Political Culture for AP U.S. Government
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American Democratic Values
Although the United States is a diverse society, it is united under a common political culture, or common set of beliefs and attitudes about government and politics. This political culture translates into a consensus of basic concepts that support democracy. Democracy is not guaranteed; therefore the American people must continue to practice these concepts.
- majority rule/minority rights—Although democracy is based upon majority rule, minority rights must be guaranteed.
- equality—Equality of every individual before the law and in the political process.
- private property—Ownership of property is protected by law and supported by the capitalist system.
- individual freedoms—Guarantees of civil liberties and protections of infringements upon them.
- compromise—Allows for the combining of different interests and opinions to form public policy to best benefit society.
- limited government—Powers of government are restricted in a democracy by the will of the people and the law.
It is vital to note that the importance of each of the above changes over time. During the presidency of George W. Bush (2001–2009), some believed that, because of the "War on Terror," the power of the government should be greatly expanded.
Political socialization is the process by which citizens acquire a sense of political identity. Socialization is a complex process that begins early in childhood and continues throughout a person's life. It allows citizens to become aware of politics, learn political facts, and form political values and opinions. Although the paths to political awareness, knowledge, and values differ, people are exposed to a combination of influences that shape their political identities and opinions:
- Family and home influences often help shape political party identification. It is strongest when both parents identify with the same political party.
- Schools teach patriotism, basic governmental functions and structure, and encourage political participation.
- Group affiliations (interest groups, labor unions, professional organizations) provide common bonds between people which may be expressed through the group or its activities.
- Demographic factors (occupation, race, gender, age, religion, region of country, income, education, ethnicity).
- Mass media inform the public about issues and help set the political and public agendas.
- Opinion leaders, those individuals held in great respect because of their position, expertise, or personality, may informally and unintentionally exercise influence.
- Events may instill positive or negative attitudes. For example, the Watergate scandal created a mistrust of government. In the immediate aftermath of the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, patriotic spirit increased in many parts of the United States.
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