HGov: Political Socialization

Agents of Socialization

Opinions you have on political issues tend to be shaped by deeply held political beliefs and values. The formation of these beliefs and values begins early in life and continues throughout adulthood. This process by which individuals acquire their political opinions is called political socialization.

To socialize an individual means to teach that person to be a member of society. Political socialization involves learning about the values, beliefs, and processes that underlie a political system in order to participate in it effectively. The process of political socialization is important. No democracy could survive if its citizens did not share some fundamental beliefs about how their government should operate. However, this process does not produce people who think exactly alike.

Political socialization involves all of the experiences that lead us to view political issues the way we do. And those experiences are never the same from one person to the next. During childhood, the family and schools are important sources of basic political attitudes, such as beliefs about the parties and the nature of the U.S. political and economic systems. Many of the basic orientations that Americans acquire during childhood remain with them in adulthood, but socialization is a continuing process. Adults’ opinions are affected mostly by prior beliefs, peers, political leaders, and the news media. Events themselves are also a significant short-term influence on opinions.

The agents of socialization are family, schools, mass media, peers, and political leaders and events. The family is a powerful agent of socialization because it has a near monopoly on the attention of a young child, who places great trust in what a parent says. Schools has its major impact on children’s basic political beliefs rather than on their opinions about specific issues. The themes and images that prevail in mass media affect people’s perceptions of their world. Peer groups reinforce what a person already believes. Citizens look to political leaders and institutions as guides to opinion. Churches play a substantial role in shaping social and political opinions including ones related to society’s obligations to children, the poor, and the unborn.


Google Classroom: Reading Questions

6.2 Political Socialization: How Americans Learn Their Politics (read pp.191-195)



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