Columbus State University Liberal Values Political Science Discussion


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(1) How is the media, biased, more towards progressive-liberal values, conservative values or in both directions depending on the specific media outlets you may access? Explain your response.
(2) Find two or more examples of media bias (video clip, article, images) and attach to your Dropbox submission. Explain in detail how these example/s represent media bias and the impact that it has on public opinion. As part of your research and examination of media bias include recent polling data results showing the public’s confidence in the objectivity or fairness of the media. Provide an Internet citation for each polling source discussed

Chapter Four
Political Socialization and the Communications Media
Maria J. Albo and Barry D. Friedman
Learning Objectives
After covering the topic of political socialization, students should
1. The impact of political socialization on our norms, values, and
expectations of government.
2. The universal values that all Americans share, and how we differ
in applying those values.
3. The various ways in which Americans participate in the political
process and why.
4. The connection between public opinion and public policy.
5. The role of the communications media in the political socialization
process and policymaking.
,n eYeU\ nation SeoSle aUe suEMected to a SUocess that Solitical scientists
and sociologists refer to as political socialization. Through this process,
children are coaxed into embracing the belief that the political system is
legitimate, and then learn how to be participants in the political system. In
the 8nited States, children learn to show respect for the $merican Àag and
to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, and their parents and teachers exhort
them to recognize the legitimacy of goYernment of¿cials and institutions
that make and enforce laws. Mechanisms of political socialization
endeavor to reinforce these behaviors and beliefs throughout adulthood.
This chapter explores the various agents of socialization that guide
children through this process. Special attention is given to the evolution of
the communications media and their inÀuence on public policy.
APericans anG *RvernPent
In virtually all political science courses, we learn about the complex
institutions of governmental and political activity. In an µµAmerican
Government’’ course, we, for the most part, focus on American political
institutions and their role in our society. But in this chapter we examine
what Americans think about politics, and how this thinking affects our
political behavior. Many Americans will advocate passionately that their
political beliefs are superior to the beliefs of others, that their political party
The Basics of American Government
and its candidates are superior to other parties and candidates, and that
their country is better than other countries. Without necessarily evaluating
whether these declarations are true or not, we nevertheless observe
that people usually develop their opinions and af¿liations by adopting
the opinions and af¿liations of their parents, their schoolteachers, their
classmates, their friends, their coworkers, and the communications media.
Americans are a patriotic group; a 2006 poll showed that 85 percent
of Americans were either µµextremely proud’’ or µµvery proud’’ to be
Americans. According to researchers, µµstudies consistently show that
the percentages of people expressing their enthusiasm and pride for
their country are, in fact, higher in the United States than in any other
country’’ (Bresler et al., 2007, p. 135). This deep attachment is not an
accident, but a result of political socialization, µµthe process by which an
individual acquires attitudes, beliefs and values relating to the political
system of which he is a member and to his own role as citizen within that
political system’’ (Greenberg, 1970, p. 165). The implications of political
socialization are a sense of patriotism and support for the government that
continues throughout life. This loyalty is apparent throughout our country
and is demonstrated in values that are shared by most Americans.
Political socialization is a lifelong process. It begins virtually from birth
when very small children are taught that they are Americans and that they
ought to be enormously proud of that fact. In school, µµcivics’’ education
begins at the elementary level²in fact, in kindergarten or ¿rst grade. It
is likely to be the very ¿rst day of school when the pupil is taught to
recite the Pledge of Allegiance to the U.S. Àag. The teaching of the µµStar
Spangled Banner’’ follows almost immediately. Symbolism is a subtle but
key instrument of political socialization. Children are shown photographs
of Mount 9ernon when they learn about George Washington: They see the
stately mansion, and develop respect for the Father of our Country. They are
shown photographs of historic, famous members of Congress, appearing
statesmanlike in debate. Images of the Lincoln Memorial, Washington
Monument, and U.S. Capitol are all intended to build reverence among
American children and adults for government institutions and leadership.
Political socialization is necessary to instill feelings of patriotism and
love for one’s country in citizens. This process exists in all cultures and is
crucial for the continuation of national identity.
Political socialization takes place throughout childhood. Dawson,
Prewitt, and Dawson (1977, pp. 21-23) describe the stages by which
Chapter Four: Political Socialization and the Media
political socialization takes place in a child. During the politicization stage,
the child begins to recognize that authority ¿gures other than her parents
have to be taken into account. During the personalization stage, a child
begins to recognize the president of the United States as the personi¿cation
of government (symbolic µµchief of state’’) and learns to respect his role as
the µµhead of government.’’ The idealization stage follows, in which a child
perceives the president as µµprotective, helpful, trustworthy, intelligent,
hardworking, persistent, correct in his Mudgments, and well quali¿ed as
a leader.’’ Finally, during the institutionalism stage, a child’s idealization
is transformed into support for the political system. While adult opinions
are understood as the end product of youthful political socialization, the
process continues throughout life.
Agents of Socialization
There are several actors involved in the political socialization process,
collectively known as agents of socialization. Some of the most common
agents of socialization are family, schools, religious institutions, peer
groups, and the communications media. Each plays a unique and important
role in the political socialization process.
Socialization begins on the day we are born and are assigned a pink or
blue blanket. Parents are responsible for passing along widely accepted
norms and beliefs so that children can become functional members of
society. Therefore, most childhood socialization is deliberate on the part
of parents (e.g., having good manners), but political socialization is often
not deliberate as children are generally not µµtaught’’ politics, unless one’s
family happens to be very politically motivated or part of a political legacy,
such as the Kennedy or Bush families
In reality, most of our initial perceptions and ideas about political matters
come from overhearing adult conversations and observing adult behaviors.
We may have heard Mom discussing an upcoming election with a friend
or heard Dad complaining about paying taxes every April. All of these
experiences shape our early views and expectations of government, which
stay with us for our lifetime. This idea is known as the priPac\ principle
which states that what is learned ¿rst is learned best (and retained the
longest). The strXctXring principle on the other hand, states that what
The Basics of American Government
is learned ¿rst structures later learning that generally occurs in schools.
While both theories have merit, researchers acknowledge that the role of
the family is important but is also limited and competes with the other
agents of socialization that enter later in life. +owever, party identi¿cation
and opinions about major issues are usually transmitted from parents to
children, much like religious beliefs.
Numerous scholars have recognized the role of public schools as an
agent of socialization (Hess and Torney, 1967; Niemi and Junn, 1998; Nie
et al, 2005). Even when controlling for socioeconomic factors, education
remains the strongest predictor of political participation (9erba, Schlozman
and Brady, 1995; Wol¿nger and 5osenstone, 1980). It is in school where
you likely got your ¿rst formal lesson in civics education when you were
taught to recite the Pledge of Allegiance, sing the µµStar Spangled Banner,’’
and recognize key national landmarks. These demonstrations of patriotism
are necessary exercises designed to instill American norms and values into
the nations’ schoolchildren while creating a lifelong bond to the nation.
This step is essential for the preservation of the state and is practiced in
all countries. Easton and Dennis (1965) note, µµBut for the fact that each
new generation is able to learn a body of political orientations from its
predecessors, no given political system would be able to persist’’ (p. 41).
While our schools are remarkably effective in promoting loyalty and
patriotism in students, the inÀuence of the schools is limited. First, schools
tend to promote a president-centered view of American government. The
president is idealized and understood to be very powerful, benevolent,
and protective. The president is a critical point of control for a child in
the political socialization process, and a presidency-centered view of
government lingers throughout adolescence. While this is an essential
component of national pride, the president-centered view focuses on
government as an µµall powerful’’ institution and suggests the authoritative
role of the government. Second, while the schools will stress the importance
of voting, very little attention is given to the role of an individual in a
democracy. Hess and Torney (1967) explain that most civics education
does not involve the structure, institutions, and processes of national, state,
and local government; rather, most of that instruction involves compliance
with rules and authorities. According to Hess and Torney, µµthe school
Chapter Four: Political Socialization and the Media
focuses on obligations and the right to vote but does not offer the child
suf¿cient understanding of procedures open to individuals for legitimately
inÀuencing government. Nor does it adequately explain and emphasize
the importance of group action to achieve desirable ends’’ (p. 218). Public
schools tend to promote a GXt\baseG PoGel of citizensKip which Russell
Dalton (2006) of the University of California at Irvine argues encourages
conformity and adherence to social norms while promoting basic activities
such as registering with a political party, voting in all elections, donating
to campaigns, and joining civic groups (p. 22). Campbell (2006) noted
that high school seniors who reported that voting was a requirement for
“good citizenship” were more likely to engage in political participation as
a “civic duty” ¿fteen years later, con¿rming the role of the schools as a
predictor for levels of civic duty in adulthood.
Peers and the Workplace
Peer groups rarely have a substantial inÀuence on political views, as
young people tend to af¿liate with acquaintances of the same socioeconomic
status and probably just reinforce the opinions and attitudes of the family.
The main exception to this rule is when a public policy issue is speci¿cally
relevant to young people (e.g., 9ietnam War, drinking age). When these
types of issues dominate the public policy agenda, peers can be very
inÀuential on each other in mobilizing collective action.
Social networks have expanded the ways in which peers can
communicate about political events. If you were active on social networks
during the 2012 election, your Facebook, Twitter, and other news feeds
were likely swamped with political rhetoric. While social networks provide
opportunities for people to share their political views, the impact on
socialization remains limited as the individuals with whom we interact
online are probably similar to our other peer groups. The Pew Research
Center (2012) found that “many of the newest internet tools for getting
campaign information, including social networking, are being used by a
rather limited audience. Twenty percent of Americans say they regularly or
sometimes get campaign information from Facebook and just ¿ve percent
say the same about Twitter. Even among Facebook and Twitter users,
most say they hardly ever or never learn about the campaign or candidates
through these sources.” Even so, social networking has allowed for more
opportunities to interact with people all over the globe and will continue
The Basics of American Government
to inÀuence politics in new (and potentially unpredictable) ways. For
example, social networks were an important tool in the Arab Spring which
fueled revolts in various Arab countries. In this instance, social networks
were instrumental in promoting collective action and maintaining
Religious Groups, Interest Groups, and Professional Associations
Although the United States has no µµstate church,’’ which obstructs the
development of a moral consensus, religious institutions and organizations
regularly seek input into policymaking through direct lobbying efforts by
inÀuencing congregants and members. The role of religious organizations
in the life of Americans is prominent. The Roman Catholic Church has
taken a stance on abortion issues and the Christian Right has instituted a
conservatism movement; both have been inÀuential in policymaking.
Individuals may also join interest groups or professional associations
for a wide variety of reasons including af¿liation, a sense of purpose,
ful¿llment of duty, determination to have inÀuence, opportunity to exert
leadership, or desire for membership bene¿ts. These groups can be very
inÀuential over their members, but members will have little input in policy
(see Chapter 5).
The Communications Media
As the ¿nal agent of socialization, the communications media have
taken on an increasing role in our lives both socially and politically, as
the average American spends hours each day reading the newspaper,
watching television, listening to the radio, and sur¿ng the Internet.
Television exposed more people to information and institutional symbols
than previous generations experienced. Listening to the radio or watching
the television was the forerunner of what we now call µµmulti-tasking.’’
As a reporter reads the news, the telephone rings, dinner is served, and
the children are made ready for bed. Therefore, the hallmark of radio and
television news reporting has always been simplicity and brevity. The
words, sounds, and images of broadcast news are Àeeting; even if listeners
and viewers try to concentrate, they will fail to absorb some of the words
and names.
The rise of 24-hour news stations further increased this inÀuence by
allowing for unlimited access to news. Despite the fact that the average
Chapter Four: Political Socialization and the Media
American watches over three hours of television daily, individuals who
depend on the general news media for their information are most likely
to be uninformed about political matters (Anderson, 2011, p. 65). Any
hope that Ted Turner’s invention of the 24-hour cable news channel—
CNN—would bring about more comprehensive coverage of political
news has vanished, as the cable news channels have become dominated
by highly partisan, inÀammatory commentary. The commentators, such
as Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, and Rachel Maddow, seek out viewers
of the same ideological inclination, question the character of political
rivals, and introduce panelists whose job (if they want to be invited
back) is to entertain the viewers with overheated rhetoric. The result is
not an informed electorate. Rather, the bombast creates a highly agitated,
alarmed public that is highly suspicious of anyone who is trying to craft
bipartisan solutions to pressing national problems. The president is under
continuous, withering attack, which weakens his ability to persuade other
policymakers to cooperate.
Finally, the Internet has further enhanced the media landscape by
providing a truly customizable, 24-hour news experience. Winneg, Hardy &
Jamieson (2010) cite current studies indicating that three in four American
access the Internet (Pew, 2010), with “the percent of Americans citing the
internet as a source for political information increasing by 24 points since
2004, while the percent of those answering television decreasing by four
points” (Pew, 2009). According to Winneg, Hardy & Jamieson (2010),
“as technological advances allow internet users to customize their news
repertoire- through the use of RSS feeds, tailored home pages, news alerts
and the like, the concept of mainstream news may be relegated to the
history books (p. 3). An exploratory study the from the Anneberg Policy
Foundation suggested that “incidental exposure to synoptic news shows or
news sites online may cause confusion where more detailed content may
produce positive effects” (Winneg , et al. , 2010, p. 2).
Cable news and the internet rede¿ned the news media by providing
alternatives to the succinctness of localized network news. Both options
allowed consumers to control the delivery of their news. Prior (2007)
found that, “when alternatives increase, people have more choice, and
their motivations for watching become more important in predicting their
viewing behavior (p. 126). Cable news remains the most popular alternative
as con¿rmed by a 2012 study from the Pew Research Center which found
The Basics of American Government
that cable news has remained a constant source of information for the
past twenty years, with 36% of Americans using cable news to follow
campaigns and learn about the candidates. The same study also showed
broad declines in all other types of media with only 29% of those under 30
learning about campaigns online as opposed to 42% in 2008 (Pew, 2012).
Therefore, while other types of media have allowed for more variety in the
news, cable news remains the primary source of political information for
the majority of Americans.
3olarizeG APerica”
If you watch the news, it may seem that Americans just cannot agree on
policy issues. While our current political climate would suggest otherwise,
as Americans we are not really all that different from one another. In
actuality, Americans are, for the most part, a remarkably cohesive group.
The political socialization process is very successful in deeply rooting a
sense of universal pride and emotional attachment to the United States.
Every time you watch a ¿reworks display on Independence Day, sing the
national anthem at a baseball game, or sit down to Thanksgiving dinner,
you are demonstrating pride for your country. In addition to these universal
displays of patriotism, there are four uniquely American characteristics that
are valued from coast to coast. These universal American values are the
belief in political equality, the value of individual freedoms, the mandate
of consent of the governed, and faith in the free enterprise system.
The concept of eTXalit\, the idea that µµall men are created equal’’ and
should, therefore, have equal access to the political system, may have been
a theme of the Declaration of Independence but was not a reality until
the mid-twentieth century with the enactment of the Civil Rights Act of
1964 and the 9oting Rights Act of 1965. The United States government
is founded on the principle that every American is entitled to participate
in political activity. As Thomas Jefferson stated in the Declaration of
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator
with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are life,
liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these
rights, Governments are instituted among men, deriving
Chapter Four: Political Socialization and the Media
their Must powers from the consent of the governed. That
whenever any form of Government becomes destructive
to these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter and
abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its
foundation on such principles and organizing its powers
in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to affect
their Safety and Happiness.
Today the basic premise of political equality, the idea that all citizens
should have input in government, is widely accepted. However, while we
can reach a consensus that political equality is an ideal principle, we know
in practice that this has not traditionally been the case. Are all men truly
created equal? The answer is not as simple as yes or no. Individuals are
born under various circumstances (children of illegal immigrants, children
born to poverty, children with disabilities, etc.), which inherently limit
their ability to reach full equality. Therefore, the government has, from
time to time, created policies designed to offer protections and create
opportunities for minority groups in an effort to promote equality. These
programs tend to be very controversial and are subject to much debate in
our system.
In addition to equality, Americans strongly value personal freeGoPs the
belief that individuals should be able to decide what is best for themselves
and exercise those decisions with limited government interference. This
philosophy is evident in the Bill of Rights, which protects states and
individuals from national government legislation that abridges personal
freedoms. While we may universally value individual freedoms, personal
freedoms need to be limited as well. While individuals should be able
to act as they choose, we must protect citizens from being hurt by other
citizens. The old saying goes, µµ
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