gender of children affects father’s voting preferences?

In the Herald today (I’m not picking on them! It’s just that this is our morning paper) is a headline: Having sons will turn fathers right-wing, study suggests. The ensuing item is from a UK research project that also suggest that if a man has daughters, his voting preferences will trend to the left. (Presumably someone with one of each will be middle-of-the-road?)

Well, it sounded interesting. But I can’t go & read the research paper itself – because it hasn’t been published yet. It’s described as having been submitted to an economics journal. This rings the odd alarm bell, because it’s not good practice to announce your findings to the world before the paper’s been through the process of peer review.

Anyway, why would the gender of your kids have this effect? According to the researchers, the answer – which is ‘scientifically attractive’ (!) – is because men become more sympathetic to female viewpoints as the number of females in their families increases. This may be true, but without access to the paper, it’s hard to assess. Unfortunately, the article (which I hasten to add comes from the UK paper the Observer, & not the Herald‘s reporters) says that although there are those who dispute the interpretation of the findings, …evidence nonetheless abounds of daughters who have tamed the most manly of men. The reporter goes on to quote rapper Sean Combs as saying that having daughters changes things for the better. But this is actually irrelevant: just because someone is ‘manly’ doesn’t mean that they’ll lean to the right in their voting preferences. Nor do we know anything about the gentleman’s voting preferences before & after his daughters were born. And if we did, would this change make any difference? No, because this is simply a single anecdote.

There does seem to be a rash of this stuff these days. Or perhaps I’m just getting more sensitive to it…

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