Infographic Of The Day: Liberals And Conservatives Raise Kids Differently

David McCandless points out the biases of each side — the fundamental difference in how they approach child-rearing.

In American politics today, right and left are often just labels — Democrats and Republicans alike believe that their stance should be whatever does most damage to the other side. Forget having any political principles. For example, the principles behind "Obamacare" began in conservative think tanks like the Heritage foundation and were loved by the Republican party. Until those principles became Obama's, and then they became a socialist world plot. On the other hand, it was Clinton who make possible the lax finance-regulation environment that yielded the financial crisis of 2008. Whatever happened to consumer advocacy, and a check on big business?

Amid all that confusion, it's useful to remember what each side is supposed to stand for, and David McCandless has attempted to lay it all out in an infographic.


[Click image to enlarge]

Created with data-viz phenom Stefanie Posavec, the chart is actually McCandless's second stab at the challenge; he acknowledges that the early versions displayed a slight liberal bias, owing to his own beliefs, which painted the left in a slightly better light. So he endeavored to correct that. Here is a detail of the left side:


And the right:


It all seems fairly accurate, at least in regards to the basic political principles. (The survey data, however, seems a bit baffling to me — and its not clear what the source is.) But maybe the most subtle argument within the chart — and perhaps the most controversial — lies in the connection between political beliefs and child-rearing. As McCandless thinks of it, the right-leaning parenting style is based on "respect and fear": Stern discipline that produces a self-reliant child. On the left, it's "respect and trust," which lead to a nurturing environment that's about self-expression.

There's a nugget of anecdotal truth behind these simplifications. Anyone who grew up in the South can attest to the child-rearing style there. And anyone who grew up in the Northeast or California can attest to the PC, anything-goes mores you'd find in your standard top-shelf Montessori school. (The major flaw with this sort of thinking, of course, is that it reflects not just a liberal view, a high-income liberal outlook; I'd guess that parenting is probably more of a function of income than politics.)

But then again, the idea of nurturing your child and treating them as something of an equal seems to dominate parenting books these days; you'd be hard-pressed to find a parenting book about the right way to dole out spankings. But we're awash in books about making a kid creative. Assuming that this reflects an underlying reality of parenting, the present age of parenting wisdom would seem to imply two things: 1. Liberals won the parenting debate. 2. The next generation of kids should be liberal as hell. The latter actually seems to be true. Could parenting be the cause? Studies consistently show that your political beliefs are largely inherited from your parents. So would a kid with conservative parents who believed in liberal parenting mores grow up to be a Democrat or a Republican? Makes for an interesting thought experiment; too bad we can't actually run a real experiment.

[Click here to buy a print of the infographic]

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  • Rocky West Positive

    Biggest bunch of BS not worth reading I have ever glanced upon!

  • 5monkeez

    Is anybody else bothered by the spelling error for "defence?"

    I love the chart--it's incredibly difficult to create really good infographics--but it still carries a very strong liberal bias. Example, conservatives are apparently "nationalistic" but why aren't liberals labeled as "socialistic?" Not in the current connotative meaning of the word but in the denotative definition.

    All in all though, it's nice to see that we all can agree on something: unmarried sex.

  • Tharkibo

    So you're saying... creativity will turn my child into a communist?!?!?!? I KNEW CRAYONS WERE A BAD IDEA

  • Colin Lee

    Adrian, you can dispute facts, but accusing someone else of writing complete BS that is completely inaccurate and reflects poor research, without performing your own research, is amateur and asinine. Both the Heritage Institute and Reason magazine supported the "individual mandate" in the early 1990s, along with Republican politicians like Mitt Romney and Newt Gingrich.

    In the official Heritage Foundation admission of guilt letter on inventing the operating ideas behind Obamacare, they concluded, "Yes, in the early 1990s, we, along with other prominent conservative economists, supported the idea of such a mandate... Our research in the ensuing two decades has led us to realize our initial idea was operationally ineffective and legally defective." [Monday, April 19, 2010, Robert Moffit Letter, Washington Post]

  • Mark Masseur

    Why is the "left" blue and the "right" red within the article, but the full image when clicked on has it reversed?

  • Randy Carter

    Yes, this does have a slightly left leaning, but does get to some of the extremes that are found on each side.  How can there be respect with fear?  It doesn't work with dogs much less children.  Respect can be trust, and is certainly a better way to go.  But what about respect and guidence?  I think we should look for another word for the Right than fear.

    Being a mix of Conservative and Liberal, our children came up as one of each.  And I think Cliff has a point, upbringing can play a, if not the, major role in development.  Now, both are comfortable in their choice.  But one is a believes in facts read, the other researches;  one believes in financial success, one in personal satisfaction.  Is this because one was involved more in sports than the other, or that one was more involved in the arts?  I believe that children learn to develop what gives them comfort, no matter the parents leanings.

    You can treat your children as too much of an equal if you include yourself and other adults and make it a single cell formula.  If you teach them to respect themselves and others, they have a chance at being fair.  If you teach fear of anything, you provide nothing but a negative impact on them.  Respect the waves at the beach and accept the ocean as it is.  They cannot change that a iropn can be hot but they can learn caution. 

    It would be better, I believe, if parents taught children openness, willingness and honesty.  This would keep all do0rs open to them and give them the choice to close or enter the doors that appeal to them.  These traits are so much the same.  I would much rather have a child grow with respect and openness, or either of the other words.  I would feel then that I helped them the best that I could have.

    The rest of life's influences, are choices for them.  They will make right and wrong ones.  If you teach them not to regret their errors but to learn from them, this would be another valuable trait.

    As for the political parties, neither are much more than a path that has been trashed by their former members.  When I look at the issues of today, the solution and fix is very simple.  Get together, listen and talk and then pick the best plan for the people as a whole.  Every plan politians have set in place may have been fine for the times.  But as everything else on earth, it should be reviewed, updated or deleted.  Many evils we have to deal with now are the plans of well intended polititians.  The evils they fixed are gone.  The plan is now the evil.

  • Adrian Scott

    This graphic is a triumph of design over reality. ;) "For example, the principles behind "Obamacare" began in conservative think tanks like the Heritage foundation and were loved by the Republican party." -- this is complete b.s... -- completely inaccurate... better research in your writing please... thanks!

  • Alexandra

     Or as a Republican, do some more research on the background of Obamacare.. like Cliff said, research Romney-care in Massachusetts. And the effects it may have on his campaign since Obama based his health care reform from it. 

  • Cliff Kuang

    Hey Adrian -- For the full background, you might try reading the 4000 word article in the New Yorker on this subject, which was linked above. It goes into great detail about the principle of mandated coverage and health exchanges -- and how those ideas were embraced by conservatives in the 1990s, and later championed my Mitt Romney. 

  • Barbara Owens

    I can't seem to respond directly since there is no "reply" button at the the bottom of your comment.

    You typed. "Here's the shocker - I'm not a republican either."

    Are you a Libertarian?

  • Joseph Moore


    A basic tip for responding to people (and talking to people in general) - you can do it without the snarky undertone. "For the full background, you might try reading" - could have just as easily written "For the full background, please read." Unless being an ass is part of your demeanor.

    Other readers,

    This isn't the first, nor will it be the last, time that Co.Design posts stuff that is politically biased. Simply do a quick search on their site for "political infographic" - you'll find a treasure trove of infographics that mislead and fail to represent the entire truth of the information they depict. (Side note: Cliff, if you have another snarky comment, please save it, I can and will waste my weekend proving you wrong, even if you weren't [I've already done some research on this] the editor at the time). In general, most of them lean left and, apparently this is okay because most 'creatives' lean left, but to others, who view this as a design site find that it's slightly sophomoric and ill-conceived of the FastCo staff to display their political affiliations so blatantly, even if by association with what they post.

    Here's the shocker - I'm not a republican either.

    As a PR person who has experience with legal writing, you could simply avoid this entire conundrum by not writing things like this "It all seems fairly accurate, at least in regards to the basic political
    principles (not true, try more research?)." Or adding "The views expressed here solely those of _____ and do not represent FastCompany." Sorry Cliff- another amateur article that displays the crap your company SOMETIMES posts. I'm sure you can find one of my other posts to your site that has you responding, "Do not jump on ___ (insert name of company representative that chose to respond to the comments), I was the one who posted the article."

    Here's us telling you that you're wrong again.

  • Alaina Kraus

    I would agree with Chris. The choice of terminology reads to me as being slanted to put the 'Left' in a much more positive light. Since the specific reference is this article is child-rearing; it also implies that an adult cannot be both fulfilled & self-reliant as well as that parenting styles cannot both build character and create potential, which in reflecting on my own childhood I find to be patently untrue.

  • shotgunconcepts

    Even with the 2nd draft, McCandless's personal political beliefs still shine through