People are social beings. We learn most of our behavior and practices through socialization. Political behavior and ideology are two aspects that we learn through socialization. This process is not easily detected, especially by the subject, but it plays a major role in the formation of each person’s political views. In this custom term paper, I will delve deep into political socialization. Specifically, I will define political socialization, identify the agents of political socialization, and finally, discuss the top agents that influenced my political socialization.
Definition of Political Socialization
Political socialization is a process that everyone goes through with or without their awareness. Political socialization is the learning process through which people develop attitudes, values, beliefs, opinions, and behaviors that make them good citizens of a country (Sosteric, n.d.). This learning process is a subtle process that is embedded into everyday life, especially of the youth. Parents, teachers, religious leaders, and the media all contribute to the process of political socialization.
Through political socialization, individuals develop a sense of political identity or affiliation with a political community, and they come to understand the role they play in their political culture. Thus, as the individual matures, they acquire an understanding of government and politics through the lens of the political perspective they have been socialized into.
Political socialization is, first and foremost, a form of socialization. Socialization, as defined in Sociology, is the process through which individuals learn the social order (Sosteric, n.d.). Socialization is a one-way process that starts in infanthood throughout their formative years, and shapes not just the person’s identity but also the society we live in. In this process, the subject is a passive sponge, and because the process occurs without the subject’s knowledge, it can take place almost anywhere. There are numerous factors that affect the political socialization process, including the political perspective or community one belongs in, the agents of socialization, as well as the circumstances in which the socialization takes place. All these contribute to the individual’s political identity and ideologies, which in turn contributes to the formation of a society, or more specifically, to the prevalence of the old social order.
What is the definition of political socialization?
Agents of Political Socialization
As Sosteric explains, socialization occurs from birth, starting with healthcare practitioners and parents. The seemingly simple and harmless practice of diving male and female infants is a form of socialization that establishes the status of each infant (Sosteric, n.d.). As an individual goes through life, they are socialized through their interactions with adults and their peers. There is no standard as to how agents shape or educate individuals—socialization may occur formally or informally. Thus, the agents of political socialization are family, school, peer group, media, socio-political institutions, and political systems. In the succeeding section, I shall discuss the four agents that I believe are the most influential in today’s youth.
The family is responsible for nurturing individuals from birth until they become adults. Children learn about rules and obedience first at home. They also learn certain behaviors and attitudes at home. Parents, as well as grandparents and siblings, may serve as role models for younger children. Furthermore, children may first learn about politics through their parents (Sapiro, 2004). Whether it is hearing their parents voice their opinion, or simply seeing them watch the news or read the newspaper, or participate to political activities—these influence and shape the child’s initial views and involvement in politics.
However, while the family’s role in the socialization of a child is extensive, the family’s influence on the child’s political socialization is dependent on their own involvement in politics. This is why there are families who are more inclined toward politics while others are not. With that said, it is worth noting that the family’s priorities (such as religion) have an effect on the individual’s political socialization. For instance, a family who is religious will be politically socialized in the church. In other words, the family’s priorities affect which agent of political socialization has a stronger influence on the individual.
Scholars consider school as the most influential agent of political socialization (Sosteric, n.d.). This is due to the fact that individuals spend most of their day in school and they learn about almost everything in the world there. Their perspectives are shaped through the knowledge imparted in schools just as their behavior and attitudes are influenced by the rules of the school. For instance, American students are required to sing the national anthem and recite the pledge of allegiance to the flag, which reinforces their identity as American citizens.
Colleges and universities are another influential agent for young adults. Young adults attending tertiary education are still impressionistic and can thus be influenced by lectures and social activities (Sapiro, 2004). Lectures by professors can either form, reinforce, or change knowledge and perspective about real-world politics. Likewise, educational institutions may be more proactive about political socialization by fostering an environment of political involvement through organizations or activities where students volunteer or engage in other political activities.
What does political socialization mean?
Peers are people who are typically of the same age or maturity level. Young people gravitate toward a peer group based on common interests and such (Sosteric, n.d.). Since peer groups are composed of individuals of the same age, they can influence each other in the political socialization process. In this context, however, the political socialization process may be driven by the desire to “fit in,” which may influence individuals to adopt the attitudes and behavior of their peers.
Like family, however, the peer group’s influence on the political socialization may depend on the group’s inclination toward politics. The individual’s initial interest in politics may also be a factor since young individuals tend to choose peers based on their interests. Thus, an individual who is not inclined to politics is less likely to join a politically active group. Still, a peer group may have strong influence on an individual’s viewpoints and behaviors toward political and social issues such as their attitude toward abortion.
Mass media has been considered a strong agent in shaping people’s minds. This is even more true today, in the digital age. For most people, their experience of politics revolves around the media (Khan & Shahbaz, 2015). They get their news from the media, so their initial contact with current events is mired by the interpretation and biases of the media (regardless of how objective they say they are).
Today, the media includes social media networking sites as well, which is brimming with misinformation and propaganda materials, which is just one of the many hazards of the internet and technology (Khan & Shahbaz, 2015). Social media also allows people from all over the world to connect and share their opinions. This phenomenon coincides with the influence of peer groups. Like-minded individuals may form groups and reinforce each other’s beliefs, which could lead to group-think.
People are politically socialized when they watch tv shows and movies. These media have the power to present an issue or a race, for instance, in a certain light and thus influence an individual’s perspective.
Overall, the media is another powerful agent of political socialization because they can control how individuals see and interpret political events. Furthermore, the media is inescapable in today’s world, especially since people can access everything from their phones.
My Political Socialization
I believe family, school, and the media are three of the most influential agents of political socialization in my life. My family was originally a strong agent in my formation as a young adult. I grew up in a conservative family, who deeply influenced my views as a child. I grew up imitating my family’s views because I accepted them to be the truth. My views, however, changed when I went to college where I was exposed to a variety of politics and experiences. My views were slowly changed by the books college students need to read and by the discussions with professors and classmates. The media, social media, in particular, also played a major role in my political socialization. Social media enabled me to expand my understanding of politics and connect with others as well. Social media has also broadened my horizon as I became aware of other students’ advocacy for climate change or the human rights issues in Syria. I am careful with where I access the news and whom I believe, but those I do listen to have a strong influence in my perspectives in politics today.
As a young adult, I am aware that I am still being socialized politically. However, I’m certain that awareness of the process will allow me some control over how my beliefs are shaped. Based on my personal experience and observation of my peers, I can state that family, school, peer group, and the media are the most influential agents of political socialization in today’s world.
Khan, M. A. & Shahbaz, M. Y. (2015). Role of social networking media in political socialization of youth of Multan. Pakistan Journal of Social Sciences. 35(1), pp. 435-449. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/327744308_Role_of_Social_Networking_Media_in_Political_Socialization_of_Youth_of_Multan
Sapiro, V. (2004). Not your parents’ political socialization: Introduction for a new generation. Annual Review of Political Science. 7(1-23), n.p. https://doi.org/10.1146/annurev.polisci.7.012003.104840
Sosteric, M. (n.d.). What is socialization? The SocJourn. https://www.sociology.org/what-is-socialization/