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Social Studies: Healthy kids, conservative adults; corporate ads as PSAs; World War II draft kings

The World War II draft registration card for Huddie Ledbetter, the musician known as Lead Belly. A new study examines the political factors that may have made some draft boards more generous with deferments.US Army via Wikimedia Commons

When conservatives are made

A random sample of high school students were surveyed in 1960 and then resurveyed in subsequent decades, including in 2012, when participants were entering their retirement years. One of the questions asked of the high schoolers was how healthy they had been before the age of 10. Participants who answered this question more positively were much more likely to be politically conservative as older adults, even taking into account such factors as the subjects’ socioeconomic status in both 1960 and 2012, their health as adolescents and adults, their adolescent personality traits, and their academic aptitude.

Kannan, V. et al., “The Relationship Between Health and Political Ideology Begins in Childhood,” SSM - Population Health (September 2022).


Viral ads

Not long after COVID hit in early 2020, some companies produced TV ads that referenced the pandemic and social distancing. A study by marketing professors found that residents of counties that were exposed to more of these ads responded with more stay-at-home social distancing, compared with nearby counties in different TV ad markets. This effect was greatly enhanced in areas without government social-distancing policies, though there was a counterreaction in strongly Republican counties. Government-sponsored ads were generally less effective.

Dastidar, A. et al., “Societal Spillovers of TV Advertising — Social Distancing During a Public Health Crisis,” Journal of Marketing (forthcoming).

Silence is acceptance

In experiments in the United States and Hungary, participants played an online game in which some of them observed another player discriminating against a third player because of that player’s race or ethnicity. (In the United States the victim of this discrimination was said to be Black, Muslim, or Hispanic; in Hungary the victim was Jewish or Roma). Some of those who witnessed discrimination had the ability to send a message to the discriminating player. Participants who passed up the chance to confront the discriminating player subsequently reported more negative attitudes about the racial group being targeted, even relative to their own previously stated attitudes, and there was evidence that this effect was heightened among those with more positive preexisting attitudes.


Szekeres, H. et al., “Endorsing Negative Intergroup Attitudes to Justify Failure to Confront Prejudice,” Group Processes & Intergroup Relations (forthcoming).

Draft picks

Two political scientists argue that the Selective Service System — the draft — was politically manipulated during World War II to help Democrats win swing constituencies. Local draft boards had a lot of discretion to give deferments, and the Roosevelt administration and congressional Democrats could pressure draft boards serving swing constituencies. Indeed, counties where Democrats got around 50 percent of the vote in previous elections experienced relatively low enlistment rates, controlling for demographics, especially in 1942. Over the entire war, the political scientists estimate there were 139,000 fewer enlistees from swing counties than would’ve been expected. To pick up the slack, heavily Republican and Democratic “base” areas had higher rates of enlistment.

Atkinson, D. & Fahey, K., “Ain’t No Fortunate Son: The Political Calculus of Conscription,” Political Research Quarterly (forthcoming).

Getting to know you

Using the fact that Mormon missionaries are quasi-randomly assigned to missions around the United States and the world, political scientists found that missionaries serving in areas with more immigrants had more pro-immigrant views after their missions than before. Missionaries assigned to the United States developed more pro-immigrant views than those assigned internationally. And missionaries assigned to parts of the United States with many Hispanic immigrants became more favorable to immigration than missionaries assigned to Latin America did.


Berinsky, A. et al., “How Social Context Affects Immigration Attitudes,” Journal of Politics (forthcoming).