Term Paper: Political Socialization

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[. . .] Such concern, nevertheless, acknowledges that the mass media is an important learning tool for the political socialization of the public.

Arguments that Political Socialization is an Innate Process

Some people argue that people having similar social background, income or education levels, a common religion, race or gender share largely similar political views; hence political socialization is more of an innate rather than a learned process. While there is no denying the fact that similar opinions on political issues are likely to be shared by people belonging to the same religion, race, gender, income group or social background, such similarity is developed not due to an inborn capacity in individuals but through shared economic or material considerations.

For example, the reason why businessmen, are likely to hold similar political views about taxation laws (most would support lower taxes) has nothing to do with the innate tendency of a group of people but is attributable to their common economic interest. Similarly, people belonging to lower income groups are likely to support welfare and minimum wage programs because they would directly benefit from such programs.

Another example of a distinctly wide gap between the points-of-view of different groups of people is the issue of affirmative action programs in the U.S. A majority of African-American or Hispanic people support affirmative action programs in the education and employment fields while most European-Americans oppose such programs -- considering them as "reverse discrimination." Such attitudes are again directly related to personal interest rather than innate tendencies peculiar to a group of people.

These were relatively unambiguous examples of learned behavior of various groups on political issues. The explanation of the gender gap (i.e., the different political opinions held by men and by women) on issues such as gun control, environmental laws, and the death penalty is slightly more complicated. It can, however, be argued that the gender gap in opinions on such issues is not due to inborn tendencies but due to the differing roles assigned to men and women in our society. Such differences are a reflection of the "expectations" of behavior by men and women in our society. For instance, men are expected to exhibit "macho" tendencies while such behavior in women is frowned upon. Hence women adopt more "feminine" views on issues such as gun control.

Conclusion

Political Socialization refers to the political beliefs or values of the people in a society, and though a relatively new branch of political science / sociology, it has its roots in the views of ancient philosophers such as Plato. As we saw in this essay, people develop their political orientation through a lifetime of learning experience and there is no evidence to suggest that such tendencies are inborn -- either in individuals or in groups. The process of political socialization starts at an early age but the most receptive age for determining our political views is the period from about age fourteen through the mid-twenties. Family, school, peer groups, and the mass media are important influences that determine the political socialization of people in the modern society. Some groups of people do exhibit common views on certain political issues but this is due to their common interests or the expectations of the society about their behavior rather than an innate tendency peculiar to the group. We can, thus, safely conclude that people are not born with political ideas, nor manufacture them -- we learn them through a process called political socialization.

Works Cited

Dawson, R.E., and K. Prewitt. 1977 . Political Socialization. 2nd ed. Boston: Little, Brown.

Hahn, Carole L. "Civic Education in the U.S.: Recent Trends and Future Challenges." Basic Education: A Journal of Teaching and the Liberal Arts. 47.5 (July/August 2003)



Hepburn, Mary A. "The power of the electronic media in the socialization of young Americans: Implications for social studies education." The Social Studies. 89.2 (Mar/Apr 1998): 71-77

Hepburn, Mary A. And Richard G. Niemi. "The Rebirth of Political Socialization." Perspectives on Political Science. 24. 1. (1995): 13-18.

Sigel, Roberta S. "New Directions for Political Socialization Research Thoughts and Suggestions." Perspectives on Political Science. 24.1. (1995): 17+.

Simon James; Merrill, Bruce D. Political socialization in the classroom revisited: the kids voting program. The Social Science Journal. 35.1 (Jan 1998):29-43

Trevor, Margaret C. "Political socialization, party identification, and the gender gap." Public Opinion Quarterly. 63.1 (Spring 1999): 62-63

In his work Essay concerning Human Understanding (1690), Locke contented that the human mind was like tabula rasa, (white paper) and that without experience, no characters are written on the "tablets" of the mind.

Research also indicates a high (and increasing) propensity for women to vote for the Democratic Party in U.S. elections… [END OF PREVIEW]

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