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In the wake of Donald Trump "winning" the 2016 election, there were all sorts of fun reports of increased hate crimes, plus any number of anecdotal reports from teachers about little kids either being terrified of the Orange Man or being taken from their parents. Not to mention reports of rotten white kids chanting "Donald Trump! Build that wall!" at brown kids during sportsball competitions. But none of that proves anything, because of course the Liberal Media's going to fixate on isolated incidents and ignore all the times Nancy Pelosi personally castrated Republicans like just this month.

To attempt to get some hard data on whether Trump's election has actually affected The Kids, a recent peer-reviewed study found that, in Virginia at least, areas that voted for Trump in 2016 saw an increase in school bullying while areas that voted for Hillary Clinton saw school bullying actually go down. Who woulda guessed?


The study, by Francis Huang of the University of Missouri-Columbia and Dewey Cornell of the University of Virginia, was published in Educational Researcher, and is careful to point out the data can't show a causal link between Trump support and bullying. Maybe both are caused by brain worms, after all.

But there is a heck of a measurable correlation! Huang and Cornell

used data from a school climate survey taken by over 150,000 students across Virginia. They looked at student responses to questions about bullying and teasing from 2015 and 2017 [...]

In the 2017 responses, Huang and Cornell found higher rates of bullying and certain types of teasing in areas where voters favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election.

Seventh- and eighth-graders in areas that favored Trump reported bullying rates in spring 2017 that were 18 percent higher than students living in areas that went for Clinton. They were also 9 percent more likely to report that kids at their schools were teased because of their race or ethnicity.

Those changes are statistically significant, and worth further research. One thing we think is important to emphasize: Huang and Cornell can't be accused of slanting their research with biased questions about Trump or politics, since their data came from existing surveys on "school climate" conducted regularly by the state of Virginia (they used results from middle-school surveys conducted every other year; the state surveys high schoolers in the alternate years).

Specifically, the researchers looked at kids' responses to

five items on the Prevalence of Teasing and Bullying (PTB) scale: "Students in this school are teased about their clothing or physical appearance"; "Bullying is a problem at this school"; "Students in this school are teased or put down because of their race or ethnicity"; "There is a lot of teasing about sexual topics in this school"; and "Students in this school are teased or put down about their sexual orientation."

Now here's an interesting hint that something may have changed after the election: Those higher rates of bullying and teasing in Trump-voting areas were mostly not present in the data from 2015. So it seems unlikely the bullying survey merely reflects the communities' general tolerance of rottenness and teasing in middle school.

There was one interesting exception, however: In 2015, kids in areas that would later vote for Trump already reported a higher rate of homophobic teasing than in other areas. The authors dutifully note that "differences in 2017 for teasing due to sexual orientation were already present in 2015 and may not be a direct result of the elections." Gee, there's a surprise: Places where kids learn to tease perceived gays may have already been primed to vote for Trump. You'd better bet that's already a data point to gladden the atrophied hearts of Republican consultants.

Probably also worth pointing out that while Huang and Cornell don't go into this at all, rightwing "Christians" have for years been very, very concerned that efforts to fight bullying might discourage good Christian children from bullying gays, because after all, Jesus wants gays to be told they're sinful. Wonder if that may play a role in those results?

The study points out that bullying in Trump-voting parts of Virginia appear to have increased at a time when national rates of school bullying -- as measured by an annual survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention -- have remained pretty much static. How to account for that, Mssrs. Educational Research Men, HMMMM?

Huang, an associate professor of education, says the overall stable number fits with the state-level findings from his research with Cornell: While bullying rates in areas of Virginia that voted Republican went up in 2017, rates went down in places that favored Clinton.

"If, in one area, bullying rates go up, and, in another area, your bullying rates go down, what do you get?" he asks. "You get an average of no change."

Well, OK, fine.

Huang and Cornell acknowledge their numbers don't prove anything so direct as "Donald Trump's racism and aggression is rubbing off on our kids," because they are not political bloggers, they are perpetrators of social science. And they recognize it's seriously unlikely many middle-school kids just start bullying other kids after watching Donald Trump rant about how he'd like to punch people in the face, because "it does not seem plausible that large numbers of school-age youth were closely following the president's statements."

Still, Huang and Cornell offer some hypotheses as to what's going on here, noting that

There might be multiple pathways of influence, and youth unfamiliar with presidential statements nevertheless might emulate family members and other adults in the community who have been influenced by presidential behavior. Furthermore, it seems likely that persons who share the president's views and supported his election would be most likely to echo his statements and attitudes in their own behavior.

The political attitudes of parents and other adults are assumed to model for kids what's appropriate and what's not, and the study notes a 2016 George Washington University poll in which 66 percent of Democrats said they found Trump's campaign rhetoric "repulsive," while only 37 percent of Republicans did. Along similar lines, while 29 percent of Republicans considered Trump's language "no big deal," only 18 percent of Democrats agreed it had little effect. Huang and Cornell suggest

the influence of the President's statements might differ substantially based on the student's immediate environment. Students residing in areas that are predominantly Republican might be expected to hear more support and emulation of the president.

The study closes by noting the TONS of research on the harmful effects of bullying, and calls for more investigation into how the rhetoric of leaders may filter its way into school kids. Cornell said in a statement,

Parents should be mindful of how their reactions to the presidential election, or the reactions of others, could influence their children [...] And politicians should be mindful of the potential impact of their campaign rhetoric and behavior on their supporters and indirectly on youth.

That sounds pretty good, although we should note it fails to point out that only big wusses let bullies affect them, some people deserve to be bullied, and besides, real men always fight back, ideally by blaming Obama. Who, by the way, really caused kids to become terrorist radical Muslim socialists by encouraging them to study hard in school.

Now be kind in this, your OPEN THREAD!

[NPR / Educational Researcher]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.

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