Opinion: July 4th patriotic celebrations create more Republicans, Harvard study warns

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More bad news for President Obama’s 2012 reelection bid.

A new Harvard University study finds that all this July Fourth red-white-and-blue stuff -- the parades and floats, the fire engines and soldiers, flags, fireworks, hand-over-the-heart stuff -- actually helps create more Republicans.

Worse, it also energizes that crowd to participate dutifully in politics and vote in upcoming elections.


These July Fourth believers are then more likely to indoctrinate their own future children into the GOP cult with its strange suspicions of well-meaning government controls and shovel-ready spending, plus its bizarre beliefs in things like free enterprise and wage-earners knowing best how to spend their own money.

Even worse than worse, the study finds the political impact of childhood patriotic participation in July Fourth events is permanent. As in, once-a-GOP-leaning-July-Fourth-observer-always-a-GOP-voter.

If you’re into the national holiday by age 18, you are 2% more likely to identify as a Republican, 4% more likely to vote that way and 3% more likely to make political donations.

Because, as everyone knows, Republicans have more money than Democrats, who are busier collecting petition signatures to fix something.

And all these years we thought July Fourth was about celebrating the nation’s birthday via the Declaration of Independence and the crowds’ chorus of ‘oohhhs’ and ‘ahhhs’ at the bombs bursting in air.

But according to the study by Andreas Madestam and David Yanagizawa-Drott, fair-weather Fourths in childhood, permitting participation in celebratory patriotic events year after year, play a significant role in shaping the political beliefs and voting patterns of future adults, as founding father John Adams intended.

On July 3, 1776, he wrote that the Fourth ‘ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore.’


The study focuses on the years 1920-2008 and notes: ‘The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century.’

The authors add:

Taken together, the results indicate that Fourth of July celebrations in the United States shape the nation’s political landscape by forming beliefs and increasing participation, primarily in favor of the Republican party.

The pair researched previous studies, finding that July Fourth participation divides along political lines with a) Republicans viewing the historic anniversary as more important than Democrats do, and b) Republicans attending July Fourth celebrations more consistently than Democrats do.

Also, adults with children at home are much more likely to participate in the holiday’s celebrations, passing on the patriotic practices to the next generation during their crucial formative years.

The researchers report that for each sunny July Fourth in childhood, a 40-year-old is three-quarters of a percentage point more likely to be a Republican. They found no such correlation among Democrats.

From all this data, we can only surmise there were an awful lot of rainy July Fourths back when those 2008 voters were children.


-- Andrew Malcolm

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