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I’m working on a political science discussion question and need an explanation and answer to help me learn.

I live in Denver, Colorado

Using the natural diversity of our online classroom to learn, we will discuss each of our national and local political cultures in two paragraphs. In your post:

Identify where you are from in the United States or Internationally.

Identify which two agents of political socialization (as described in Chapter 3 required reading) you believe are the most powerful in shaping your national political culture.

Identify which two agents of political socialization are the most powerful in shaping your local political culture.

Compare and contrast the national and local agents of political socialization you identified, discuss why they are powerful within your political culture.

“Chapter 3
Political Culture and Political Socialization
Learning Objectives
3.1 Describe the three levels of political culture and the factors that make them different.
3.2 List and describe the different sources of legitimacy for a political system.
3.3 Discuss how cultural norms and political institutions are interrelated.
3.4 Describe the agents of political socialization and their roles in forming political values.
3.5 List and describe three current forces that are affecting contemporary political cultures.
If you have ever traveled to a foreign country, you were probably surprised by how many of the normal
things in your life were different there. The food was different, people wore different clothes, houses
were constructed and furnished differently, and the pattern of social relations differed (for instance,
whether people talked to strangers or stood in queues). You saw how social norms shape what people
eat, how they dress, how they live, and maybe even on which side of the road they drive.
Similarly, each nation has its own political norms that influence how people think about and react to
politics. To understand the political tendencies in a nation, one place to begin is with public attitudes
toward politics and the citizen’s role in the political system—what we call a nation’s political culture.
Americans’ strong feelings of patriotism, the Japanese deference to political elites, and the French
proclivity for protest all illustrate how cultural norms shape politics. The way political institutions
function at least partially reflects the public’s attitudes, norms, and expectations. Thus, the English use
their constitutional arrangements to sustain their liberty, while the same institutions once allowed
repression in South Africa and Northern Ireland.
When a new regime forms, a supportive public can help develop the new system, while the absence of
public support may weaken the new system. The content of the political culture has been a very
important aspect of the transitions to democracy in the past two decades, as new democracies needed
to develop democratic orientations and behaviors among their citizens. It is hard to sustain democracy
without a nation of democrats.
Chapter 1 stated that one
main goal of any government, and a special challenge for a new government, is to create and maintain a
political community. In part, this involves developing common structures and systems (such as a single
economy), common political institutions, and common political processes. For the public, this involves
developing common worldviews, values, and expectations that comprise the nation’s political culture.
Thus, studying political culture partially explains how a political community is created and sustained.
This chapter maps the important parts of political culture. We then discuss political socialization: how
individuals form their political attitudes and thus how citizens collectively form their political culture.
We conclude by describing the major trends in political culture in the world today.
Mapping the Three Levels of Political Culture
3.1 Describe the three levels of political culture and the factors that make them different.
A nation’s political culture includes citizens’ orientations at three levels: the political system, the political
and policymaking process, and policy outputs and outcomes (Table 3.1). The system level is how people
view the values and organizations that comprise the political system. Do people identify with the nation
and accept the overall social system? The process level includes expectations of the political rules and
decision-making methods, and individuals’ relationship to the government. The policy level deals with
the public’s policy expectations for the government. What should the policy goals of government be,
and how are they to be achieved?
Table 3.1 Political Culture
There are three levels of political culture, which tap different orientations toward politics.
Aspects of Political Culture
Pride in nation
National identity
Legitimacy of government
Role of citizens
Perceptions of political rights
Role of government
Government policy priorities
The System Level
Orientations toward the political system are important because they tap basic attachments to the polity
and the nation. It is difficult for any political system to endure if it lacks the support of its people.
Feelings of national pride are one example of these affective, emotional ties to a nation. National pride
seems strongest in nations with long histories that emphasized feelings of patriotism—the United States
is a prime example (see Figure 3.1). Such a common sense of identity and national history often binds
people together in difficult political times. The figure shows that high levels of pride exist in nations with
very different political and economic systems, such as Vietnam, Canada, Poland, and Turkey. Large
majorities in most countries are proud of their nations. In contrast, national pride is low in Japan and
Germany, two nations that have avoided nationalist sentiments in reaction to the World War II regimes
and their excesses. And Russia’s resurgence in the past decade substantially improved levels of national
pride from earlier surveys in the late 1990s and early 2000s, while Moldova’s continuing struggles since
independence are signaled by the weak sense of national pride among its citizens.
Feelings of popular legitimacy are another basis for a stable political system. People may grant
legitimacy to a government for different reasons.1 In a traditional society, legitimacy may depend on the
ruler’s inheriting the throne or his/her commitment to religious customs. In a modern democracy,
legitimacy may depend on the voters selecting elites in competitive elections and on the government’s
following constitutional procedures. Theocratic regimes, such as Iran, base their legitimacy on
adherence to religious principles. In other political cultures, the leaders may claim legitimacy based on
their special wisdom or ideology, which is typical for communist regimes or countries that emerged from
national independence movements. Legitimacy presumes an agreement on the broad form of
government for the political system and thus the standards of legitimacy: monarchical rule, a tribal
system, a communist order, or a democratic system. Based on these different principles, people in
widely differing political systems can still express support for their political systems because they are
using different standards of legitimacy.2
Whether legitimacy is based on tradition, religion, elections, or ideology, these feelings reflect a basic
understanding between citizens and political authorities. People obey the laws; in return, the
government meets the obligations set by the terms of its legitimacy. As long as the government meets
its obligations, the people are supposed to be supportive and act appropriately. If legitimacy is
violated—the line of succession is broken, the constitution is subverted, or the ruling ideology is
ignored—the government may experience resistance and perhaps rebellion. A political system and a
government with high legitimacy are typically more effective in carrying out policies and are more likely
to overcome hardships and reversals.
FIGURE 3.1 Be Proud
Feelings of national pride vary across nations.
Source: Selected nations from the 2005–2008 World Values Survey and the 2000–2002 World Values
Survey for Nigeria. Figure entries are the percentage “proud” and “very proud”; missing data are
excluded from the calculation of percentages.
In systems with low legitimacy, people often resort to violence or extragovernmental actions to pursue
their goals. Legitimacy is lacking where the public disputes the boundaries of the political system (as in
Northern Ireland or Kashmir), rejects the current arrangements for recruiting leaders and making
policies (as when Ukrainians took to the streets in 2004 to 2005, demanding new democratic elections),
or loses confidence that the leaders are fulfilling their part of the political bargain (as when Egyptian
protestors battled the government in 2011 and then again in 2013).
The Soviet Union disintegrated in the early 1990s because all three legitimacy problems appeared. After
the communist ideology failed as a legitimizing force, there was little basis for a national political
community without a common language or ethnicity. Similarly, the loss of confidence in the Communist
Party as a political organization led many people to call for institutional reform. Finally, shortages of
food and consumer goods caused people to lose faith in the government’s short-term economic and
political policies. Soviet president Mikhail Gorbachev failed in his efforts to deal with all three problems
at the same time.
The Process Level
The second level of the political culture involves what people expect of the political process. Whether
you are English or Nigerian, what do you think about the institutions of your political system and what is
expected of you as a citizen?
One of the great advances in comparative politics research is the relatively recent expansion of our
knowledge of the political culture in developing societies, and this has transformed our understanding of
political culture on a global scale. Until then, researchers worried that the cultural bases of democracy
were essentially limited to those nations that were already democratic, and thus the prospects for
further democratization were limited.3 Researchers reached this conclusion by assuming that economic
development and affluence were prerequisites for democracy, and that authoritarian states persisted
because people tolerated or even supported the government.
However, as public opinion surveys have become more common in developing nations, our images have
changed. Cross-national studies of political culture document broad support for democratic principles
and norms even in many autocratic nations.4 Democratic norms emphasize the importance of a
participatory process, majority rule and minority rights, and the values of political tolerance. Moreover,
as more nations democratize and alternative regime forms lose their legitimacy, democratic norms have
diffused to even more societies. Many nondemocratic forms of governance are no longer widely
accepted. Communism still has strongholds in China and Cuba, for example, but it has lost its image as a
progressive force for global change.
Consequently, current research finds that support for democracy is widespread in many developing
nations in Africa, East Asia, and Latin America.5 The World Values Survey asked respondents in more
than sixty nations to state their approval of democracy and two nondemocratic regimes (military rule or
rule by a strong leader). Figure 3.2 displays the percentage who prefer democracy, prefer either
nondemocratic regime, or have mixed opinions across the nations discussed in this book.6 In the
established democracies, people express overwhelming support for democracy, but even here, some
people are ambivalent about the regime form, and about a tenth actually prefer an authoritarian form
of government. In the developing nations depicted in the figure, the picture is more mixed. Only a small
percentage favor an authoritarian system over democracy, with the largest share of authoritarians in
Russia (23 percent). However, a fair number of people in these developing nations rate democracy and
authoritarianism equally. Among the seven developing nations in the figure, only in Nigeria and China do
a majority clearly prefer democracy. It is not a positive sign for democracy in Brazil and Mexico, for
example, when less than half of the public prefers democracy over autocracy. Democracy often receives
plurality support in these developing nations, but there is a clear need to increase public support for
FIGURE 3.2 Democratic Aspirations
Support for democracy versus autocracy is widespread across regions.
Source: 2000–2002 World Values Survey and 2005–2008 World Values Survey. Respondents were asked
about their support for either democracy or authoritarian system (either a nondemocratic leader or
military regime); the ambiguous category is those who express equal approval for both.
Furthermore, we should be cautious about taking support for democracy in a public opinion survey at
full face value. Even if most people in the world today seem to favor a democratic political process, they
differ in their understanding of how democracy actually functions. Expressions of support for liberty and
tolerance in the abstract are easier than actually supporting these values when applied to your political
opponents. Cultures also differ on how those principles should be applied. In some nations, the public
states its support for equal rights for women, but then imposes Sharia restrictions on women. Even
established democracies often strain to guarantee full democratic rights to groups that the majority
dislikes. Still, the breadth of democratic aspirations is strikingly different than our images of developing
nations in the past. These patterns seem to reaffirm Amartya Sen’s claim that democracy is a basic
human striving—something many scholars doubted a few short years ago.7
Another aspect of political culture is the individual’s role in the political system. At one time, social
scientists considered the population in developing nations as largely disinterested or even unaware of
politics because they were concerned with basic economic needs and lacked access to political
information.8 Again, this image has softened in recent years as research has documented considerable
political interest even in unexpected places (see Box 3.1). The spread of democracy and the
development of a global socioeconomic system connect an increasingly larger share of the world to
domestic and international politics.
BOX 3.1
A Small World
With a radio deep in a rural village, a person is abreast with a bomb blast in Bombay, and can follow a
political crisis in Moscow. . . . People will take sides on issues far beyond their national borders. Whether
the wife of dictator Ferdinand Marcos should be prosecuted or should be pardoned; whether the
genocide in Rwanda could have been averted are issues which are enlivening beer-drinking discussions
on a scale unprecedented in African history. . . . This knowledge revolution is making it difficult for
African leaders to keep people ignorant of what they are entitled to or to stop them from demanding
change and working for it. Hence there are shivers of change all over the continent.
Source: A Ugandan government official cited in Bruce Gilley, The Right to Rule: How States Win and Lose
Legitimacy (New York: Columbia University Press, 2009), 78.
Still, actual participation in politics often involves resources, skills, and norms of active citizenship that
are in short supply in many developing nations. Consequently, research finds that industrialization,
urbanization, and improved living standards develop the cultural bases of active citizenship.9 Exposure
to modernity through work, education, and the media shapes an individual’s personal experiences and
sends messages about norms in other societies. It encourages citizen participation, a sense of individual
equality, the desire for improved living standards and increased life expectancy, and government
legitimacy based on policy performance. It also frequently disrupts familiar ways of life, traditional bases
of legitimacy, and political arrangements that limit political engagement. In addition, the secularizing
influences of science can alter economic and social systems, which then reshape the political culture.
This modernization trend has powerful effects as it penetrates societies (or parts of societies).
Chapter 1 noted that this
modernization process is spread unevenly across the globe. Recent economic growth in East Asia is
transforming the political culture and political behavior in these nations. In contrast, modernization has
proceeded more slowly and uncertainly in African and Arab nations. Some political leaders in these
nations even reject the principles of modernization as incongruent with their national values. However,
there is persuasive evidence that where social and economic modernization occurs, it transforms the
political culture to emphasize self-expression, participatory values, and autonomy.
The Policy Level
What is the appropriate role of government? If you ask political theorists, you get a wide range of
answers—from the minimal state to the all-encompassing polity. And if you travel to other nations, you
quickly realize that there is wide variation in how people answer this question.
Public opinions of what constitutes the good of society and the government’s role in achieving accepted
goals influence the policy activities of a country. Should government manage the economy, or should
private property rights and market forces guide economic activity? Should the state intervene in
addressing social and moral issues, or should it follow a minimalist strategy? The ongoing debates over
“big government” versus “small government” in democratic states, and between socialist and marketbased economies, reflect these different images of the scope of government.
We can illustrate differences in policy expectations with an opinion survey question that asks whether
the government is responsible for providing for everyone versus individuals being responsible for
providing for themselves (see Figure 3.3). The range in opinions is considerable; more than threequarters of Russians believe government is responsible, compared with only two-fifths of Americans,
Canadians, Britons, or the French. In general, people in developing nations and in the formerly
communist nations of Eastern Europe are more supportive of a large government role—reflecting both
their social condition and their past political ideologies. In some Western nations, traditions include a
large role for the government. In general, however, support for government action generally decreases
as national affluence increases.10
FIGURE 3.3 Who Is Responsible?
The belief that government is responsible for individuals’ well-being.
Source: Selected nations from the 2005–2008 World Values Survey; missing data are excluded from the
calculation of percentages.
Policy expectations also involve specific issue demands. Indeed, each country study in this book begins
with a discussion of the policy challenges facing the nation and the public’s issue concerns. This sets the
agenda of politics that responsive governments should address.
Some policy goals, such as economic well-being, are valued by nearly everyone. Concern about other
policy goals may vary widely across nations because of a nation’s circumstances and because of cultural
traditions. People in developing countries are more likely to focus on the government’s provision of
basic services to ensure public welfare. In advanced industrial societies, people are relatively more
concerned with quality-of-life goals, such as preservation of nature and even government support for
the arts.11 One basic measure of a government’s performance is its ability to meet the policy
expectations of its citizens.
Another set of expectations involves the functioning of government. Some societies put more weight on
the policy outputs of government, such as providing welfare and security. Other societies also
emphasize how the process functions, which involves values such as the rule of law and procedural
justice. Among Germans, for example, the rule of law is given great importance; in many developing
nations, political relations are personally based and there is less willingness to rely on legalistic
Consensual or Conflictual Political Cultures
Although political culture is a common characteristic of a nation, values and beliefs can vary within it.
Political cultures may be consensual or conflictual on issues of public policy and, more fundamentally,
on views of governmental and political arrangements. In some societies, people generally agree on the
norms of political decision making and their policy expectations. In other societies—because of
differences in histories, conditions, or identities—the people are sharply divided, often on both the
legitimacy of the regime and solutions to major problems.12
When a country is deeply divided in its political values and these differences persist over time,
distinctive political subcultures may develop. The people in these subcultures may have sharply different
points of view on some critical political matters, such as the boundaries of the nation, the nature of the
regime, or the correct ideology. They may affiliate with different political parties and interest groups,
read different newspapers, and even have separate social clubs and sporting groups.
In some instances, historical or social factors generate different cultural trajectories. For instance,
ethnic, religious, or linguistic identities in many parts of the world shape citizen values.13 Moreover, as
such groups increase their political skills and self-confidence, they may express their identities and
demand equal treatment. In fact, the processes of globalization might actually heighten these cultural
contrasts.14 Where political subcultures coincide with ethnic, linguistic, or religious differences—as in
Northern Ireland, Bosnia, and Lebanon—the divisions can be enduring and threatening. The breakup of
Yugoslavia and the impulses toward autonomy and secession among ethnically distinct regions (such as
in Scotland or separatist movements in Africa) all reflect the lasting power of language, culture, and
historical memory to create and sustain the sense of ethnic and national identity. The exposure to
values from other cultures also may intensify one’s own self-image, which may increase cultural
tensions. Although such exposure may eventually lead to greater tolerance, that outcome is not
Cuba Si!
Cubans wave flags at a progovernment rally organized by the Castro government.
Why Culture Matters
3.2 List and describe the different sources of legitimacy for a political system.
Political culture does not explain everything about politics. Even people with similar values and skills
might behave differently from each other when they face different situations. Nor is political culture
unchangeable. However, cultural norms typically change slowly and reflect stable values. Thus, political
culture is important mainly because it encapsulates the history, traditions, and values of a society. To
understand how most people in a nation think and act politically, we can begin by understanding their
political culture. Political culture can create the common political community that is one goal of
In addition, the distribution of cultural patterns is typically related to the type of political process that
citizens expect and support. This is the principle of congruence theory. For instance, support for a
democratic system is typically higher in societies that have a more participatory political culture.
Authoritarian states are more likely to endure where people lack the skills or motivations to participate
and the state discourages their participation. These cultural norms represent the “rules of the game” for
the political system, and the system works better when people accept these rules. Where political
structures and political cultures are mutually reinforcing, a stable political system is likely to emerge.
We can illustrate the logic of congruence theory in terms of the relationship between political culture
and the democratic development of a nation (Figure 3.4). The horizontal axis of the figure displays the
public’s adherence to “emancipative values” that emphasize the freedom of expression, tolerance, and
personal autonomy, which in turn encourage citizens to become democratically engaged. Christian
Welzel argues that these values reflect the democratic and participatory norms we discussed earlier.15
The vertical axis represents the democratic development of the nations based on the World Bank’s 2011
voice and accountability index. Approximately 150 nations are plotted in the figure, with the nations
from this book highlighted by red circles. You can see that citizen values and democratic development
do overlap, albeit imperfectly. Nations low in emancipative values vary widely in their political structures
because elites often run an authoritarian state, as in China; but some nations such as India or Mexico
develop more democratic institutions. With growing public commitment to emancipative values,
democratic institutions are also more strongly rooted.
FIGURE 3.4 Culture Matters
The congruence of emancipative values and democratic development.
Source: Produced by the authors; emancipative values are measured using questions on support for
freedom of expression and equality of opportunities asked in the 1999–2004 and 2005–2008 World
Values Survey); the voice and equality index 2011 is from the World Bank Indicators database.
Do democracies create a participatory democratic public, or does such a political culture lead to a
democratic political system? It works both ways. For example, immediately after World War II, Germans
were less supportive of democracy, but political institutions and political experiences transformed their
culture over the next generation.16 At the same time, democracy endured in Britain during the strains
of the Great Depression and World War II, at least in part because the British public supported the
democratic process. The important conclusion is that there is normally a relationship between political
culture and political structures.
Beyond shaping the structure of the political system, a nation’s political culture also influences the style
of politics and the content of policymaking. We have stressed how the policy elements of a political
culture can influence the content of policy. In addition, research suggests that cultural factors, such as
social trust and engagement, influence the efficiency and effectiveness of government.17
Finally, culture can also divide nations and regions of the world. Samuel Huntington divided the world
into different civilizations defined by their religious and cultural traditions.18 He then predicted that
these cultural differences will be a major source of international conflict in this century. While culture
may have the power to divide, it also has the potential to build a common political community as people
interact and learn which values they share.
Political Socialization
3.3 Discuss how cultural norms and political institutions are interrelated.
Political cultures are sustained or changed as people acquire their attitudes and values. Political
socialization refers to the way in which political values are formed and political culture is transmitted
from one generation to the next. Most children acquire their basic political values and behavior patterns
by adolescence.19 Some of these attitudes will evolve and change throughout their lives, while other
attitudes will remain part of their political selves.
At any specific time, a person’s political beliefs are a combination of various feelings and attitudes. At
the deepest level, there are general identifications, such as nationalism, ethnic or class self-images,
religious and ideological commitments, and a fundamental sense of rights and duties in the society. At
the middle level, people develop attitudes toward politics and governmental institutions. Finally, there
are more immediate views of current events, policies, issues, and personalities. All these attitudes can
change, but those in the first level usually were acquired earliest, have been most frequently reinforced,
and tend to be the most durable.
Three points about political socialization deserve mention. First, the socialization process can occur in
different ways. Direct socialization involves an actor explicitly communicating information, values, or
feelings toward politics. Examples of direct socialization include civics courses in the schools, public
education programs of the government, and the political information campaigns of interest groups.
Communist political systems also heavily use direct indoctrination programs (see Box 3.2). Indirect
socialization occurs when political views are inadvertently molded by our experiences. For example,
children normally learn important political values by observing the behavior of their parents, teachers,
and friends. Or, people may learn by observing the political and social context that surrounds them,
watching what governments do and how other citizens react.
BOX 3.2
Socializing Values
Communist East Germany had a special ceremony for eighth graders to mark their passage to
adulthood. The heart of the ceremony was the endorsement of the following four pledges:
As young citizens of our German Democratic Republic, are you prepared to work and fight loyally for the
great and honorable goals of socialism, and to honor the revolutionary inheritance of the people?
As sons and daughters of the worker-and-peasant state, are you prepared to pursue higher education,
to cultivate your mind, to become a master of your trade, to learn permanently, and to use your
knowledge to pursue our great humanist ideals?
As honorable members of the socialist community, are you ready to cooperate as comrades, to respect
and support each other, and to always merge the pursuit of your personal happiness with the happiness
of all the people?
As true patriots, are you ready to deepen the friendship with the Soviet Union, to strengthen our
brotherhood with socialist countries, to struggle in the spirit of proletarian internationalism, to protect
peace and to defend socialism against every imperialist aggression?
Second, socialization is a lifelong process. Early family influences can create an individual’s initial values,
but subsequent life experiences—becoming involved in new social groups, moving from one part of the
country to another, shifting up or down the social ladder, becoming a parent, finding or losing a job—
may change one’s political perspectives. More dramatic experiences—such as relocating to a new
country or suffering through an economic depression or a war—can alter even basic political attitudes.
Such events seem to have their greatest impact on young people, but people at any age are affected to
some degree.
Third, patterns of socialization can unify or divide. Governments design public education systems, for
instance, to create a single national political culture. Some events, such as international conflict or the
death of a popular public figure, can affect nearly the entire nation similarly. In contrast, subcultures in a
society can have their own distinctive patterns of socialization. Social groups that provide their members
with their own newspapers, their own neighborhood groups, and perhaps their own schools can create
distinctive subcultural attitudes. Distinct patterns of socialization can lead to a political gap among
members of a nation.
Agents of Political Socialization
3.4 Describe the agents of political socialization and their roles in forming political values.
How do we learn our political attitudes? Individuals in all societies are affected by agents of political
socialization: individuals, organizations, and institutions that influence political attitudes. Some, like
civics courses in schools, are direct and deliberate sources of political learning. Others, like playgroups
and work groups, affect political socialization indirectly.
The Family
What is your earliest political memory? It probably occurred when you were a child living with your
parents. Most of us first learn about politics through our families. For instance, the family has distinctive
influences on attitudes toward authority. Participation in family decision making can increase a child’s
sense of political competence, providing skills for political interaction and encouraging active
participation in the political system as an adult. Similarly, unquestioning obedience to parental decisions
may lead a child toward a more passive political role.
The family also shapes future political attitudes by defining a social position for the child: establishing
ethnic, linguistic, class, and religious ties; affirming cultural values; and influencing job aspirations. For
instance, in established democracies, many people inherit their party loyalties from their parents, as
well as other social identities.
Social Groups and Identities
Our social characteristics also shape political orientations because our characteristics reflect different
social needs, experiences, and social networks. For instance, your class or occupation can affect your life
chances and political orientation. As one illustration, industrialization in Britain created a working class
that lived in particular neighborhoods, worked at the same factories, and visited the same pubs. This
working class developed its own forms of speech, dress, recreation, and entertainment, as well as its
own social organizations (such as social clubs, trade unions, and political parties). In addition, labor
unions provide an organizational base for informing their members on the politics of the day. Similarly,
the life experience of the rural peasantry in many less developed nations is radically different from that
of urban dwellers. Often, these social divisions are politically relevant; identifying yourself as a member
of the working class or the peasantry leads to ties to groups representing these interests and distinct
political views about what actions the government should take.
The religions of the world are also carriers of cultural and moral values, which often have political
implications. The great religious leaders have seen themselves as teachers, and their followers have
usually attempted to shape the socialization of children through schooling, preaching, and religious
services. In most nations, there are formal ties between the dominant religion and the government. In
these instances, religious values and public policy often overlap. Catholic nations, for instance, are less
likely to have liberal abortion policies, just as Islamic governments enforce strict moral codes. Religious
affiliations are often important sources of partisan preferences and can guide people in making other
political choices.
Where churches teach values that may be at odds with the controlling political system, the struggle over
socialization can be intense. These tensions can take a wide variety of forms: the clash between secular
and religious roles in the French educational system, the efforts of American fundamentalists to bridge
the separation of church and state, or the conflict between Islamic fundamentalists and secular
governments in Tunisia and Egypt. In such cases, religious groups may oppose the policies of the state,
or even the state itself.20
In addition, gender shapes social experiences and life chances, and, in many nations, provides cues
about issue interests and political roles. Gender differences in politics have narrowed in many industrial
nations, although they persist in many less developed nations.21 The modern women’s movement
encourages women to become politically active and change social cues about how women should relate
to politics. The lessening of gender differences in self-images, in parental roles, and in relation to the
economy and the political system is affecting patterns of political recruitment, political participation,
and public policy. Especially in the developing world, the changing role of women may have profound
influences in modernizing the society and changing political values.22
Social identities are also often linked to membership in a racial or ethnic group. Whether it is an African
American in the United States, an ethnic Pakistani living in London, or an Asian businessperson in South
Africa, their distinctiveness partially defines their social and political identity. Ethnically and racially
oriented groups provide social cues and information for members of these communities. In many
instances, their identity creates a social network of interactions and life experiences that shape their
values, while specific groups represent their interests in the political process and provide a network for
political socialization and education.
Schools are often an important agent of political socialization. They educate children about politics and
their role in the process, and provide them with information on political institutions and relationships.
Schools can shape attitudes about the political system, the rules of the political game, the appropriate
role of the citizen, and expectations about the government. Schools typically reinforce attachments to
the political system and reinforce common symbols, such as the flag and Pledge of Allegiance, that
encourage emotional attachments to the system.
When a new nation comes into being, or a revolutionary regime comes to power in an old nation, it
usually turns to the schools as a means to supplant “outdated” values and symbols with ones more
congruent with the new ideology.
In some nations, educational systems do not provide unifying political socialization but send starkly
different messages to different groups. For instance, some Muslim nations segregate girls and boys
within the school system. Even if educational experiences are intended to be equal, segregation creates
different experiences and expectations. Moreover, the content of education often differs between boys
and girls. Perhaps the worst example occurred under the Taliban in Afghanistan, where, for several
years, young girls were prohibited from attending school. Such treatment of young girls severely limits
their life chances, and ensures that they will have restricted roles in society and the economy—which
was the intent of the Taliban system. The current Afghanistan government reversed this policy and
included girls in the education system, but this is still resisted in parts of the nation.
Education also affects people’s political skills and resources. Educated people are more aware of the
impact of government on their lives and pay more attention to politics.23 The better educated have
mental skills that improve their ability to manage the world of politics. They also have more information
about political processes and participate in a wider range of political activities.
Peer Groups
Peer groups include childhood playgroups, friendship cliques, school and college fraternities, small work
groups, and other groups in which members share close personal ties. They can be as varied as a group
of Russian mothers who meet regularly at the park, a street gang in Brazil, or a group of Wall Street
executives who are members of a health club.
A peer group socializes its members by encouraging them to share the attitudes or behavior common to
the group. Individuals often adopt their peers’ views because they like or respect them or defer to the
group’s collective wisdom. Similarly, a person may become engaged in politics because close friends do
so. One example of peer networks is the international youth culture symbolized by rock music, T-shirts,
and blue jeans (and often more liberal political values). Some observers claim that it played a major role
in the failure of communist officials to mold Soviet and Eastern European youth to the “socialist
personality” that was the Marxist–Leninist ideal. Likewise, the “skinhead” groups that have sprouted up
among lower-class youth in many Western countries have adopted political views that are reinforced by
peer interactions.
Interest Groups
Interest groups, economic groups, and similar organizations can shape political attitudes. In most
industrial countries, the rise of trade unions transformed the political culture and politics, created new
political parties, and ushered in new social benefit programs. Today, unions typically are active
participants in the political process and try to persuade their members on political matters. Other
professional associations—such as groups of peasants and farmers, manufacturers, wholesalers and
retailers, medical societies, and lawyers—also regularly influence political attitudes in modern and
modernizing societies. These groups ensure the loyalty of their members by defending their economic
and professional interests. They can also provide valuable political cues to nonmembers, who might
identify with a group’s interests or political ideology. For instance, when a group that you like (or dislike)
publicly supports a policy, it gives you information on the likely content of the policy.
The groups that define a civil society are also potential agents of socialization. These groups might
include ethnic organizations, fraternal associations, civic associations (such as parent–teacher
associations), and policy groups (such as taxpayers’ associations, women’s groups, and environmental
groups). Such groups provide valuable political cues to their members and try to reinforce distinct social
and political orientations. They also provide settings to learn about how making political choices in small
groups can be extended to politics.
In democracies, we think about interest groups as expressing the values of their members. But in
authoritarian states, they can also be vehicles for the government to propagandize group members. For
instance, Vietnam has an active network of social groups that socialize individuals into the norms of the
communist regime, while civil society groups in the United States are treated as democracy-building
Meet the Press
European leaders President Grybauskaite of Lithuania, President Hollande of France, and Chancellor
Merkel of Germany meet with the press at the 2013 EU Summit.
Political Parties
Political parties normally play an important role in political socialization in democratic and
nondemocratic systems (also see Chapter 5). In democratic systems, political parties try to shape issue
preferences, arouse the apathetic, and find new issues to mobilize support. Party representatives
provide the public with a steady flow of information on the issues of the day. Party organizations
regularly contact voters to advocate their positions. In addition, every few years, an election enables
parties to present their accomplishments and discuss the nation’s political future. Elections can serve as
national civics lessons, and the political parties are the teachers.
Partisan socialization also can be a divisive force. In their efforts to gain support, party leaders may
appeal to class, language, religious, and ethnic divisions and make citizens more aware of these
differences. The Labour and Conservative parties in Britain, for example, use class cues to attract
supporters. Similarly, the Congress Party in India tries to develop a national program and appeal, but
other parties emphasize the ethnic and religious divisions. Leaders of preindustrial nations often oppose
competitive parties because they fear such divisions. Although this is sometimes a sincere concern, it is
also self-serving for government leaders, and is increasingly difficult to justify against contemporary
demands for multiparty systems.
Authoritarian governments often use a single party to inculcate common attitudes of national unity,
support for the government, and ideological agreement. The combination of a single party and
controlled mass media is potent: The media present a single point of view, and the party activities
reinforce that perspective by directly involving the citizen. In a closed environment, single-party
governments can be very effective agents of socialization.
Mass Media
The mass media—newspapers, radio, television, and magazines—are actively socializing attitudes and
opinions in nations around the globe. The mass media are typically the prime source of information on
the politics of the day. There is virtually no place so remote that people lack the means to be informed
about events elsewhere—in affluent nations, the public is wired to the Internet; satellite dishes sprout
from houses in Iran; and inexpensive radios (or even smartphones) are omnipresent even in Third World
communities outside of urban centers.
There is one thing that most people in the world have in common: We sit before our televisions to learn
about the world. Television can have a powerful cognitive and emotional impact on large public
audiences by enlisting the senses of both sight and sound. Watching events on television—such as the
broadcasts of government affairs or the civil war in Syria—gives a reality to the news. Seeing the world
directly can shape political attitudes.
Today, the Internet provides another powerful source of news for those with access to it.24 The Web
provides unprecedented access to information on a global scale, especially in developing nations with
limited traditions of a free press. One can hardly travel to any city in the world and not see Internet
cafés or WiFi access. At the same time, the Internet empowers individuals to connect to others and to
develop social and political networks. This may be why autocratic governments struggle to restrict
unfettered access to the Internet (see Box 3.3).
BOX 3.3
The Great Firewall of China
The People’s Republic of China has the largest number of Internet users of any nation in the world, and
this fact has government officials worried. Chinese “netizens” find themselves surfing in the shadow of
the world’s most sophisticated censorship machine. A large Internet police force monitors websites and
e-mails. On a technical level, the gateways that connect China to the global Internet filter traffic coming
into and going out of the country. Even the Internet cafés are now highly regulated and state-licensed,
and all are equipped with standard surveillance systems. Google was one of the Western companies
that initially provided keyword-blocking technology to prevent access to offending sites. Pornography
was banned, but also searches for the word “democracy” or “Tiananmen Square.” After struggling with
censorship requirements, Google redirected Chinese searchers through its Hong Kong servers. But China
continues to restrict Internet access through Chinese-based search engines.
Access to information thus becomes an important political commodity in the contemporary world.
Western democracies put a premium on freedom of the media, even if they frequently complain about
what the media reports. In many European nations, the government still manages some television and
radio stations because it views the media as a public service. Autocratic governments typically seek to
control the media and what they can report, as well as the public’s access to information. Social media
provide a method for antigovernment protestors to communicate and organize in Egypt, and, when
similar protests appeared in other authoritarian states, the government quickly closed down Internet
access. In the contemporary world of Internet and satellite broadcasting, it is becoming increasingly
difficult for governments to control the spread of information.
Direct Contact with the Government
In modern societies, the wide scope of governmental activities brings people into frequent contact with
various bureaucratic agencies. Surveys of Americans find that about a third have contacted a
government official in the preceding year, and online interactions with government are increasing
dramatically.25 Citizens contact a wide range of government offices, from federal officials to state and
local governments to school boards and the police. In addition, the government touches our lives in a
myriad of other ways, from running the public schools to providing retirement checks to providing social
services. The degree of government intervention in daily life, and hence the necessity for contact with
government, varies greatly across nations as a function of the political system and the role of
government in the society.
These personal experiences are powerful agents of socialization, strengthening or undercutting the
images presented by other agents. Does the government send retirement checks on time? Do city
officials respond to citizen complaints? Are the schools teaching children effectively? Do unemployment
offices help people find jobs? Are the highways well maintained? These are very direct sources of
information on how well the government functions. No matter how positive the view of the political
system that people have learned as children, citizens who face a different reality in everyday life are
likely to change their early-learned views. Indeed, the contradictions between ideology and reality
proved to be one of the weaknesses of the communist systems in Eastern Europe.
In summary, the country-specific chapters in this book examine the patterns of political socialization for
several reasons. The sources of political socialization often determine the content of what is learned
about politics. If people learn about new events from their friends at church, they may hear different
information than people who rely on the workplace or the television for information. The role of these
different socialization agents and the content of their political messages also vary systematically across
nations. In addition, the ability of a nation to recreate its political culture in successive generations is an
important factor in perpetuating the political system. Finally, cultures change when new elements are
added to the process of political learning. Thus, socialization provides the feedback mechanism that
enables a political culture to endure or change.
Trends Shaping Contemporary Political Cultures
3.5 List and describe three current forces that are affecting contemporary political cultures.
A political culture exists uniquely in its own time and place. Citizens’ attitudes are shaped by personal
experiences and by the agents of political socialization. Yet in any historical period, there may be trends
that change the culture in many nations. The major social trends of our time reflect both general
societal developments and specific historic events.
For the past two decades, a major new development is the trend toward democracy in Eastern Europe,
East Asia, and other parts of the developing world. This democratization trend reflects long-term
responses to modernity as well as immediate reactions to current events. Modernization gradually
eroded the legitimacy of nondemocratic ideologies, while the development of citizens’ skills and political
resources made claims to greater participation in policymaking (at least indirectly) more plausible. Thus,
many studies of political culture in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union uncovered surprising
popular support for democratic norms and processes as the new democratic system formed.26
Ironically, as democracy has begun taking root in Eastern Europe, citizens in many Western democracies
are increasingly skeptical about politicians and political institutions. In 1964, three-quarters of
Americans said they trusted the government; in 2012, less than a fifth of the public say as much—and
the malaise is spreading to Western Europe and Japan.27 At the same time, public support for
democratic norms and values has strengthened over time in most Western democracies. Thus, these
publics are critical of politicians and political parties when they fall short of these democratic ideals.
Although this cynicism is a strain on democratic politicians, it presses democracy to continue to improve
and adapt, which is ultimately democracy’s greatest strength.
Another recent major trend affecting political cultures is a shift toward marketization—that is, an
increased public acceptance of free markets and private profit incentives, rather than a government-
managed economy. One example of this movement appeared in many Western European nations and
the United States beginning in the 1980s, where economies had experienced serious problems of
inefficiency and economic stagnation. Margaret Thatcher in Britain and Ronald Reagan in the United
States rode to power on waves of public support for reducing the scale of government. Public opinion
surveys show that many people in these nations feel that government should not be responsible for
individual well-being (see again Figure 3.3).
Just as Western Europeans began to question the government’s role in the economy, the political
changes in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union reinforced this trend toward marketization. The
command economies of Eastern Europe were almost exclusively controlled by state corporations and
government agencies. The government set both wages and prices and directed the economy. The
collapse of these systems raised new questions about public support for marketization. Surveys
generally find that Eastern Europeans support a capitalist market system and the public policies that
would support such an economic system.28
Globalization is another trend affecting political cultures of many nations. Increasing international trade
and international interactions tend to diffuse the values of the overall international system. Thus, as
developing nations become more engaged in the global economy and global international system, the
development of certain norms—such as human rights, gender equality, and democratic values—
increases.29 People in developing nations also learn about the broader opportunities existing in other
nations, which can spur cultural change as well as economic change. Thus, although globalization has
been a deeply divisive political issue for the past decade in many nations, the Pew Global Values Survey
found broad support for globalization among citizens worldwide—especially in developing nations
where it is seen as improving living standards and life chances.30
Clearly, political culture is not a static phenomenon, so our understanding of political culture must be
dynamic. It must encompass how the agents of political socialization communicate and interpret historic
events and traditional values. It must juxtapose these factors with the exposure of citizens and leaders
to new experiences and new ideas. But it is important to understand the political culture of a nation,
because these cultural factors influence how citizens act, how the political process functions, and what
policy goals the government pursues.
Review Questions
• What are the three key elements of a political culture?
• Why does political culture matter?
• Why is the process of political socialization important?
• What are the main agents of political socialization? List the possible agents of socialization, and then
compare their relative importance across two different nations included in this book.
• What are the major trends in cultural change in the contemporary world?
Key Terms
agents of political socialization
congruence theory
direct socialization
indirect socialization
political culture
political socialization
political subcultures
Suggested Readings
Almond, Gabriel A., and Sidney Verba. The Civic Culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963.
———, eds. The Civic Culture Revisited. Boston: Little Brown, 1980.
Booth, John, and Mitchell A. Seligson. The Legitimacy Puzzle in Latin America: Political Support and
Democracy in Eight Nations. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Bratton, Michael, Robert Mattes, and E. Gyimah-Boadi. Public Opinion, Democracy, and Market Reform
in Africa. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
Dalton, Russell, and Christian Welzel, eds. The Civic Culture Transformed: From Allegiant to Assertive
Citizens. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.
Gilley, Bruce. The Right to Rule: How States Win and Lose Legitimacy. New York: Columbia University
Press, 2009.
Horowitz, Donald. Ethnic Groups in Conflict. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000.
Huntington, Samuel. The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. New York: Simon &
Schuster, 1996.
Inglehart, Ronald, and Pippa Norris. Sacred and Secular: Religion and Politics Worldwide, 2nd ed.
Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
Inglehart, Ronald, and Christian Welzel. Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy: The Human
Development Sequence. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005.
Inkeles, Alex, and David H. Smith. Becoming Modern. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1974.
Jennings, M. Kent. “Political Socialization,” in Oxford Handbook of Political Behavior, ed. Russell Dalton
and Hans-Dieter Klingemann, 29–44. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
Klingemann, Hans Dieter, Dieter Fuchs, and Jan Zielonka, eds. Democracy and Political Culture in Eastern
Europe. London: Routledge, 2006.
Norris, Pippa, ed. Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government. Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1999.
Norris, Pippa, and Ronald Inglehart. Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change around the World.
New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
———. Cosmopolitan Communications: Cultural Diversity in a Globalized World. New York: Cambridge
University Press, 2009.
Putnam, Robert. The Beliefs of Politicians. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1973.
———. Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1993.
Rose, Richard, Christian Haerpfer, and William Mishler. Testing the Churchill Hypothesis: Democracy and
Its Alternatives in Post-Communist Societies. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.
Welzel, Christian. Freedom Rising: Human Empowerment and the Quest for Emancipation. Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2013.
1. This concept of legitimacy and its bases in different societies draws on the work of Max Weber. See,
for example, Max Weber, Basic Concepts in Sociology, trans. H. P. Secher (New York: Citadel Press,
1964), chaps. 5–7.
2. Bruce Gilley, The Right to Rule: How States Win and Lose Legitimacy (New York: Columbia University
Press, 2009).
3. Samuel Huntington, “Will More Countries Become Democratic?” Political Science Quarterly 99
(Summer 1984): 193–218.
4. Christian Welzel, Freedom Rising: Human Empowerment and the Quest for Emancipation (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2013); and Russell Dalton and Christian Welzel, eds., The Civic Culture
Transformed: From Allegiant to Assertive Citizens (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).
5. Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2005); Russell Dalton and Doh Chull Shin, eds., Citizens, Democracy, and
Markets around the Pacific Rim (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006); and Michael Bratton, Robert
Mattes, and E. Gyimah-Boadi, Public Opinion, Democracy, and Market Reform in Africa (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2004).
6. For the list of nations in the World Values Survey, see the project website:
7. Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom (New York: Knopf, 1999).
In prior editions, we discussed the differences between parochial, subject, and participatory roles, and
the concentration of parochials in less developed nations. Current research leads us to consider this
categorization as too stark, as technological and communications changes have spread political
information and interest on a broad global scale.
9. Welzel, Freedom Rising.
10. Ronald Inglehart, Modernization and Postmodernization (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1997), chaps. 6 and 7.
11. Ronald Inglehart, Culture Shift in Advanced Industrial Societies (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University
Press, 1990).
12. Even within established Western democracies, there are internal differences in the appropriate role
of government, the role of the citizen, and the perceived goals of government. See Ole Borre and Elinor
Scarbrough, eds., The Scope of Government (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995).
13. W. Kymlicka and N. Wayne, eds., Citizenship in Divided Societies (Oxford: Oxford University Press,
2000); and Donald Horowitz, Ethnic Groups in Conflict (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000).
14. Amy Chua, World on Fire: How Exporting Free Market Democracy Breeds Ethnic Hatred and Global
Instability (New York: Doubleday, 2003).
15. See Welzel, Freedom Rising.
16. Kendall Baker, Russell Dalton, and Kai Hildebrandt, Germany Transformed (Cambridge, MA: Harvard
University Press, 1981).
17. Robert Putnam, Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 1993); and Robert Putnam, Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American
Community (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000).
18. Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon
& Schuster, 1996.
19. See Gabriel A. Almond and Sidney Verba, The Civic Culture (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press,
1963), chap. 12; and M. Kent Jennings, Klaus R. Allerbeck, and Leopold Rosenmayr, “Generations and
Families,” in Samuel H. Barnes et al., Political Action (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1979), 485–522.
20. Such fundamentalism is often a defensive reaction against the spread of scientific views of nature
and human behavior, and the libertarian values and attitudes that accompany these views. The
influence of fundamentalism has been most visible not only in Muslim countries but also in Christian
countries. Broadly speaking, fundamentalism seeks to raise conservative social, moral, and religious
issues to the top of the contemporary policy agenda.
21. Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, Rising Tide: Gender Equality and Cultural Change around the
World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
22. Martha Nussbaum and Jonathan Glover, eds., Women, Culture, and Development (New York: Oxford
University Press, 1995).
23. For example, see Sidney Verba, Norman H. Nie, and Jae-on Kim, Participation and Political Equality
(New York: Cambridge University Press, 1978); and Pippa Norris, Democratic Phoenix: Reinventing
Political Activism (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).
24. Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart, Cosmopolitan Communications: Cultural Diversity in a Globalized
World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
25. Aaron Smith, Kay Lehman Schlozman, Sidney Verba, and Henry Brady, “The Internet and Civic
Engagement,” Pew Internet and American Life Project (Washington, DC: Pew Research Center,
September 2009) (www.pewinternet.org).
26. Richard Rose, Christian Haerpfer, and William Mishler, Testing the Churchill Hypothesis: Democracy
and Its Alternatives in Post-Communist Societies (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).
27. Pippa Norris, Critical Citizens: Global Support for Democratic Government (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1999); and Russell Dalton, Democratic Challenges, Democratic Choices: The Erosion of Political
Support in Advanced Industrial Democracies (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).
28. See William Zimmerman, The Russian People and Foreign Policy: Russian Elite and Mass Perspectives
(Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2002), chap. 2; and Raymond Duch, “Tolerating Economic
Reform,” American Political Science Review 87 (1993): 590–608. Russian support for marketization
noticeably lags behind that of most Eastern Europeans.
29. Wayne Sandholtz and Mark Gray, “International Integration and National Corruption,” International
Organization 57 (Autumn 2003): 761–800; and Mark Gray, Miki Kittilson, and Wayne Sandholtz,
“Women and Globalization: A Study of 180 Countries, 1975–2000,” International Organization 60 (Spring
2006): 293–333.
30. Pew Global Attitudes Project, Views of a Changing World, June 2003 (Washington, DC: Pew Research
Center, 2003), 71–81 (http://pewglobal.org/reports/display.php?ReportID=185).”

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