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Election 2012: How Parents Are Voting

Barbara Spottel

Pink or lime-green for the nursery. Madison or Mia. Stay home or work. Playground or library. Time-out chair or “I'm counting to three.” Private or public school. Broccoli or carrots.

Parenthood is all about making the best choices for your child, and that doesn't change when it comes to choosing a commander-in-chief. In fact, kids affect how we vote: 42 percent of parents have changed their political views since having children, according to a survey of 1,100 parents commissioned by Parenting. In partnership with NBC News, and with über-smart journalist Kate Snow serving as moderator, we gathered parents—liberal and conservative, Christian and Muslim, urban and rural—to discuss the intersection of parenting and politics.

Video: Watch kids give their take on this year's election issues

Meet the panelists: Pauline Owens-Teel, mom of a special-needs child, photographer, Virginia Beach Jason Avant, father of two, founder of, San Diego Tania Paredes, mom of a 1-year-old daughter, psychotherapist, Miami Katherine Alvarez, mother of a special-needs child, social worker, Las Vegas Jesse Snider, father of two, military veteran, New York City Anna Deutmeyer, mom of a 3-year-old daughter, elementary school teacher, Brooklyn Kelly Vincent, father of four daughters, entrepreneur, Lenexa, KS Denene Millner, mom of three children, writer-blogger-author, Atlanta Aileen Riley, stay-at-home mom of three, Cumberland, RI Aliya Hasan, mom of two, physician, Denver

What are the top three issues the U.S. should focus on?

  • 75% said the economy
  • 37% said health care
  • 33% said education

Video: What parents think about our current healthcare system

Anna: Education is my number one. It's so personal to me as a third-grade teacher. I see it, I breathe it, I experience it every day. I'm in a public school, and I see some things that are wonderful. However, I also see some things that really, really concern me, especially with a 3-year-old who will be moving into the public school system in the near future.

Jesse: Economy is a top priority, but education feeds right into that. Look at how we are ranked around the world in math and science. That's where our jobs are going to be in the next decade.

Pauline: For me, it's health care. I'm the mother of an adopted special-needs child. My main concern is what happens when she turns 18 years old and her adoption subsidy through Medicaid runs out. Is she going to be able to live a normal life?

Katherine: I'm with Pauline. My husband and I are special-needs parents, and our biggest fear is “Am I going to die before my child?” It's over $67,000 a year to cover medical costs and therapies. People may not put health care up on top because they're not affected by it right now. When you have a child or family member that's affected, it becomes your top priority.