurel Elder has been getting a lot of attention recently--from Science Daily,, Politics Daily, and others--to name just a few.

Her recently published work, with Steven Green, associate professor of political science at North Carolina State University, examines how parenthood affects voting patterns among U.S. citizens, and has sparked discussion in electronic and print media across the country.

“A lot of people think parents are really conservative and politicians need to be conservative to get their votes,” Elder explained, “but our research has shown that most of that is wrong. Mothers are a very distinctive group--a very democratic and liberal group--and dads tend to be the opposite.

“There’s a huge field in American politics about public opinion and voting behavior,” she continued. “That is to say, understanding why people hold the views they do, and why they vote the way they do. Researchers have looked at all sorts of things, like income, race, getting married, and more, and how these things affect your voting choices and politics. Interestingly, nobody has really looked at parenthood. Having a child changes your life in a lot of ways--it makes sense that it would change your politics and political outlook.”

Elder and Green have been researching gender and politics for some time, and are currently completing a manuscript titled “The Politics of Parenthood.”

“We traced the rhetoric from 1950 to 2008, and over time both Republicans and Democrats have talked about how issues will affect families,” she said. “There was a huge jump in the 1980s; initially it seems to have been Reagan, but the Democrats quickly caught up. By the 1990s they used this sort of rhetoric even more than the Republicans. Clinton was a master of this--he was sort of stealing it from the Republicans, but he was a master.”

Like so many Hartwick faculty, Elder’s scholarly work has direct benefits for her students, both in the classroom and out, as they assist in research and other efforts.

“Students have been a part of this research, and I assign some of the publications in my classes on Media and Politics and Women, Men and Politics,” she explained. “This research enhances those classes and helps me be a better teacher in those classes.”

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Hartwick College is a private liberal arts and sciences college of 1,480 students, located in Oneonta, NY, in the northern foothills of the Catskill Mountains. Hartwick's expansive Liberal Arts in Practice curriculum merges traditional liberal arts study, personalized teaching, and experiential learning approaches to emphasize Connecting the Classroom to the World. Add to that a wide range of off-campus internships, collaborative research, study-abroad opportunities, and a unique January Term, and Hartwick prepares students for the world ahead. Strong financial aid and scholarship programs keep a Hartwick education affordable.

Contact: Christopher Lott
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