Growing political divide infiltrates students’ families

With the growing divergence between political parties, students try to navigate how to have differing opinions while trying to reach their parents who have conflicting political and social views.


By Alex Liscio

Cara Simpson (Left) and Cordel Littlejohn (Right) were just two of the many student-athletes who attended the protest Thursday.

Kizzy Azcarate, Entertainment Editor

As political views become indications of who a person’s identity, values, and morality is, for some members of Generation Z, the question analysis begins at home.

Hannah Tuttle, a junior physics major, identifies as a “right-wing libertarian” while her mother is a “very far-right Republican.”

“I’m more financially conservative, so I generally believe in lower taxes for people,” says Tuttle. “I believe we should have more economic freedom, companies should have less regulations. However, I am socially liberal.”

Tuttle said her burgeoning political views have sometimes created contentious debates with her mother.

“We’re chatting and she’ll bring up all these political things. Like my mom is kind of a COVID denier. She’s like, ‘It’s no worse than a flu,’” said Tuttle. “It’s irritating. When you’re in college and you’re forming your own political views, and when you go home to the people you love and when they’re saying things that are a little provoking, it’s hard to be a little [understanding].”

Tuttle’s parents — who she says voted for former President Donald Trump — were adamantly against mail-in voting during the last presidential election. The 17-year-old says she would have voted differently from her parents had she been of age.

“I think my parents are easily influenced by things that they see online and so I think my parents were genuinely concerned that there was election fraud happening,” said Tuttle.

Depending on the primary candidate, some voters may choose to vote differently in that election, yet voters are not likely to abandon their political parties regardless of the equivocal nature of the party itself, according to political communications professor Aaron Veenstra.

“It varies somewhat, but the general answer is not very likely,” he said.

Cuban-Americans have primarily backed the Republican Party for years, perhaps due in part to family ties with those who fled Cuba under the Fidel Castro regime. Pew Research Center staff have found that their support of the party has waned some in years as more U.S. born Cubans reach voting age.

“Eventually as we get engaged with politics, there’s a process of figuring out what that means for us,” said Veenstra. “There is something that will bring us into politics or get us thinking about politics for the first time. If you have highly engaged parents, you’re probably hearing about politics early on.”

Senior political science major Kyrie Bradley struggles at times to communicate with their mother because of their conflicting views. Bradley is a left-wing libertarian and considers their mother to be “more right than Obama.”

In recent years, Bradley has clashed with their mother who has actively rejected her native Taíno upbringing. The Taíno are indigenous people who are native to Caribbean islands including Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Bradley — who is of Puerto Rican descent — learned from older relatives on the Caribbean island about the cruelties their family endured due to U.S. occupation.

“My mother tried to conceal it from me, to keep me safe. I discovered from my grandmother that we are Taíno, so she could keep me from staying ‘normal’ and that was the final nail in the coffin for me to appeal to Americanization,” Bradley said.

Growing up, Bradley believed they were white due to their mother’s withholding of traditional garb and language.

Bradley believes their mother’s fears of being treated as a person of color in the U.S. compelled her to try and be “more American,” which included trying to pass as white so her family could be more openly accepted.

Bradley’s mother isn’t alone in her sentiment — there may well be a point in which voters become relatively entrenched in their political views, Veenstra said.

“For most people, once you reach that point of stability, not necessarily in terms of lifestyle, but a stability in the perceptions of the world,” Veenstra said. “You’ve experienced enough stuff, developed enough attitudes, [and] once that happens, it’s really hard to move people one way or the other.”

Athena Murray is a communications professor at Colorado Mountain College and formerly held the same position at Florida Atlantic University. She cautions people to consider the other side when relaying political views, and reminds them to remember they may be acting in good faith.

“The first piece of advice I would give is to understand that everyone assumes they are correct. People don’t move through the world with a list of beliefs they know to be false. They believe their opinions come by honestly,” Murray said.

Due to the current climate and how politicians and the media are covering the government and current events, Murray says we are heading into a more affective political polarization if the country continues to ignore the other side.

“Affective political polarization is when we have people become further apart in their ability to have empathy for the other group,” says Murray.

The key factor in government, as well as conversations with family members with different political and social opinions, is to find common ground, Murray said.

“There are some policy issues where there are clear majorities in favor of that particular policy, but when we look at how people are talking about it, the political party label seems to be getting in the way of people understanding those commonalities,” Murray says.

In a discussion with her mother, Tuttle found some common ground with her mother when discussing how more government programs would be beneficial to help low-income Americans.

“I believe we need more social networks in this system, more ways to help people who are more at risk, impoverished. I believe we need to help our fellow Americans, and I told my mom that and she said, ‘You know what, you’re right,’” said Tuttle.

Kizzy Azcarate is the Entertainment Editor for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, tweet her @Kizzy_kinz or [email protected]