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Did Obama’s role as a father influence the election?

Author John Thompson
Submitted 13-11-2008

It is difficult to picture President-elect Barack Obama in the White House without also envisioning him surrounded by his wife and two daughters.

In fact, the public’s perception of Obama as a younger family man concerned with fatherhood was part of the reason that he won the election, a University at Buffalo professor suggests.

Associate professor of sociology Sampson Lee Blair explains that people have a tendency to ascribe caring and nurturing characteristics to public figures who are parents of young children.

He suggests that these ideas could stretch beyond Americans’ perceptions and affect how the U.S. is viewed abroad.

"Obama will not only be a young president, but a young father, and it will be assumed that his domestic and foreign policies will be colored by the effects they will have on his daughters," Blair said.

In the recent past, many presidential candidates have directed their policies at the baby boomer generation, but Obama’s win reflects a shift away from this focus, he added.

If the media’s recent treatment of Obama is anything to go by, Blair’s hypothesis seems to hold true. Current headlines seem nearly as interested in what type of puppy the family will adopt as what policy changes the new president will enact.