Learning How to Play the Game: Political Socialization and the Role of the Media
Mazur, Jennifer A.
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Political culture is a combination of attitudes, opinions and beliefs held by a society regarding its political leaders and government institutions. Political culture is also expressed by the public's behavior and participation in politics. In essence, political culture is formed by the people's perception of reality. American political culture can be characterized by a strong dislike of government, an increasing distrust of government and politicians, a low opinion of political parties and partisanship, as well as a public lack of political participation (less than half of the eligible electorate voted for a presidential candidate in the last election). These characteristics are largely a result of the public's perception of political reality. What is this reality that is conveyed? From where does it derive? Most importantly, how does it affect the political culture of America? Unfortunately, these questions cannot be resolved within the pages of this study. In fact, a definitive conclusion is nearly impossible to achieve due to the complex and intricate relations among the numerous agents of political socialization. In essence, the reality of most Americans is constructed by a plethora of societal influences and experiences and cannot be dissected to locate where one agent ends and another begins. However, through the assessment of political socialization as a discipline, its agents, and their effects on the American public, it is possible to further evaluate some of the questions relating to American political culture. Perhaps an instructional guide is too much to anticipate, but through additional analysis we can at least hope to learn a lesson or two about the rules of practicing politics in American society.