In Brief: Study links bullying to politics

Bullying is pronounced in areas favoring President Donald Trump.
Bullying is pronounced in areas favoring President Donald Trump.

If students see bullying on the national stage, does it inspire them to become bullies too? 

      Researchers believe it can. Indeed, a recent study shows a higher rate of bullying among Virginia middle school students in regions favoring President Donald Trump as opposed to areas with more Hillary Clinton supporters.
     The study also showed students were more likely to suffer put-downs because of race or ethnicity in areas that favored Trump. The study, published in the journal Educational Researcher found that “a 10 percentage point increase in voters supporting the Republican candidate in 2016 was associated with a 5 percent jump in middle school teasing because of race or ethnicity and an 8-percent increase in middle school bullying,” concludes the American Educational Research Association.
      Some teachers voiced concern about bullying following the presidential election in 2016. And Virginia is a good place to measure the impact on students. In heavily populated Northern Virginia, more voters went for Clinton. But in some regions of the commonwealth, particularly in the southern portion of the state, Trump won a significant number of voters. In all, 1.9 million voted for Clinton; 1.7 million voted for Trump, according to the Virginia Department of Elections.    
      The research, "School Teasing and Bullying After the Presidential Election," was led by Francis Huang, an associate professor of statistics, measurement, and evaluation in education at the University of Missouri, and Dewey Cornell, a professor of education at the University of Virginia. They used data involving 155,000 seventh- and-eighth grade students collected in 2013, 2015 and 2017. The researchers used a standard definition of bullying when interviewing students.
      Now, another question: Is this coincidence or a cause-and-effect?
      Describing the work on the website for the American Educational Research Association, Huang remarked, “We found consistent differences in teasing and bullying rates that were linked to voting preferences. ... While our findings do not indicate that support for Trump caused bullying to increase in Republican districts, they do provide some credence to the widespread perception that some types of teasing and bullying have increased, at least in some localities.”


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