Key findings

  • Political leanings correlate with the values parents want to instill in their kids. Mothers who identify as liberal say they prioritize teaching their children kindness (56 percent), happiness (55 percent) and empathy (51 percent). Conservative moms, on the other hand, say they want to impart respect (53 percent), faith/spirituality (49 percent) and honesty (46 percent).
  • Political affiliations also line up with how moms parent their kids. Liberal moms are more likely to describe their styles as "gentle," "nurturing" and "loving," while their conservative counterparts more often characterize their parenting as "religious/spiritual," "strict" and "structured."
  • The majority of moms consider themselves moderate. The middle of the spectrum accounted for 53 percent of the survey respondents, and they typically blend the two approaches liberal and conservative parents take.  

Politics have a stubborn way of infiltrating the way we see the world, behave and even parent. For a recent survey conducted by Everyday Health Group, What to Expect's parent company, more than 3,800 new and expectant mothers rated their political identities and then answered questions about their parenting styles and the values they hope to impart on their kids. Some clear differences in parenting emerged along political lines. 

"You can really learn a lot about a person's political preferences by what they say about their parenting style and what they think is appropriate parenting," says Daniel Oppenheimer, PhD, a professor of psychology and decision sciences at Carnegie Mellon University who studies how parenting style predicts political beliefs. "There are some core personality traits that people have, and those personality traits guide their preferences across many, many domains — two of which are parenting and politics."

Liberal moms describe their parenting as gentle

Mothers who ranked themselves as being the most liberal were more likely than conservative moms to choose kindness (56 percent), happiness (55 percent), and empathy (51 percent) as principles that they would like to instill in their children. They were also more likely to use descriptors like gentle, nurturing, supportive, loving, environmentally conscious and indulgent to reflect their parenting style. 

top values liberal moms want to instill in their kids

The way parents run their families may align with how they want politicians to run their country, says Oppenheimer. He points to a theory held by cognitive scientist George Lakoff, PhD, that family is a major metaphor for the role of government — whether it should be nurturing or disciplinarian.

"He has argued that liberal parents tend to be nurturing, [with] the idea that the world is a dangerous place and people make mistakes, and your job as a parent is to help your child reach their potential by giving them support," Oppenheimer explains. "Whereas the disciplinarian parent, who is more conservative, holds that the world is a dangerous place, and so people need to follow the rules."

The liberal parents surveyed had several other things in common. They were also more likely to be Millennial moms (so, in their late twenties through thirties), live in a suburban area, hold a job and have just one child — and describe their own upbringings as hands-off and easygoing. 

Conservative moms describe their parenting as strict

Meanwhile, the survey respondents who identified as being the most conservative were more likely to describe their own childhoods as religious and/or spiritual. These mothers were significantly more likely to belong to Gen Z (that is, in their early to mid-twenties), live in a rural area, be a stay-at-home mom and have two or more children.

top values conservative moms want to instill in their kids

Conservative moms chose respect (53 percent), faith/spirituality (49 percent) and honesty (46 percent) as the core values they try to impart on their children — significantly more often than liberal mothers. And going back to that "family as government" analogy where conservatives operate as disciplinarians, the right-aligned respondents described their parenting style as strict, structured and traditional. 

While the two groups' different values contrast pretty sharply, their parenting styles do converge in some ways. Similar proportions of liberal and conservative moms say they're:

  • Fun (56 percent of liberal moms and 57 percent of conservative moms)
  • Involved (64 percent of liberal moms and 61 percent of conservative moms)
  • Protective (63 percent of liberal moms and 66 percent of conservative moms)
  • Resourceful (30 percent of liberal moms and 28 percent of conservative moms) 

"It's so interesting that parenting styles are more aligned across political ideologies and to me, points to the fact that parenting is the great equalizer," says Dominique De Lope, senior manager of trade insights at Everyday Health Group Pregnancy & Parenting and a facilitator of the survey. "We're all just trying to do our best and teach our children to be the best version of themselves, whatever we think that might be."

Moderate moms describe their parenting as a mix of strict and gentle

In recent years, from presidential elections to pandemic opinions, the political discourse in the United States has seemed wildly polarized. Yet the survey respondents who identified as moderate outnumbered the liberal and conservative moms combined, coming in at just over 53 percent of respondents. 

pie chart of moms' political affiliations: liberal, conservative and moderate

The majority of moms in the survey mixed the styles and values found on the two ends of the spectrum. They were more likely than conservatives to describe their parenting as loving, gentle and supportive, but more likely than liberals to call their styles traditional, strict and religious. 

As for the values they aim to inspire in their children, they desire kindness and happiness (like those on the left), as well as honesty and respect (like those on the right). 

How do people develop their political affiliations in the first place? There isn’t a single answer, Oppenheimer says, but it likely has a lot to do with their own upbringings. "There is strong evidence that people’s environments influence their political ideology," he explains. 

That means the mothers in this survey may indeed pass on their views to their children by modeling the importance of kind, respectful and responsible behavior.


Everyday Health Group Pregnancy & Parenting surveyed 3,814 women in December 2022 and January 2023 for its Motherhood Matrix Study. Respondents were U.S. women, age 18–54 who were either pregnant or have a child 0 to 8 years old.

Survey respondents answered the following question to gauge political ideology: "In politics, people sometimes talk about liberal and conservative. Where would you place YOURSELF on a scale from 1 to 7, where 1 means very liberal and 7 means very conservative?" Responses were categorized as following: Liberal as 1-2, Moderate as 3-5 and Conservative as 6-7.