, Volume 24, Issue 2, pp 151-170

Parental Socialization and Rational Party Identification

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Abstract

This article constructs a rational choice model of the intergenerational transmission of party identification. At a given time, identification with a party is the estimate of average future benefits from candidates of that party. Experienced voters constantly update this expectation using political events since the last realignment to predict the future in accordance with Bayes Rule. New voters, however, have no experience of their own. In Bayesian terms, they need prior beliefs. It turns out that under certain specified conditions, these young voters should rationally choose to employ parental experience to help orient themselves to politics. The resulting model predicts several well–known features of political socialization, including the strong correlation between parents' and children's partisanship, the greater partisan independence of young voters, and the tendency of partisan alignments to decay.