Large groups of parents shifted their political views during the pandemic.
The New York Times recently profiled a group of parents who make up this new voting block. The Times piece discussed an intense political shift among parents that occurred during the pandemic – with many of them becoming “single-issue” voters. These parents have latched onto specific issues like vaccine and mask mandates, and they are willing to abandon their political party if they find a candidate who espouses their beliefs.
The Times interviewed 27 parents who all had similar stories about switching their viewpoints. They were worried about their kids being isolated during school lockdowns and fought to reopen schools – nearly all blamed legislators for the shutdowns.
Many of these parents were not especially politically active until the pandemic, but many attended protests or found like-minded people online. Since 2020, hundreds of Facebook groups sprang up – some focused on reopening schools, some were anti-masking or anti-vaccination. Some also joined anti-vaccine groups on WhatsApp and Telegram. In some cases, these parents even started asking questions about other vaccines that have been around for a long time, like the measles vaccine.
This all comes as Americans are generally less trusting of their institutions. A recent Gallup poll found that the average confidence among all institutions was at a new low of 27%. From 2021 to 2022, Americans’ confidence in the medical system dropped six percentage points, and for public schools, it went down four percentage points.
Election experts are wondering how this will play out in the midterms. Nearly all the people profiled in the Times were Democrats who are now disillusioned with their party candidates, but it’s unclear how big this voting block is.
In Glenn Youngkin’s victory in the Virginia governor race, unhappy parents turned the tide. In that case, there were also a lot of parents who had lost trust with the education establishment in addition to the medical establishment, particularly when it comes to sex and gender issues. When that block is added, it’s a larger coalition.
According to a report from American Enterprise Institute, schools have long been legally required to tell parents about students’ medical and behavioral concerns, but school districts around the country have quietly put in place new rules for employees, telling them to “affirm” these gender transitions of the students while often keeping it from parents. A lot of parents see this as a massive infringement on their rights to make decisions for their own kids.
“These children should be dealt with on a personal and private level with their parents,” an attendee said at a Virginia school board meeting last year.
This political shift plays into a wider conversation about parents’ rights — which not only has to do with vaccine and mask mandates, but also with schools generally keeping information from parents, specifically when it comes to curriculum, and approaches to LGBT issues.