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Chapter 5 - Public Opinion and Political Socialization

Public opinion is rooted in political values. People acquire their values through political socialization, a complex process through which individuals become aware of politics, learn political facts, and form political values. Early political socializaton comes from one's family and school, as well as peer and community groups. Childhood is the most important period of life for political socialization because early learning is the most effective and tends to structure later learning.

Political socialization continues throughout life and, among adults, peer groups and the mass media (especially television) play a particularly influential role. Awareness of political issues also tends to increase as a person's level of formal education increases.

A person who holds a consistent set of values and beliefs about the purpose and scope of government is referred to as an ideologue. Studies of public opinion, however, suggest that for the majority of Americans, ideology is not very important and most people tend to interpret political issues according the direct impact they will have on themselves and their family. The majority of Americans, in fact, have only a crude knowledge of political leaders, parties, and issues. This is largely because politicians emphasize image over substance and tend to present issues in a simplistic way.

1. Explain how a pollster can tell what the nation thinks by talking to only a few hundred people. (Pg.143)




2. Explain the influence of each of the following in the process of socialization. (Pgs.152-162)

a. school





b. community and peers





c. level of education





d. income





e. region





f. ethnicity





g. socioeconomic status





h. religion





i. gender