Surveys in Focus: Voices across Generations

In collaboration with local research partners in Canada, Estonia and Germany, we are currently planning original online surveys targeting parent-child dyads. The goal is to refine our understanding of the interplay between historical memories and political attitudes within families with a migratory background and the national reference populations. Multigenerational surveys are one promising way to examine how the family level generates social and political views derived from attitudes towards history. The surveys explore attitudes towards democracy, ethnicity, multiculturalism, liberalism, patriotism or questions of social tolerance. This data will improve our understanding of the transmission of historical memories and allow us to assess the impact of the migration experience on the process.

The underlying design of the surveys is as follows:

NOTE: ‘(Soviet) Russia’ pertains to citizenship and carries no ethnic connotations; it is used to indicate a historical association with the country.

MoveMeRU is dedicated to illuminating globally significant societal dynamics within three distinct research domains.

Identification and Connections: The initial research question centres on the nuanced relationships that young adults uphold with their parents’ country of origin. We explore the historical settings that sculpt their identities and forge deep or loose connections between young adults and their parental homelands. A country of origin may be the current country of residence in non-migrant families, as well as a place distant in space and time.

At the core of our investigation lies the enduring legacy of family heritage, which influences the beliefs, values, and affiliations of young adults. Multigenerational surveys enable us to explore the transmission of historical narratives within families, revealing latent layers of familial significance. Within this context, we analyse the intricate interplay of identities that shape young adults’ self-perceptions and their connections to parental homelands. The multigenerational lens sheds light on the complex ways in which individuals navigate their affiliations with multiple cultural or national groups. This empirical focus also illuminates pathways to cultural continuity and rupture.

Convergence and Divergence in Generational Memory: The second research focus explores the relationship between generations as expressed in their assessments of history. Such assessments are passed down from generation to generation, with factors such as the political context, how history is taught at school, or a family’s own historical experiences interfering with the family dynamic. Surveys allow us to unpack these various dynamics and identify the driving forces behind convergence and divergence across generations. The broader goal here is to contribute to discussions on the persistence of cultural and historical legacies, the intergenerational transmission of memory, and complex processes of intergenerational influence and adaptation. By carrying out surveys in three contexts, we also hope to offer insights into the extent to which such processes are culturally situated.

Historical Memory and Political Attitudes: Political actors frequently have recourse to historical arguments to justify a present-day course of action. A political decision is thus portrayed as a natural development within a specific historical narrative. In this third research domain we focus on the ways in which historical memories contribute to, or impede, the formation of solidarity and pluralistic political attitudes. The past resonates within contemporary political settings, shaping competing ideas about what society should look like.

This relationship is far from straightforward, despite the visibility of historical arguments in political debates. Scholars are divided on the potential merits of inclusive remembering practices, with many suggesting that interpretations of the past are inevitably conflictive. How historical events are framed and understood can significantly shape the political attitudes and beliefs of individuals. For example, different interpretations of the collapse of the Soviet Union – as a herald of economic chaos or successful economic convergence – are connected to different political attitudes. With the multigenerational surveys, we aim to show under what conditions historical attitudes shape particular political preferences and behaviour such as voting or involvement in civil society.

Our research extends to in-group and out-group dynamics among politically opposing groups. Drawing on studies which show increasing family agreement on political issues across generations, we investigate the role of the family as a political fortress. These findings have profound implications for intergroup relationships, solidarity, and social unity. Additionally, our studies on family communication patterns, especially those related to open conversation and adherence to norms, show how these patterns can shape political beliefs and behaviours across generations, thereby influencing the political landscape.

The outcomes from the parent-child surveys will steer and enrich the cross-generational focus groups within the same countries.

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