The single best predictor of whether a person will vote when first eligible and will later become a lifelong voter comes down to one discreet action by that person's parent: Whether that parent voted in the presidential election just before their child could vote.
That's one of the takeaways from a long-term study of families nationwide that has shed some of the only light political scientists have on parent-child political influence.
Laura Stoker, a political scientist at the University of California, Berkeley who co-directs the study, told me that a parent's vote at the time of adolescence is the only consistent variable in any analysis of predicting whether a young adult will vote.
The study, which Stoker joined mid-way through, began in 1965, when another political scientist, Kent Jennings, interviewed more than 1,660 high school seniors and their parents about their political leanings, participation and affiliation.
Researchers then reinterviewed the group in 1973, when the younger subjects were 26; in 1982, when they were 35; and in 1997, when they were 50. The last year, researchers also interviewed the third generation.