The Nickelodeon TV Network hosts an event every election year called “Kids Pick the President,” where children across the nation vote in a mock election for who they feel will become president.
And it turns out the kids are right most of the time. Since the mock election’s inception in 1988, American children have chosen the correct candidate in every election except for 2004 — when the children’s choice, John Kerry, lost out to President George W. Bush, according to United Press International.
Children correctly chose George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton to be president in 1988 and 1992, respectively, according to UPI. In 1996, children nationwide chose Bill Clinton to be re-elected, according to The Daily Courier.
Then, in 2000, children chose Bush to win the vote, which he did, The Los Angeles Times reported. Though the children chose wrong in 2004, they were right on target in 2008 when President Barack Obama earned the kids’ vote, UPI reported. The children didn’t want to see him leave office so soon, either, when he won the kid vote again in 2012.
Nickelodeon’s aim with this event is to inspire children to vote, according to UPI.
"Nickelodeon has a long history of empowering kids and providing them with an opportunity to voice their opinions," Cyma Zarghami, president of Nickelodeon Kids and Family Group, said, according to UPI. "The Kids Pick the President campaign has introduced them to the voting process, and hopefully will make them want to be active participants when they are old enough to vote."
Linda Ellerbee, the former host of the Nick News TV show that used to air on Nickelodeon, told UPI in 2008 that the mock election helps children learn more about democracy.
"It's important to take note of who won the 'Kids' vote, simply because so many kids vote the way their parents will. But what really counts is this: they participated in democracy. They voted. How can this be anything but good?" Ellerbee said, according to UPI.
Experiencing politics and democracy firsthand may make children more informed voters, which may possibly make them step away from their parents’ political views. In fact, in general, children are becoming less likely to identify with their parents' political beliefs, especially when they grow up in a household with strong political stances, The Atlantic’s Te-Erika Patterson wrote last year.
Patterson cited a study published in the British Journal of Political Science that found that parents who advocate strongly for one political side over another will “inadvertently influence their children to abandon the belief once they become adults,” Patterson wrote.
“Extreme parental views of the world give children a clear choice for being with the parents through agreement, or against parents through disagreement,” Carl Pickhardt, an author and child psychologist, told The Atlantic. “Thus extremely rigid views of right/wrong, trust/distrust, love/hate can be embraced by children who want to stay connected to parents, and can be cast off by children who, for their own independence, are willing to place the parental relationship at risk.”
That’s why it’s important for children to experience politics and voting for themselves, Patterson reported. By gathering their own knowledge, they can make informed decisions to help the country.
“I think we all learn early on that no matter what people tell you, until you experience it yourself, the words of advice offered will fall short,” Ben Miller, whose parents never shared their political views when he was a child, told The Atlantic. “And that’s not a bad thing, I don't think.”
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Herb Scribner is a writer for Deseret News National. Send him an email at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @herbscribner.