The influence of significant others on political party preference: a replication and extension

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Virginia Tech

The problem structuring this investigation is to determine the extent to which parents influence political party preference in their offspring, thus accounting for those individuals expressing a party preference similar to their parents.

The conceptual framework for this study follows that of an earlier investigation (Brooks, 1967) in which the conclusion is drawn that if parents serve as the individual's highly salient significant others, then his political party preference will be similar to theirs. Issue is taken with three points in the original investigation. First, there is a failure to completely test the alternative argument that similar party preference between parents and offspring is dependent not upon parental preference but upon socioeconomic and background factors. Second, the terms significant others and reference group are treated synonymously, thus obscuring any distinction between them. Lastly, the individual’s referral to his parents, as significant others, is treated in a static, unchanging, fashion.

A detailed review of the literature supports the contention that an interface exists between the terms significant others and reference group. The establishment of this interface allows for a more dynamic conceptualization of the individual's referral to parents within the context of political party preference.

A questionnaire is administered to a random sample of sociology classes. Results suggest that no statistically significant relationship exists between socioeconomic or background variables and similar political party preference between parents and offspring. A statistically significant relationship exists, however, when knowledge of the individual's role specific others is utilized as a determinant of similar party preference.