How kids see politics: using children’s drawings of political leaders to understand political socialization


Early experiences with politics can shape how kids – and later, adults – see and engage with the political world. Yet, we know very little about the ways that kids actually see the political world. Using a new measurement, the Draw A Political Leader (DAPL) tool, we examine the images that more than 1600 children (age 6-12) produced about politics. In the first part of the paper, we examine the common themes in these images and how they vary by the children’s age, gender, race, location, and political attitudes. We then use computer processing of these images to identify the ways that sentiment and subject can (and cannot) be extracted and categorized using automated techniques. These results are compared against human coding. Our paper provides both new methodological approaches for assessing views of politics via DAPL and the automated processes of those images and key insights into the role of images in political socialization.