How to Become Republican

Harvard Study says Watching 4th of July Celebrations Makes People Vote Republican

A recent Harvard study concluded that kids who attend 4th of July celebrations grow up to vote Republican. My husband alerted me to this study when he read about it in an L.A.Times article. I thought it was a joke. It isn't. In fact, the data is pretty impressive and more conclusive than the researchers, Andreas Madestam and David Yanagizawa-Drott predicted. Apparently waving flags, hearing speeches, eating barbecue and watching fireworks really does make people think differently about what it means to be an American.

Our Family at 4th of July Parade

Our family decked out for the 4th of July bike parade
Our family decked out for the 4th of July bike parade | Source

Read For Yourself!

I first read the L.A. Times Article about the study but was so interested, that I also pulled up the Original Harvard Study, which is what I respond to in this article. I have my college classes read these articles and write their own reading responses. This essay is my response.

Worldwide Patriotic Celebrations

America is not the only country to have patriotic celebrations. The Chinese celebrate May 1 and the beginning of communism, the French have Bastille day on July 14, and Mexico has Cinco de Mayo. However, do these sorts of celebrations really make a difference?

Do the hearts and minds of people really become stirred with nationalism and patriotism when they see their flag and march in parades? That was the question these researchers wanted to answer.

Do 4th of July Celebrations Affect Voting?

Researchers Madestam and Yanagizawa-Drott decided to see if they could determine whether the 4th of July celebrations in the United States had an impact on voting records. What these researchers did is clever. They decided that the only way to conclude whether participation in 4th of July events by children had an effect on their adult political participation was to find a way to determine how many of these events children attended.

Bad Weather

Because attendance would be difficult to calculate, they looked at weather records to determine which years 4th of July events had to be canceled because of rain. Looking at an impressive array of data for people born from 1920 to 1990, they checked to see how many possible 4th of July celebrations these people could have attended from ages 3 to 18. Next, the researchers compared possible attendance at 4th of July events to voting records of adults.

Should I avoid serving patriotic drinks too?
Should I avoid serving patriotic drinks too? | Source

Can Rain Affect Party Choice?

Astoundingly, they found that just one 4th of July without rain makes a person 2% more likely to identify as a Republican, 4% more likely to vote Republican, 3% more likely to make campaign contributions, and almost 1% more likely to vote.

How About Parent's Party Choices?

As a researcher myself, I wondered if the study fully takes into account the fact that parent attitudes are probably the most influential factor in influencing the political attitudes of children. In fact, the researchers do point out that more Republicans than Democrats attend 4th of July celebrations and that Republicans view the holiday as more important than Democrats.

Actually, the interpretations of the data do take this parental bias into account. They suggest that in Republican counties, the 4th of July celebrations tend to be more political. Interestingly, they also suggest that people with children are more inclined to attend 4th of July celebrations, perhaps because of an innate sense of their parental responsibility in making their children into good citizens. In his article on July 3 for the L.A. Times, Andrew Malcom suggests that parents would perhaps be shocked to know they are also indoctrinating their children into a particular political party paradigm.

A Fourth of July Party at my house.  Am I promoting a political agenda?
A Fourth of July Party at my house. Am I promoting a political agenda? | Source

Are Republicans more Patriotic?

Neither the original study nor Malcom's article attacks the elephant in the room, "Why would patriotism be more Republican than Democrat?" I grew up in a "blue" state with one parent who voted Republican and another who voted Democrat. Electric cars, nuclear energy and saving the forests are issues dear to my heart. So is helping the poor in America and abroad. I've adopted two children from China and seen first hand the problems of overpopulation, but I also want to stop abortions in this country and open people up to the possibility of adoption. I'm liberal economically but conservative socially.

What does it Mean to be a Good American?

I usually vote Republican, but I think Barack Obama is a good man who really wants to do the right thing. I liked President Bush because he did not take himself too seriously and I think he also wanted to do the right thing. However, I'm not sure either of them has made good decisions on the economy, the wars, or our national deficit.

I had to think back. Did I attend 4th of July celebrations as a kid? Mostly, I didn't. We did have fireworks, but because of the fire hazard in the California county where I grew up, we spent most of the celebration wondering how many fire trucks would be required to put out the fires.

4th of July Parade is Real Americana

When I was 17, my family was vacationing in Deer Isle Maine on the 4th of July. We were delighted to watch a "real" 4th of July parade there, complete with an antique fire truck, decorated bikes and babies with flags. It seemed a magical moment with a kind of simple national pride I didn't remember experiencing when I grew up. My family talked about that fifteen-minute parade for years afterwards as one of the highlights of that vacation.

Our Russian 4th of July

When I got married, we moved to Florida and celebrated our first 4th of July with people in my husband's lab, most of whom were scientists from other countries. It was July 4, 1994, so it wasn't too long after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Cold War. The Russian scientist and his family were some of the first Russians I had ever met. Because we'd never had them in California, we went out and bought sparklers, which seemed like wonderful forbidden fun. Our favorite moment from that holiday was watching the children of our Russian and Palestinian friends wave sparklers around saying, "I love America!" The irony of that moment is one my husband and I remember every year.

Everything is Bigger in Texas

A year later, we moved to Texas, which has offered a whole new experience in patriotism. Everything is bigger in Texas, and that includes the 4th of July celebrations. In fact, the first year we were here, we attended the church of a neighbor on the 4th of July and were shocked by the music minister wearing a flag shirt and leading the congregation in a number of patriotic tunes. No one in any California church we'd attended had ever sung "The Star Spangled Banner" in church! We concluded this Texas church wasn't a very God-centered That is, until the next patriotic holiday, when we experienced the honoring of veterans and singing of even more patriotic songs at another church.

We finally realized that everyone in Texas takes "God and Country" seriously, and literally. They pray, "God bless America" and mean it. They want God to bless America and not just with material prosperity. They want God to bless America and its leaders with the wisdom we need to do right in the world, especially when doing right is hard to figure out.

Embracing Symbols of Patriotism

After a while of living in Texas, we'd accepted the patriotism but not really embraced it. Then, on 9/11, we did. We bought a flag, we took our kids to our local bicycle 4th of July parade. We bought fireworks and went to barbecues. When I see the streets lined with flags on the 4th of July and flag day (which I didn't even know existed before I moved to Texas), I sometimes find myself tearing up. Because people have died so that I can live a good life, an easy life, a life that makes me want to give freedom to others too. America is a special place and we can't be complacent about the freedom we enjoy.

Should We Ban 4th of July Parades?

The authors of the study point out that John Adams specifically encouraged patriotic celebrations so that the thirteen very independent colonies would come together into one United States. Was he wrong? Do displays of patriotism stir up antagonism instead?

Honestly, I don't know what to think about this study which links celebrating a holiday and patriotic displays with politics. Will someone try to use this data to ban 4th of July parades? Or will Republicans use this information to bash Democrats for being non-patriotic? Can my kid's school still have a patriotic sing-along? Will we ban "The Star Spangled Banner" at baseball games? I guess I better fly my flag while I still can.

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Comments 9 comments

Luke Chipman 15 months ago

I had no idea about this study until just now. The evidence behind the study seems to be legitimate. I met a family from Maryland that came to Texas during Independence Day just to pop off fireworks since they couldn't buy any in Maryland. I think that adds a lot to not being able to celebrate Independence Day. Anyone can go watch fireworks being displayed by the city, but getting to light your own fireworks with family and friends makes up a huge part of the way I celebrate. As for one political party being more patriotic than the other, I think it may be a bit of a stretch to say Republicans are more patriotic than Democrats, despite the fact that the people who have been stomping on American flags lately are all liberals. Needless to say, it was an interesting article and I hope that more studies like this will be conducted in the future.


nkharel00 2 years ago

advocating consumerism....way to go


Sanctuary 2 years ago

I thought you were going to tell me how to be a Republican. No problem let me help you out.

1. Listen to Fox News and Rush Limbaugh all day.

2. Never follow any facts, just do what they say.

3. Be a pretend Christian and support greed and selfishness the true mark of a false practice of Gods teachings. (Just be saved and do whatever)

4. Never support the things that will actually improve your life. Things like health care, making Corporations pay taxes instead of you paying there debt, support the rich when you still remain poor and stupid. Destroy Unions so you can keep your low wages and work part time if they do not ship your job overseas.

5. Pretend your patriotic because history could never lie. Watch people die during Katrina but send everything to Haiti, its a better tax write off and they do not own insurance.

6. Just be plain greedy and believe that this greed will trickle down to you. Be a Capitalist that destroys Capitalism and creates Socialism because of it and cry about it. (no socialist here, only surviving)

7. Blame everyone not responsible for the current self created greedy project and Ponzi scheme we live in.

8. Most of all make the tax payers pay for everything that made you and your agendas extremely wealthy and place austerity measures on the people who never profited but made great slaves in destroying themselves in order to make you rich.


Sanxuary 3 years ago

I do not think being political has anything to do with being a patriot. Especially in a Country of rich Politicians who represent no ones views and only their agendas. We are barely a Republic and a Democracy only when they allow us to vote. The people do not choose or pay for elections and they do not run to represent the people. May day and the history of common people fighting the Corporate World to get a fair shake in this country is probably a greater holiday then the 4rth of July. We send hundreds of thousands of our young men and women to fight wars for the Military Industrial Complex and the stock market. Yet we do nothing to help the poor, the destitute or even our Country when disasters strike. Currently 90 percent of our manufacturing is in China. We have given a totalitarian nation every technology they ever wanted. In the next 5 to 10 years, every product America has invented in the last 60 years will be rebranded as a Chinese product. Patriotic is for the little people who know what sacrifice is. Not another black Friday and some Politician forcing everyone to suffer to get their way.


unverm profile image

unverm 3 years ago

This is interesting study, but I prefer to think that people, when kids became adult, will look at deeds and attitudes of any party more than their brands and sayings and then will vote republican, democrats party or others. There are many parties which contain such community, freedom, democracy etc. in their names. But in fact there is no link between this party and it's brand. Thank you so much VirginiaLynne.


VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 5 years ago from United States Author

Sorry I didn't end this hub very well--I actually wrote it inbetween taking my kids to our 4th of July bike parade and going to a barbeque picnic! I'm still pondering what it means to say that exposing our kids to the symbols of patriotism makes them vote in a particular way later on. I really want to hear what other people think.


randomcreative profile image

randomcreative 5 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

Interesting study! I'd never heard to this before. Thanks for sharing.


Rhoda Talisaysay profile image

Rhoda Talisaysay 5 years ago from Philippines

I think VirginiaLynne simply means to always vote for freedom?


SUSIE DUZY profile image

SUSIE DUZY 5 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

I really dont think being patriotic means being republican.

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