MADISON, NJ - As the country readies to celebrate Father’s Day, the most recent national survey of registered voters from Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind finds that a plurality of Americans believe kids derive too little support from fathers (45%). Still, an overwhelming majority (93%) also believe it’s possible to be good fathers and have successful careers at the same time. These numbers stand in some degree of contrast to what Americans say about mothers. As reported by PublicMind in May (publicmind.fdu.edu/2013/mom/), a third (34%) believe children get too little support from their moms and 86 percent say the successful combination of motherhood and careers is possible today.
“Americans seem to be telling us that dads should be playing a greater role in their children’s lives, something that might be harder today given the perception that fatherhood has grown increasingly difficult in recent years,” said Krista Jenkins, director of PublicMind and professor of political science at Fairleigh Dickinson University. Six-in-ten (59%) believe the dads have it harder today relative to the days of their fathers.
Republicans (50%), women (48%) and those with children (47%) are more likely to say dads provide too little support to their kids as compared to Democrats (41%), men (41%), and those without children (39%). Older Americans are also more likely to say dads could be more supportive to their kids. For example, barely a third (35%) of young adults aged 18 to 29 say fathers provide too little support these days compared to over half (53%) of 30 to 44 year-olds, and more than four-in-ten of 45 to 59 year-olds (42%) and the over 60 crowd (44%).
Dads also come in second to moms when it comes to who Americans believe played the most positive role in helping them become the people they are today – a quarter (24%) say their father is more responsible while almost double (46%) identify their moms. However, who you are is also related to whom you identify as the most influential. Over half of all women (53%) say their mom played the biggest role, while men are decidedly more mixed in their appraisal. Thirty-eight percent of men say their mom was instrumental, with another 29 percent who identify their dad, and a quarter (24%) who credit both their mom and dad.
“Like mother, like daughter’ is a more apt description than ‘Like father, like son,’” said Jenkins. “Moms and dads influence their kids in different ways, but a maternal presence seems to have a bigger impact than what a dad models for his kids.”
In other findings, Americans are uncertain over the role that new technologies like computers and cell phones play in facilitating a father/child bond. When asked whether technology makes it easier, harder, or no difference relative to the role of fatherhood, about equal numbers say easier (36%) or no difference (34%), with another quarter who say they complicate the relationship (25%). The effects of technology are perceived similarly on the mother/child relationship as noted in the Mother’s Day poll. A third (36%) believe they make a mom’s job easier, while opinion was equally split (28% and 28%) on whether they make no difference or make the job of mothering harder.
And when it comes to who gets blamed when kids screw up, moms (14%) are twice as likely as dads (7%) to be deemed responsible, although the vast majority (63%) say both parents are blamed about equally.
“All parents hope their kids make good choices and steer clear of trouble, but when they don’t, dads shouldn’t fear they’re going to bear the brunt of the blame,” said Jenkins. “Americans seem to be saying that both parents are responsible for the behavior of their kids.”
The Fairleigh Dickinson University poll of 863 registered voters was conducted nationally by telephone with both landline and cell phones from April 22 through April 28, 2013, and has a margin of error of +/-3.4 percentage points.