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4.2 Political Socialization

5 min readfebruary 9, 2023

I

Isabela Padilha Vilela

VladimirGenkovski

VladimirGenkovski


AP US Government 👩🏾‍⚖️

240 resources
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Definition 

Political Socialization is the process in which people develop their political values, beliefs, attitudes and ideology. It is a process that is continuous, which means it happens throughout one’s life. In the U.S there are many different cultures and backgrounds, which contributes to a high variety of perspectives. Through the construction of beliefs (religious, economic, ethnical, etc.) and the participation in groups, individuals mature their own political values. 

Socializing Agents

There are five main elements in people’s lives that define their socialization process: family, school, peers, media, and social environments.

Family

Family is one of the primary agents of political socialization in the United States, as children often first learn about politics and government from their parents and other family members. Family members can shape an individual's political beliefs through conversations, shared experiences, and family traditions.
For example, a family with a strong tradition of political activism and civic engagement may instill a strong sense of political responsibility and civic duty in their children, leading them to become politically active as adults. On the other hand, a family that does not place a strong emphasis on political involvement may lead their children to develop a more apolitical perspective.
Additionally, the political views of parents can have a significant impact on the political attitudes and beliefs of their children. Research has shown that children are more likely to adopt the political views of their parents, particularly when it comes to fundamental values and beliefs, such as attitudes toward equality, government intervention in the economy, and personal responsibility.
Furthermore, family interactions can also expose children to different political perspectives and encourage them to think critically about their own beliefs. For example, if a family includes members with diverse political views, children may be exposed to a variety of perspectives and engage in discussions that challenge their own beliefs, leading to the development of a more nuanced understanding of politics and government.

Schools

Schools play a significant role in shaping the political attitudes and values of individuals in the United States through the process of political socialization. Here are a few ways schools contribute to this process:
1. Civic education: Civics classes in schools provide students with a basic understanding of the structure and functioning of the American political system. This education helps students develop critical thinking skills, understand their rights and responsibilities as citizens, and form opinions about political issues and policies.
2. Exposure to different views: Schools provide students with exposure to different perspectives, beliefs, and opinions, encouraging them to consider multiple viewpoints and form their own opinions. This exposure helps students develop their own political ideologies and understand the diversity of political thought in society.
3. Role models: Teachers and other school staff members serve as role models for students, demonstrating how to participate in the political process, engage in civil discourse, and advocate for their beliefs.
4. Extracurriculars: Many schools offer extracurricular activities, such as student government and debate teams, that provide students with hands-on experience in politics and give them the opportunity to express their political views.

Peers

Peers can also have a significant impact on an individual’s political socialization. Friends can influence political attitudes and beliefs through discussions and shared experiences, such as participating in political activism or volunteering. Peers can also influence an individual's political beliefs and opinions through subtle pressure to conform. For example, in a group of friends who all hold strong political views, one member may feel pressured to adopt similar views in order to fit in.

Media

Media has become an increasingly important source of political information, shaping public opinion and influencing political attitudes and values. The media can provide individuals with access to a wide range of political views and opinions, from news coverage of political events to political commentary and analysis. However, media can also contribute to political polarization. In the United States, there are numerous media outlets with a specific political bias, such as Fox News and the Huffington Post. These sources provide news and commentary that align with the viewer's political ideology, reinforcing their existing beliefs and political attitudes.

Social environments

Social environments, including civic and religious organizations, can also shape an individual’s political beliefs. These organizations can provide opportunities for individuals to engage in political activities and discussions, and to learn about political issues from a variety of perspectives. For example:
1. Civic organizations: Joining a civic organization such as a political party, advocacy group, or community organization can expose individuals to political views and values that may differ from their own. Through discussion and debate with members of these organizations, individuals can broaden their understanding of different political ideologies and values, and potentially shape their own political views.
2. Religious organizations: Religious organizations, such as churches and synagogues, can also play a role in political socialization. Religious leaders and members may express their political views and values, which can shape the political views and values of those in attendance. For example, many religious organizations take positions on political issues such as abortion, same-sex marriage, and immigration.
3. Social environments: Social environments, such as neighborhoods and communities, can also contribute to political socialization. Living in a certain community or neighborhood can expose individuals to certain political views and values that are prevalent in that area. For example, living in a predominantly conservative neighborhood may influence an individual to adopt more conservative political views, while living in a liberal neighborhood may lead to the adoption of more liberal political views. Watch Fatima Raja discuss political socialization here!

Globalization and U.S. Political Culture

Globalization has had a profound impact on the U.S. political culture, as well as on the political cultures of other countries. The exchange of ideas, goods, and people across international borders has facilitated the transfer of cultural values, beliefs, and norms between nations. As a result, the U.S. political culture has been both influenced by and has influenced the values of other countries.
On one hand, U.S. political culture has been influenced by the values of other countries. For example, the U.S. has been exposed to different political ideologies and systems, such as socialism and parliamentary systems, which have challenged traditional American ideas about government and politics. In addition, the U.S. has also been influenced by the cultural and religious values of other countries, particularly in regard to issues such as immigration, human rights, and equality.
On the other hand, U.S. political culture has also had a significant impact on the values of other countries. The U.S. is often seen as a global leader, and its political and economic system has been adopted and adapted by many other countries. The U.S. political system and its associated values, such as democracy, individualism, and capitalism, have been exported to other countries through various means, including international trade, cultural exchange programs, and diplomacy. The U.S. has also been instrumental in promoting human rights and democratic values around the world, shaping the political cultures of other nations in the process.

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