UVA Study Links Bullying in Middle School to the Election of President Trump

Jan 15, 2019

A surprising new study from the University of Virginia suggests the last presidential election led to more bullying in Virginia middle schools.

Every two years, UVA professor Dewey Cornell and a colleague at the University of Missouri survey almost every middle school student in Virginia to learn more about bullying.  They did so the year before the latest presidential election and the year after.

Every other year, UVA Professor Dewey Cornell and a colleague at the University of Missouri survey Virginia middle school students about bullying.
Credit UVA's Curry School of Education

“And what we found that was really shocking to us was that in the school divisions where the Republican candidate was victorious in the presidential election, bullying increased,” Cornell says.

In areas that went for Democrats there was no change. Before the election, Cornell says, rates of bullying were similar, regardless of whether schools were in Republican or Democratic areas, but after the election they were 18% higher in localities that favored the GOP candidate.

“I think a lot of people have seen President Trump’s statements and actions as forms of bullying," he notes. " Kids in middle school may not be very interested in politics or  paying much attention to the presidential election, but in various ways they are affected by it.”

Findings are published in the journal of the American Educational Research Association.  Cornell says he and his colleagues were nervous about such a sensitive topic, but they felt strongly that educators and parents needed to know what they had learned.