What Are Agents of Political Socialization?

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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jason Nowaczyk

Jason has a masters of education in educational psychology and a BA in history and a BA in philosophy. He's taught high school and middle school

This lesson discusses four important social groups that are responsible for influencing our political ideas and beliefs. A short quiz follows the lesson.

What Are Agents of Political Socialization?

In a democracy, like the United States, many of us hold and share strong opinions on such things as same-sex marriage, capital punishment, healthcare and gun control, among other issues. However, these strong opinions are not something with which we're born. Instead, our political opinions and values are learned.

The process of acquiring political values and attitudes is called political socialization, which occurs throughout our lifetimes as we come into contact with other people. The groups that teach and expose us to political ideas and values are known as agents of political socialization. And coincidently, the same groups that teach us about the world in general are the same groups that teach us about the world of politics.

The main agents of political socialization that we will cover in this lesson include the media, family, school, and peer groups.

Agents of Political Socialization

The Media

Traditionally, family and teachers served as the most influential agents of political socialization because they are some of the first groups with which we come into contact. However, there's a growing belief that the media is beginning to displace these traditional agents as we spend more time in front of computers and the television. As a result, it's become easier for political messages to reach a greater number of people. Additionally, young people can use the Internet to research information that either validates or negates the dominant opinions they are exposed to in their face-to-face interactions. For example, if a child grows up in a largely conservative home whose members don't believe in the merits of gun control, that child no longer has to take those opinions at face value.

Family

In spite of easy access to the media, the family remains one of the primary agents of socialization in a person's life. Children learn about politics from their parents through a mix of two factors: communication and receptivity. First, political opinions take hold because parents often express, or communicate, their beliefs to their children. Furthermore, children tend to be receptive to these opinions because of their innate need for parent approval.

Interestingly though, a child is more likely to be socialized in the political world if the child perceives their father as powerful and interested in politics, rather than a mother who may exhibit the same characteristics. It's also not common for children exposed to different viewpoints on the Internet to share them with, and thereby politically socialize, their parents.

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