Families, Friends, and Politics


Ashley Walters, staff writer

Everyone’s political views are vastly different and interesting in a multitude of ways. As a result, several families and friendships at Knoch have been divided because of the increasing political tensions in the U.S.  In the small town of Saxonburg, it sometimes feels as though our school and community are a bubble of the same values and worldviews.

I was curious as to what Knoch, as a hive mind, thought on the topic of politics and how different relationships are affected by political discourse in the area. As much as I know about the leanings of a few of my classmates, I am usually still left wondering about the inclination of our entire student body. So, I sent out a survey to the entire high school.

Stats Summary:

  • In the 2020 Election popular vote by the student body, Trump wins by 59.3%.
  • The majority of Knoch students claim to be center on a two-axis political compass.
  • The second-largest margin on the political compass question was libertarian left.
  • The majority of students are either in favor of the status quo or as progressive as possible.
  • Most Knoch students claim that they are moderate in their radicalization.
  • Most students think that they are well educated on their political views.
  • 78% of parents are voting for Trump.
  • 28% of students have parents that disagree with each other.
  • 19% of students have parents that find it unacceptable to disagree with them.
  • About half of students feel uncomfortable about sharing their political views in school because of other students’ judgment.
  • 52% of students have friend groups that agree at least mostly on political issues.

I have already had several people tell me that what I sent out was too confusing for them. If you were one of those people confused or overwhelmed by my questions, please allow me to implore you not only to read the rest of my analysis but also to check out some of the resources that I have left at the end of this article.

I was able to get answers from 162 students at Knoch High School. I sent this survey out through email, so the only shared trait among these students is that they all checked their emails in time or got a notification when I sent out the survey. There are occasional errors in the design of this survey, as some of the questions I asked delegitimize some of the data. I will still review the portion of errored data with notes about the possible errors. With that being said, let’s get into it.



What’s the hot topic in U.S. politics right now? Why the 2020 election of course! While there is the general discourse about our country’s ruling happening at any time during a presidential term, the subject really becomes a hot topic during the elections. Those that get intensely involved treat their favorite candidate like a celebrity.

This question was designed to collect everyone’s opinion based on if they HAD to vote.

An Anonymous Knoch Student (AKS) said, “Because of the way our two-party system is set up, anything other than a vote for Biden is a vote for Trump and vice versa.”

While this next statement is not proven by data, I think that the majority of the write-ins were either Bernie-or-Bust’s (Bernie Sanders supporters that dislike Biden to the point that they write Bernie Sanders into their ballot) or apolitical people.

An AKS said, “There is a fundamental disconnect in both major political parties between the established party members and their constituents. Both parties are pretty trash.”


Political Compass

From anarchism to Marxist-Leninism to classic liberalism to neo-conservatism to monarchism, there are seemingly unlimited political ideologies to draw from if you so wish. There are so many more facets to politics, even in the U.S. than Democrats or Republicans.

An AKS brought up autocracy as they said, “The political climate in the United States right now is dangerous. I have seen Trump signs saying, ‘Vote for America,’ but no matter who you vote for, you are voting for America because it is your right in this democracy to vote for your leader. The media is being demonized so people don’t know what to believe. It plays on people’s fears while diverting them from the truth. In history, this is how autocracy begins and people aren’t realizing it.”

The political compass is one of those ways that many people use to describe their views. It simplifies one’s policy claims and values down to a plotted point. Though not a very specific or effective method of political socialization, I included it because I was hoping that the concept was entry-level enough that enough newcomers would be able to answer it without a paragraph-long explanation. However, I will still explain it now.

Here is a political compass.

On the political compass, the x-axis becomes an economic spectrum between socialism on the left and capitalism on the right. To fall in the center of this axis might indicate that your preferred economic system would be a hybrid of the two.

The y-axis on the political compass is the spectrum between authoritarianism and anarchism. To fall in the center is to say that you might like things in a balance of state control and liberty.

Here is where our school believes they land on the said compass.

I was very surprised by the number of lib-lefts considering the also large number of Trump supporters pictured in earlier presented data. It is also interesting that there is an incredibly large margin of centrists. Whether centrism was chosen by these students by confusion about the question or compass, a calculated dislike for the other quadrants, or apathy, they are still all centrists.



Among the many ways to identify politically, progressiveness is one of them. To be progressive is to push for progress in society and a new way of doing things. To be the opposite of progressive, recessive, is to wish for the continuation of an old or more traditional way of life. To land in the middle is to say that one likes the way things are now and would like to maintain the status quo. Here is how Knoch students believe themselves to be:

Again, I was surprised by the leaning to the progressive side of things on a Knoch-wide level, but not so much an age demographic level. However, the majority was shown to be in support of the status quo.

How radical do Knoch students think they are? Radicalization is very subjective. What seems reasonable to one person is horrific and outrageous to another.

Sophomore Mackenzie Protos said, “I feel like our society is very toxic on all ends of the political spectrum. A lot of people are scared to express their political and personal views because of how quickly they can have their lives ruined by opposing forces.”

Between the large margin of libertarian leftists from the political compass question, a large number of progressives, and a large number of Trump supporters in the student population. It would seem as though there might be an overlap here that would be considered contradictory by most. According to this data, some left-leaning individuals would vote for Trump, and some progressives would also.



I also asked Knoch how educated they think they are on their own political opinions. This is purely subjective to the individual because unfortunately, different people believe different information to be true.

While there are a few who say that they are not very educated, and not many who say that they are super-duper educated on their views, a good portion are inclined to say that they know a lot about what they believe.

Knowing what you think about certain topics is in contrast to not having your views fully fleshed out. For instance, if I asked you about your stance on [controversial topic], I would hope that you would be able to give me a claim of some sort.

A diplomatic discussion between two educated but opposing individuals can go a long way. Discussions prevent echo chambers, and having your ideas challenged will help you to look inwardly critical to your own thoughts.

Educate yourself about what you are supporting. If you would like to look into different quizzes and resources that could tell you more about how to shape your political views, check out the links at the end of this story to get started.


Parents’ Popular Vote

Now that we’ve been over the opinions of the students, we need to look at their parents and guardians. In hindsight, I should have included a ‘not voting’ option in the election question for the students to have some sort of control over this statistic. I also allowed students to check multiple boxes for their parents voting for different candidates.

This eliminates the aspect of knowing how many people are factored into each percentage, and so kids with agreeing parents would have less of a factor in these results. Still, I shall present the numbers.

If (reluctantly) choosing to disregard the error, it becomes apparent to the viewer that Trump supporters are the majority among the parental units. We are looking at an 18.5% difference in Trump supporters when taking data from the parental population instead of the parental population.

Again, none of the statements collected from this question are valid because of the error in the question, but perhaps the data collected can provide a fair estimation.


Family Disagreements

To find out how many students have seen or been part of harmful political polarization in their families, I asked if there were disagreements between parents.

Then I asked if there was any tension ever created between family members because of political biases.

An AKS said, “Politics have made the relationship between my father and me to become very strained because he is a Trump supporter and I despise Trump, so it causes many fights daily. It doesn’t help that his favorite thing to do is to get on my nerves and fighting aggravates me.”

I also wanted to know if students felt as though they would be allowed to disagree with their parents. Some may not know for sure because they have never disagreed with their guardians about politics, but then again, this is about the outlook of the student.

It is no secret that the political views of parents affect their kids. But are kids more or less likely to adopt their parents’ views? According to a study from 2015, only about 47% of kids who can correctly identify their parents’ outlook adopt their parents’ views as their own. Those that do not correctly perceive their parents’ outlook adopt their parents’ views only about 23% of the time (American Sociological Association). That’s an average of only 35% of kids adopting their parents’ political views. This might cause a rift in familial relationships.

I have always found it upsetting when families either argue or have to break apart because of politics. However, compromise is very commonly never going to be on the table when arguing about rights.

With a family with which you must live with, it might seem impossible to feel comfortable discussing these topics, especially if there is a difference in views. The same goes for friend groups.


Friend Groups

It seems reasonable to expect that those who willingly choose to spend time together are alike in world views. Being around those who agree with you can be validating. As a result, stepping out of that comfortable bubble wrap of agreeableness can be nerve-wracking for already close friendships and strangers alike. Sometimes the difference is so great that we reject others to keep differing views at a safe distance.

32.1% of students that answered my survey apparently don’t talk about politics with their friends. If you don’t think that you will split your friend group over politics if you disagree, then I advise that you bring it up.

Talking about politics in a safe space where everyone can share their ideas can create a better understanding both between the individuals and parties/ideologies involved. You may also learn that you would rather not associate with your friends anymore due to their outlook of a certain group of people or opinions on an issue.


Fear of Expression

Because of the possibility of rejection or harmful retaliation, some students fear the very concept of sharing their ideas.

Whether or not the people who responded with “Yes” to this question fear rejection because of experience, the percentages are very similar. We need to allow people to speak their minds to have a proper dialogue. Unless someone is calling for the active harm of others, it should be fair game.

Protos said, “The only thing I ask of my peers is that we strive to be more tolerant of others’ beliefs and be more open to changing our mindsets.”

If unable to communicate properly with someone, the best thing to do is to try using a calm tone of voice and try not to insult them or their ideas. If you respect their ideas, they should respect yours. But, if this attempt at de-escalation does not work, it might be best to simply pull the plug on the topic.


Think for Yourself

Remember that you own yourself and can therefore make your own decisions about what is right or wrong. Educate yourself. The more educated you are, the better of discussions you can have with others.

Also, regularly give yourself a healthy dose of introspection. What are the people that you support doing? Do you agree with not only their words but their actions? Are they keeping their word? What about your information sources? Are they reliable? Are they unbiased?

Get outside of your comfort zone. Talk to people with views that you may fear. Let other people challenge your views. Talk to people that might literally hate you for who you are or what you stand for. Just don’t get hurt or hurt others.

At the end of the day, communication with both others and yourself is what matters here. Having a variety of ideas is important, but we shouldn’t let the disconnect get so strong that we stop properly communicating with each other. By all means, break the “Overton window”. Break the rules of “acceptable discourse”.

But don’t forget to think about the bigger picture and the consequences that words and actions have on the larger population. Always ask yourself if you’re making the effect on the world that you intend.

I have my political outlook mapped out, and I am very radical in those ideas. Do you know what ideas you support?


Resources and Links

Survey results:

Knoch Political Survey Results 2020

Open Responses


American Sociological Association Study:



Other Links*:

politicalcompass.org tends to lean everyone towards the lib-left quadrant and asks a lot of irrelevant questions, but http://sapplypoliticalcompass.com/ does a better job of being balanced and worthwhile.





*Just a reminder: take all of this information or results with a grain of salt. A fully formed political ideology cannot fit on one or even 100 spectrums. A compass or spectrum test might be able to tell you a little bit about your place on a mathematical plane, but researching different ideologies might be a better way to educate yourself on different outlooks in the world. The links above are far from the most reliable or foolproof, but I hope that they can at least get you interested in the wide expanse of political theory.