Republican efforts to be the parents’ party suffer a setback

“Even when students are in the classroom, they’re being bombarded with woke propaganda and radical gender ideology,” a concerned parent wrote in August as American children began to head back to school. That was because of Democrats and the White House, she argued, while “Republicans are championing parental rights and educational opportunity for every student.” It was Republicans who had “fought against critical race theory and leftist efforts to replace parents with the state,” she insisted.

She would. Ronna McDaniel was the author, and she is also chair of National Republican Party. The Washington Examiner, a conservative publication, published the unsubtle essay.

McDaniel, as with all essays of this nature, was being aspirational. McDaniel wanted American parents to see her party as their natural ally, especially since the midterm elections were imminent.

Exit polls show that Republicans did slightly better than Democrats in November with voters who had kids under the age of 18 — though the party underperformed relative to expectations. New polling from Fox News, meanwhile, shows that the party’s efforts to bolster its purported advocacy for parents is stumbling.

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A Fox News poll was conducted by well-respected bipartisan polling companies and asked respondents how concerned they were about various issues. This poll is conducted quite often. Many of the same questions were asked in a May 2013 poll.

They included a question about the extent of concern Americans had about “book banning by local school boards.” In May, two-thirds of self-identified parents said they were “extremely” or “very” concerned about such bans. Three quarters said so by March.

The views of parents were not that different from those expressed by Democrats and Republicans in May. In fact, they differed by only a few percentage points. Parents’ concern rose 19 points between May and March due to Democratic concerns. Parents are now more aligned with Democrats on this subject.

By the way, notice the language. The question is about book bans, a real issue — but attributed to “local school boards.” This depoliticizes the issue to some extent. It’s not Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) pushing for schools to limit what books are available out of concern over “critical race theory.” Instead, it’s just a local school board making a call.

Contrast those results with another issue: what’s being taught in public schools. In May 2022, parents expressed the same level of concern as Republicans. However, their levels differed by just two percentage points. This concern had plummeted to seven points by March.

In May, three quarters of parents expressed concern over the content being taught in schools. Three-quarters of parents are now concerned about book bans.

According to a Fox News poll, parents support Democrats more than Republicans on many other issues. These include climate change and expanding background checks for guns. Most of those, though, aren’t directly related to parenting as such, though they may be a prompt for how people vote.

One other notable shift is also evident. In May, parents generally worried about “higher crime rates” at about the same level as Democrats, while concern among Republicans was much higher. The most recent Fox News poll showed that both parents and Democrats are more worried than ever.

The question wording is crucial here. Whether crime rates are “higher” depends on one’s frame of reference, which itself is often political. However, the midterm-season push to emphasize crime (especially on Fox News), appears to have had an affect.

McDaniel’s essay had other dubious arguments, such as her echoing the false suggestion that run-of-the-mill parents were being targeted by the Justice Department for scrutiny. The claim that leftist educational curriculums are the driving force behind politicians’ book bans and removals has been the central claim. Her party is not winning ground with parents but losing it.

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