When it comes to support for gun control policies, mothers are not significantly different than women without children, according to new research published in the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties. The findings indicate that parenthood doesn’t have a substantial impact on gun control views in the United States.
“I’ve always been interested in topics around gender and parenthood in American politics where I think, maybe, how a group or political dynamic is portrayed in the media may not actually reflect the underlying dynamic that well,” said study author Steven Greene (@HankGreene), a professor of political science at North Carolina State University.
“For example, 14 years ago, Laurel Elder and I co-wrote, ‘The Myth of “Security Moms” and “NASCAR Dads”: Parenthood, Political Stereotypes, and the 2004 Election.’ So much media and public attention around gun control has focused on moms (e.g., the Million Mom March) that we were anxious to explore this dynamic to see how much motherhood seemed to explain gun attitudes.
For their study, the researchers analyzed data collected by the Pew Research Center in March and April of 2017 as part of the organization’s nationally representative American Trends Panel.
The survey asked respondents to indicate whether they believed gun laws should be more or less strict. It also asked several questions related to gun ownership, such as support for allowing concealed carry in more places, preventing the mentally ill from purchasing guns, banning assault weapons, and requiring background checks on all private gun sales.
In addition, the survey included several questions on gun policy relating to children, such as whether school officials should carry guns and whether stricter gun laws would reduce mass shootings.
The researchers had hypothesized that fatherhood would push men towards more conservative attitudes on gun control policies, while motherhood would push women towards more liberal attitudes. But after controlling for sociodemographic variables, there was little evidence that parenthood had much impact.
Mothers held more liberal views on guns control compared to the general population. But this appeared to be unrelated to motherhood. Women were more liberal than men in general on questions related to gun laws and regulations. But there was no evidence that mothers’ opinions on guns were more liberal compared to women without children. In fact, mothers were slightly more likely to support less restrictive gun laws.
“The big take-away is that moms are not uniquely liberal on guns,” Greene told PsyPost. “As with most issues across the American political spectrum, women are more liberal than men on gun policies, but there is nothing unique to being a mom that adds to more liberal gun attitudes. A focus from both the media and gun reform advocacy groups (e.g., Moms Demand Action on Guns) has clearly determined that this is a useful political/rhetorical framing, but it does not appear to reflect an underlying reality on gun attitudes beyond that which can simply be explained by gender.”
The researchers found a similar situation among men. Fathers were slightly more likely to believe that more people should be allowed to own guns and guns should be allowed in more places. Otherwise, however, there was no significant difference between fathers and men without children.
“This was based on an analysis of a very thorough Pew Research Center study, but this is still one dataset at one point in time. Much more confidence could come from similar analyses using a broader array of data sources,” Greene said.
“An important and unanswered question is why does political framing around motherhood appear to be a go-to strategy for the media and for advocacy groups themselves. There is clearly more to be explored about the symbolic role of motherhood in American politics.”
The study, “Do moms demand action on guns? Parenthood and gun policy attitudes“, was published December 28, 2020.