July 4th Parades Good Politics for Republicans?

July 4th brings to mind barbeque, fireworks, and patriotism. But a recent Harvard study finds a curious link between a political party and America’s Independence Day – not what comes to mind when one thinks about the national holiday.

The Harvard study, “Shaping the Nation: Estimating the Impact of Fourth of July Using a Natural Experiment,” finds Republicans benefit more from Fourth of July parades and activities than do Democrats. The study’s more intriguing observation includes that those who celebrate and participate in patriotic activities are more likely to introduce their children to the political and government process. It also reveals that participation tends to lead to a lifetime of political activity.

If one is engaged in Fourth of July activities before the age of 18, the study finds that the person is 2 percent more likely to identify as a Republican, 4 percent likely to vote that way, and 3 percent more likely to make political contributions – an interesting observation given that Democrats usually out give Republicans in many election cycles.

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Harvard Kennedy School Assistant Professor David Yanagizawa-Drott and Bocconi University Assistant Professor Andreas Madestam conducted the study.

Released in May, the study evaluated how people born in 1920-1990 celebrate the Fourth of July. The authors noted in their findings, “The political right has been more successful in appropriating American patriotism and its symbols during the 20th century.”

The authors also remarked, “Taken together, the results indicate the Fourth of July celebrations in the United States shape the nation’s political landscape by forming beliefs and increasing participation primarily in favor of the Republican party.”

Researchers examined previous studies, finding that July 4th participation is for the most part, divided among political lines with Republicans viewing the nation’s anniversary as more important than Democrats. The study shows that Republicans are more consistent in their attendance at July 4th events and parades.

Does this mean Democrats should avoid Independence Day altogether?

That question was not specifically addressed. However, the authors’ findings suggested that not only do Republicans benefit more, but Democrats gain nothing from July 4th parades.

The researchers recommended that if one is looking for a vibrant Fourth of July celebration or parade, look in the direction of a community with a Republican majority.

“Republican adults celebrate Fourth of July more intensively in the first place,” the report noted.

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