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The Ideal Mayor Seen Through The Eyes Of Children. A Belgian case study in perception politics

Philippe De Vries, Christ’l De Landtsheer, Wannes Heirman, Kim Boudiny

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This article is a first step in the theory building of children’s political impression formation, a practically virgin territory. It argues that children’s perception of political demeanour contains more outspoken and stereotypical characteristics than the determinants that are found for adults. Children therefore, can provide us with a considerable amount of objective and innocent information when it comes to the determinants of political demeanour. From this Belgian case can be concluded that there is a real gender gap in the political perception by children. Two empirical studies centred around the children’s “ideal mayor” reveal how children’s political impressions emerge and materialize in their works of art. In the first, experimental study 223 children younger than nine years of age compose with various materials the appearance of their ideal mayor. The second study concerns a content analysis based upon a drawing contest survey among 176 children with a majority of older than nine year olds. It can be concluded from both studies that whereas the male mayor that emerges from the boys’ works of art confirms the traditional and formal stereotype of ‘the mayor’, the female colleague that is revealed by the girls’ work appears to be a colourful, modern woman. The gender of the child seems to be reflected in both the gender and appearance of the ideal mayor.

Keywords: children’s drawings, ideal mayor, perception politics, political education.