Areas That Voted for Trump See Increased Bullying in Schools After 2016 Election: Study

President Donald Trump arrives at the U.S. Capitol to attend the weekly Republican Senate policy luncheon January 9, 2019. A new study found that areas in Virginia that supported Trump in the 2016 presidential election had seen a rise in reports of bullying at schools. Alex Wong/Getty

A Virginia study launched in response to reports of a surge in school bullying across the country following the 2016 presidential election found an increase of abuse in areas of the state that voted for President Donald Trump compared with those that supported his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.

The study, which was undertaken by Francis Huang of the University of Missouri and Dewey Cornell of the University of Virginia and published Wednesday in Educational Researcher, a journal of the American Educational Research Association, analyzed data from a school climate survey taken by more than 150,000 students from across Virginia.

Looking at student responses around bullying from 2015 to 2017, researchers found higher rates of bullying and teasing in areas that voted for Trump compared with those that voted for Clinton.

What's more, the researchers found that the difference in rates of bullying between the areas emerged only after 2015.

Student responses in 2015 showed "no meaningful differences" between areas, the researchers said in their study. But by spring 2017, responses from seventh- and eighth-graders in areas that supported Trump suggest that bullying rates were 18 percent higher than in areas that voted for Clinton.

Students in areas favoring Trump were also 9 percent more likely to say that children at their schools had been teased because of their race or ethnicity.

"We found consistent differences in teasing and bullying rates that were linked to voting preferences," said Huang in a statement shared online.

"While our findings do not indicate that support for Trump caused bullying to increase in Republican districts, they do provide some credence to the widespread perception that some types of teasing and bullying have increased, at least in some localities."

Cornell added that "while the ways in which the presidential election could have affected students is likely complex, educators and parents should be aware of the potential impact of public events on student behavior.

"Parents should be mindful of how their reactions to the presidential election, or the reactions of others, could influence their children," Cornell said. "And politicians should be mindful of the potential impact of their campaign rhetoric and behavior on their supporters and indirectly on youth."

In an abstract, Huang and Cornell said that they launched their study "in response to media reports of increased teasing and bullying in schools following the 2016 U.S. presidential election."

The two researchers said the results "provide modest support for educator concerns about increased teasing and bullying" since the election, adding that their findings "warrant further investigation."