What Is Political Socialization? Definition and Examples (2024)

Political socialization is the learning process by which people develop an understanding of their political identities, opinions, and behavior. Through various agents of socialization, such as parents, peers, and schools, the lifelong experiences of political socialization play a key role in developing the traits of patriotism and good citizenship.

Key Takeaways: Political Socialization

  • Political Socialization is the process by which people develop their political knowledge, values, and ideology.
  • The process of political socialization begins in childhood and continues throughout one’s lifetime.
  • Politically socialized people are more likely to actively participate in the political process.
  • In the United States, political socialization tends to develop a belief in the virtues of democracy.
  • The main sources or agents of political socialization in people’s lives are family, school, peers, and the media.

Political Socialization Definition

Political scientists have concluded that political beliefs and behavior are not genetically inherited. Instead, individuals decide throughout their lifetimes where and how they fit into the political values and processes of their country through the process of political socialization. It is through this learning process that the standards and behaviors that contribute to a smoothly and peacefully functioning political system are passed between generations. Perhaps most visibly, it how people determine their political orientation—conservative or liberal, for example.

Beginning in childhood, the process of political socialization continues throughout a person’s lifetime. Even people who have shown no interest in politics for years can become highly politically active as older citizens. Suddenly in need of health care and other benefits, they may be motivated to support candidates sympathetic to their cause and to join senior advocacy groups such as the Gray Panthers.

Younger children tend to first associate politics and government with highly recognizable individuals such as the president of the United States and police officers. Unlike children of past generations who generally admired government leaders, modern young people tend to develop a more negative or distrustful view of politicians. This is to some extent due to the increased media coverage of political scandals.

While young people usually learn about the political process from older people, they often develop their views and can eventually influence the political behavior of adults. For example, many adult Americans were swayed to changed their political orientation as a result of young peoples’ protests to the Vietnam War.

In the United States, political socialization often imparts a shared belief in the virtues of democracy. School children begin to grasp the concept of patriotism through daily rituals, such as reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. By age 21, most Americans have come to associate the virtues of democracy with the need to vote. This has led some scholars to criticize political socialization in the United States as a form of forced indoctrination that discourages independent thought. However, political socialization does not always result in support for democratic political institutions. Especially during later adolescence, some people adopt political values that vary greatly from those held by the majority.

The ultimate goal of political socialization is to ensure the survival of the democratic political system even during times of extreme stress, such as economic depression or war. Stable political systems are characterized by regularly held elections conducted according to legally established procedures, and that the people accept the results as legitimate. For example, when the outcome of the tumultuous 2000 U.S. presidential election was finally decided by the Supreme Court, most Americans quickly accepted George W. Bush as the winner. Instead of violent protests, the country moved on with politics as usual.

It is during the political socialization process that people typically develop their levels of belief in the legitimacy of the political system and their level of political efficacy, or power, to influence that system.

Political Legitimacy

Political legitimacy describes people’s level of belief in the validity, honesty, and fairness of their country’s political processes, such as elections. People are far more likely to be confident that a highly legitimate political process will result in honest leaders who respond to their needs while rarely abusing their governmental powers. People trust that elected leaders who overstep their authority or engage in illegal activity will be held accountable through processes such as impeachment. Highly legitimate political systems are more likely to survive crises and to implement new policies effectively.

Political Efficacy

Political efficacy refers to individuals’ level of trust that by participating in the political process they can bring about change in the government. People who feel a high level of political efficacy are confident that have the knowledge and resources necessary to take part in the political process and that the government will respond to their efforts. People who feel politically effective also believe strongly in the legitimacy of the political system and are thus more likely to participate in it. People who trust that their vote will be fairly counted and will matter are more likely to go to the polls. People who feel politically effective are also more likely to take strong stands on government policy issues. For example, in the 2010 U.S. midterm elections, many people dissatisfied with what they considered to be excessive government spending supported the ultra-conservative Tea Party movement. Of the 138 Republican candidates for Congress identified as getting significant Tea Party support, 50% were elected to the Senate and 31% were elected to the House.

Agents of Socialization

While political socialization can take place almost anywhere at any time, from early childhood on, people’s political perceptions and behaviors are directly or indirectly shaped by various socializing agents, such as family, school and peers, and the media. Not only do these agents of socialization teach young people about the political system, they can also influence people’s political preferences and level of desire to take part in the political process.


Many scholars consider the family to be the earliest and most-impactful agent of political socialization. Especially in families that are highly politically active, the influence of parents in the future political orientation of their children is most pronounced in the areas of party affiliation, political ideology, and level of participation. For example, children of highly politically active parents tend to develop an interest in civics making them more likely to become politically active as adolescents and adults. Similarly, since politics is often discussed in “dinner table” family settings, children often first imitate and may grow up to embrace the political party preferences and ideologies of their parents.

Research has also shown that the future political involvement of children is often influenced by the socioeconomic status of their parents. Children of affluent parents are more likely to attain college-level educations, which tend to develop higher levels of political knowledge and interest. Parental socioeconomic status also tends to plays a role in the development of class-oriented and special-interest political affiliations and levels of civic involvement.

Children, however, do not always continue to embrace the political orientation and practices of their parents. While they are more likely to adopt their parents’ views as teenagers, children of politically involved parents are also more likely to change their party affiliation during early adulthood as they become exposed to new political points-of-view.

The effects of the family on political socialization are far from static, changing as family structure changes in different ways around the world. One fundamental change is family size, with fertility rates dropping in virtually every country over the past century.

The People’s Republic of China (PRC) provides an extreme example. When established in 1949, the PRC government encouraged families to have children to create additional workers. By the 1960s the typical Chinese family had six children. At that point political leaders became worried about rapid population growth, so in 1980 they instituted a one-child policy strictly enforced through a combination of economic benefits and harsh penalties. While this policy dramatically slowed population growth, it substantially increased both the age of and the percentage of males in the population. Under the one-child policy, a cultural preference for male children evolved, resulting in sex-selective abortions and female infanticide. Fearing that they had gone too far in the wrong direction, the Chinese government lifted the one-child policy in 2016.

Family structure involves not only how many children are in a family, but where they live when they effectively become adults. As of 2016, about 52% of 18-to-29-year-olds in the United States were living with their parents, a higher percentage than at any time since 1900. Among affluent countries, the percentage of 15-to-29 year-olds living with their parents varied from about 80% in Italy to 30% in Canada.

Considering how family members can influence each other’s political attitudes and beliefs, it is not surprising to see how changing family structures and living conditions might impact political socialization.

For example, who is expected to take responsibility for caring for aging parents varies from country to country. In China, caring for parents is a sacred duty. In Norway, it is more often seen as an obligation of the government. Germans and Italians are more than twice as likely as Americans to say that the government, rather than the family, has the main responsibility for caring for the elderly.

Like other hard-to-quantify generalizations, these statements are not true for every person in every circ*mstance everywhere. Some children of devout worshippers become atheists, some people raised as capitalists become communists or socialists, and some of the children of political, social, and cultural liberals become ardent conservatives.

School and Peer Groups

In conjunction with the parental transfer of political attitudes and behaviors to their children, the influence of school on political socialization has been the subject of much research and debate. It has been established that level of education is closely related to interest in politics, voter turnout, and overall political participation.

Starting in grade school, children are taught the basics of elections, voting, and the ideology of democracy by choosing class officers. In high school, more sophisticated elections teach the fundamentals of campaigning and the influence of popular opinion. College-level courses in American history, civics, and political science encourage students to examine government institutions and processes.

However, it has often been suggested that higher education can divide the population into higher and lower classes, thus giving the better-educated upper classes an unequal level of influence over the political system. In this and other ways, the actual effect of education remains unclear. In the words of David Campbell, professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame, “Specifically, we have a limited understanding of how schools do, or do not, foster political engagement among their adolescent students.”

School is also one of the first settings in which young people develop intellectual relationships with peers—people other than their parents or siblings. Research indicates that children often have their first opinion-sharing discussions about politics with their peers. Peer groups, often acting as social networks, also teach valuable democratic and economic principles such as information sharing and the equitable exchange of goods and services.

The Media

Most people look to the media—newspapers, magazines, radio, television, and the internet—for political information. Despite growing dependence on the internet, television remains the dominant information source, especially with the proliferation of 24-hour all-news cable channels. Not only does the media influence public opinion by providing news, analysis, and a diversity of opinion, it exposes people to modern sociopolitical issues, such as drug abuse, abortion, and racial discrimination.

Quickly eclipsing conventional media in importance, the internet now serves as a source of political information. Most major television and print news outlets now have websites and bloggers also offer a wide range of political information, analysis, and opinion. Increasingly, peer groups, politicians, and government agencies utilize social media websites such as Twitter to share and disseminate political information and commentary.

As people spend more of their time online, however, many scholars question whether these internet forums encourage a healthy sharing of different sociopolitical views or simply serve as “echo chambers” in which the same perspectives and opinions are shared only among like-minded people. This has resulted in some of these online sources being accused of spreading extremist ideologies, often supported by disinformation and unfounded conspiracy theories.


  • Neundorf, Anja and Smets, Kaat. “Political Socialization and the Making of Citizens.” Oxford Handbooks Online, 2017, https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935307.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199935307-e-98.
  • Alwin, D. F., Ronald L. Cohen, and Theodore M. Newcomb. “Political Attitudes Over the Life Span.” University of Wisconsin Press, 1991, ISBN 978-0-299-13014-5.
  • Conover, P. J., “Political Socialization: Where’s the Politics?” Northwestern University Press, 1991,
  • Greenstein, F. I. “Children and Politics.” Yale University Press, 1970, ISBN-10: 0300013205.
  • Madestam, Andreas. “Do Political Protests Matter? Evidence from the Tea Party Movement.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics, November 1, 2013, https://www.hks.harvard.edu/publications/do-political-protests-matter-evidence-tea-party-movement.
  • Verba, Sidney. “Family Ties: Understanding the Intergenerational Transmission of Political Participation.” Russell Sage Foundation, 2003, https://www.russellsage.org/research/reports/family-ties.
  • Campbell, David E. “Civic Engagement and Education: An Empirical Test of the Sorting Model.” American Journal of Political Science, October 2009, https://davidecampbell.files.wordpress.com/2015/08/6-ajps_sorting.pdf.
What Is Political Socialization? Definition and Examples (2024)


What is an example of political socialization? ›

For example, generally, African Americans and Hispanics rely on television for their information more than white people. More women than men watch daytime television, and more men than women follow sports programs.

What does political socialization describe? ›

Political socialization is the process by which people learn about their government and acquire the beliefs, attitudes, values, and behaviors associated with good citizenship. The political socialization process in the United States stresses the teaching of democratic and capitalist values.

What is an example of political socialization quizlet? ›

Political socialization- The process by which people acquire political beliefs and values. - People acquire these beliefs through relationships with family, friends and co workers, web. Most important source is the family and the schools.

What are some examples of socialization? ›

Interacting with friends and family, being told to obey rules, being rewarded for doing chores, and being taught how to behave in public places are all examples of socialization that enable a person to function within his or her culture.

Is family an example of political socialization? ›

The family is an underlying influence on children's emotional attachment to a political party. According to some researchers, in the process of political socialization of children, in the grafting of political party identity, family is the biggest factor.

Which activity is the best example of political socialization quizlet? ›

Terms in this set (86) Media is an example of a political socialization. It influences you political values and thinking through propaganda and ads. Peers is an example of a political socialization.

What is the definition of political socialization in AP Gov? ›

Political socialization: The process by which people form their political attitudes and beliefs. Social groups: Formal or informal groups of people who share similar characteristics and a common sense of identity.

What are the characteristics of political socialization quizlet? ›

What are the two distinguishing characteristics of political socialization? Political socialization is cumulative, and is most heavily developed during childhood. sets limits on government action. normally cumulative; political beliefs attained earlier in life tend to be retained to a substantial degree.

What are the characteristics of political sociology? ›

Political sociology is a discipline, which is mainly concerned with the analysis of the interaction between politics and society. The scope of political sociology includes effect of social attitudes on political participation, social class and political attitudes, voting and its political and social implications.

Which of the following scenarios is the best example of political socialization? ›

Which of the following scenarios best reflects the process of political socialization? An individual takes a civics course in school and develops opinions about politics.

What is an example of a political social institution? ›

Political institution is the distribution system of power and authority which is used to maintain social order. Politics is the social institution through which power is acquired and exercised by some people and groups. mechanisms: Institutions like religion, morality, state, government, law, legislation etc.

What are some examples of socialization in friends? ›

Going to church, joining a club or group, chatting on line, calling a friend on the phone, or hanging out with friends are all means of socialization. These are the activities that banish loneliness feelings and promote the sense of safety, belonging and enjoyment that helps people to feel secure.

What are the 4 types of socialization? ›

What are the different types of socialization?
  • Primary socialization,
  • Anticipatory socialization,
  • Developmental socialization and.
  • Re-socialization.
Dec 15, 2013

What are the 5 main types of socialization? ›

Generally, there are five types of socialization: primary, secondary, developmental, anticipatory and resocialization. This type of socialization happens when a child learns the values, norms and behaviors that should be displayed in order to live accordingly to a specific culture.

What are the three types of socialization? ›

Socialization has three major processes: the primary process of socialization, the secondary process of socialization, and the adult process of socialization. Primary socialization begins in infancy and is usually influenced by parents and close family members.

What is political Socialisation in childhood? ›

Political socialization is a process of learning political contents which begins at an early age and is affected by the context in which the children live (Dawson, Prewitt, & Dawson, 1977; Greenberg, 2009).

Which of the following is a characteristic of political socialization in the United States? ›

A first characteristic of political socialization is that most people's political outlook is formed uncritically during childhood. A second characteristic of political socialization is that its effect is cumulative; political orientations usually grow firmer with age.

What is the role of education in political socialization? ›

The most important agents in the process of political socialization is educational institutions. We aware that education is the potential instrument of social transformation and also an important means of national development which helps in national reconstruction. It is open secular and universalistic in nature.

Which of the following has the greatest impact on political socialization? ›

The family is usually considered the most important influence on both a person's overall socialization and their political socialization. Families profoundly affect people's views about religion, work, and education.

What has the biggest impact on your political socialization quizlet? ›

The family usually plays the largest role in political socialization and people tend to vote the same way as their parents vote.

What is the current process of political socialization in the United States ______? ›

According to the text, the current process of political socialization in the United States trains us to support and obey the existing political system. The process by which we learn our political orientations and allegiances is called political adherence.

What are the main functions of political socialization? ›

The purpose of political socialization is to educate and enhance the members of the society politically, to see them become effective members of the political society, and to preserve the continuity of the political values of the society.

What does the concept of political socialization refer to quizlet? ›

The concept of political socialization refers to. The process by which beliefs and values are transmitted to new immigrants and to our children. The theory that politics involves conflict among interest groups using bargaining and compromise is known as. pluralism.

What is an example of political culture? ›

What is an example of political culture? An example of political culture can be seen in America. In American political culture is is defined by freedom, equality, and justice. Americans celebrate other cultures and beliefs as a part of their acceptance of all.

Which of these is the most significant agent 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.

What are the factors that influence political socialization quizlet? ›

Family, school, peers and mass media are the most important. other factors are religion, race and ethnicity, gender, age, the region where you live and political events. What the public thinks about a particular issue or set of issues at any point in time.

What is the political socialization of an individual most influenced by quizlet? ›

What is political socialization? The process by which individuals acquire political views and knowledge about politics. It is strongly influenced by people with whom an individual has contact from early childhood through adulthood.

What does political sociology focus on? ›

A central element has been that political sociology is related to the distinction between the social and the political, between society and state. The main focus has been on master processes of societal change, i.e., on simultaneous changes in the political order and the social system.

How does political sociology influence people? ›

In political sociology, we study who has the power, how they use it, and how it is institutionalized. This can include the study of political activity of specific groups (race, class, gender, ideology), how social pressure forces change in policy, or how policy will affect society.

Why is political sociology important? ›

Studies of political sociology offer insight in contemporary theories of power, interests, changes and conflicts and therefore enables student for analysis of deep layers of political life. In addition, they gain capacities of explanation of dynamics of social and political processes.

What are the main agents of our political socialization quizlet? ›

What is Political Socialization? It is the learning process through which individuals acquire their political opinions, beliefs and values in any society. What are the 6 agents of political socialization? The Family, Schools, Mass Media, Peers, Churches and religion, Political Institutions and Leaders.

What are three examples of political systems? ›

The major types of political systems are democracies, monarchies, oligarchies, and authoritarian and totalitarian regimes.

What are 4 examples of social institutions? ›

To a sociologist, families, sports teams, religions, hospitals, and healthcare systems are all considered to be institutions. Other social institutions include cities, festivals, holidays, traditions, and schools.

What are the five examples of social institutions? ›

v. Every institution has some rules which must be compulsorily obeyed by the individual. Five major institutions in rural sociology are political, educational, economic, family and religion.

What are the two main types of socialization? ›

The life process of socialization is generally divided into two parts: primary and secondary socialization. Primary socialization takes place early in life, as a child and adolescent.

What are the 10 types of socialization? ›

  • Primary socialization.
  • Secondary socialization.
  • Anticipatory socialization.
  • Resocialization.
  • Organizational socialization.
  • Group socialization.
  • Gender socialization.
  • Racial socialization.

What is the best definition of socialization? ›

1. a continuing process whereby an individual acquires a personal identity and learns the norms, values, behavior, and social skills appropriate to his or her social position.

What are 3 characteristics of socialization? ›

What are the characteristics of socialization?
  • To Inculcate basic discipline.
  • To Behave in an unusual way.
  • Knowledge or skill acquired by instruction or study alone.
  • Characteristics and knowledge of a specific class of people.
Oct 20, 2022

What are the 8 sources of socialization? ›

agents of socialization: agents of socialization, or institutions that can impress social norms upon an individual, include the family, religion, peer groups, economic systems, legal systems, penal systems, language, and the media.

What are the four importance of socialization? ›

Socialization, as said above, is the process of learning group norms, habits and ideals. There are four factors of this process of learning. These are imitation, suggestion, identification and language.

What is the importance of socialization in society? ›

Socialization prepares people to participate in a social group by teaching them its norms and expectations. Socialization has three primary goals: teaching impulse control and developing a conscience, preparing people to perform certain social roles, and cultivating shared sources of meaning and value.

How does socialization occur in society? ›

Social groups often provide the first experiences of socialization. Families, and later peer groups, communicate expectations and reinforce norms. People first learn to use the tangible objects of material culture in these settings, as well as being introduced to the beliefs and values of society.

What is an example of political ideology? ›

Typically, each ideology contains certain ideas on what it considers to be the best form of government (e.g. autocracy or democracy) and the best economic system (e.g. capitalism or socialism). The same word is sometimes used to identify both an ideology and one of its main ideas.

What are five examples of different parts of socialization? ›

Generally, there are five types of socialization: primary, secondary, developmental, anticipatory and resocialization. This type of socialization happens when a child learns the values, norms and behaviors that should be displayed in order to live accordingly to a specific culture.

What are the two distinguishing characteristics of Political socialization? ›

What are the two distinguishing characteristics of political socialization? Political socialization is cumulative, and is most heavily developed during childhood. sets limits on government action. normally cumulative; political beliefs attained earlier in life tend to be retained to a substantial degree.

Which of the following is a characteristic of Political socialization in the United States? ›

A first characteristic of political socialization is that most people's political outlook is formed uncritically during childhood. A second characteristic of political socialization is that its effect is cumulative; political orientations usually grow firmer with age.

What are some examples of political culture in the United States? ›

American political culture contains a number of core ideals and values. Not all Americans share the same views, of course, but the vast majority subscribes to these general ideals, including liberty, equality, democracy, individualism, unity, and diversity.

What is 1 example of political culture in the United States? ›

Some elements of American political culture include the following: Liberty: U.S. citizens believe they are free to make choices in most aspects of life. Equality: Everyone is regarded as equal before the law. Individualism: Americans tend to think individuals are responsible for themselves.

What are the 3 types of political culture? ›

Figure 1.17 Daniel Elazar posited that the United States can be divided geographically into three types of political cultures—individualistic, moralistic, and traditionalistic—which spread with the migratory patterns of immigrants across the country.

What are the 10 examples of political ideologies? ›

  • 1 Anarchism (kinds of ideologies) 1.1 Political internationals. ...
  • 2 Communism. 2.1 Political internationals. ...
  • 3 Conservatism. 3.1 Political internationals. ...
  • 4 Environmentalism. 4.1 Political internationals. ...
  • 5 Fascism. 5.1 General. ...
  • 6 Feminism and identity politics. 6.1 Political internationals. ...
  • 7 Liberalism. ...
  • 8 Nationalism.

What are some examples of ideology in society? ›

Sociological examples of ideologies include: racism; sexism; heterosexism; ableism; and ethnocentrism.

What are the three ideologies of political economy? ›

The three types of political economy are capitalism, socialism, and communism. In communism and socialism, resources are owned by the government and society, respectively; while for capitalism, resources are owned by private individuals.

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