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Political Culture

Page history last edited by Sarah Tillery 14 years, 4 months ago


Political Culture

Previous Page: Media Introduction                                                                                                                                              Next Page: Old Media versus New Media





Political Culture

The Media and You!

How the Media Relates to the Public 




For the next day keep track of how many times a discussion on politics comes up in your life.  This could be any type of dialogue you hear, including a conversation that you are a part of or just something you overheard your parents discussing.  At the end of the day evaluate how many different viewpoints and value systems on the United States government you've observed.  If you include every United States citizen, how many different attitudes, points of view and belief systems do you think are present in the nation today?  




       In the late 1960’s, a family of four sat at the dinner table together to conclude their day.  Then mom put the kids to bed and the parents sat down on the couch to unwind from the day's work.  Later they, together for the first and last time in that twenty-four hour time span, connected with the rest of the country by watching the nightly news.  As always, the familiar face of Walter Cronkite emerged.  He would first share the facts of the political issues that had recently surfaced throughout the nation and then afterward go into his own point of view.  He was quite opinionated, but always made sure to clearly separate and draw a fine line between the facts and his own opinion, and he was the most consistant image associated with the news.  His revolutionary action was in February of 1968 when he went on the air and criticized Vietnam.  Cronkite even compared this concept of the difference between facts and opinion by saying, “Objective journalism and an opinion column are about as similar as the Bible and Playboy magazine.” (1)  Everyone anticipated his closing words of, “And that’s the way it is (the date.) This is Walter Cronkite, CBS News; good night,” (2) as the ending of their evening. And his truth and honesty on camera made him the, “most trusted man in America.” (3) 





     Today, with technological advancements, the nation no longer carries the image of being uniform and you don’t need to wait until the evening news to watch the resent issues in politics on television.  Most people wake up each morning and walk downstairs to a news channel playing on at least one TV as they get ready for work.  You even have the benefit of changing the channel to a different news station if a commercial comes on or you don’t like the person reporting the news.  The mass media accomplished the goal of receiving and presenting information fast to the general public.  This created a demand of the general public to be presented with current events at a rapid pace.  Each different source presents one side causing an overall issue of conflicting ideas on the same subjects.  This has forced "the facts" in politics to transform into opinions thus generating a hazy truth to the public.  When you log into your email at work or open the Internet on a laptop (during class) you’re bombarded with current events involving the United States government throughout the world.  This also includes snap shots of the President's recent trip with his family to Europe, his speech in the Middle East from a few days ago or even what the First Lady decided to wear that day when taking her kids to school.  Less people trust a name even if it comes with documented credentials unless they have an image to associate with it. 




         Nowadays the mass media is spread in abundance throughout the entire nation and pulls in the population, to persuade them to believe hundreds of conflicting ideas about the government.  Just by walking to work in New York City or turning on the television to relax after a sports practice, you are unconsciously being influenced by different sides of politics. Individuals with varying perceptions make up the nation's government.  These different perceptions portrayed by the media help create the political culture of the nation today.     



(Take a brake and watch two videos of Walter Cronkite.  Think about how different the news was in 1960 compared to today!)

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Political Socialization





  Before you read the next part of this section take a few minutes to think about the following:  


1.) Think about what your own political views are... 


2.) Next think about how and where you got these opinions.  Be sure to consider all aspects of your life that have made you arrive at your own point of view of the government….   

The activity you just completed encompasses the concept of political socialization.  The idea of political socialization is essentially the process by which each person gains his/her perception of government and politics. 


 Today whether you're picking up the newspaper, searching the web, or watching the news there is an overlying thought that the information from one place or another has been altered. The practice of politics in the media adds many points of view to one's perspective of the government, however, the side of politics a person chooses to be a part of is often times influenced by the individuals that a person is in contact with in their everyday life.  While an individual's peers have the greatest  influence on a person's political point of view, the technology of the television creates emotional repercussions no matter what an individual's social status, education level, age, or heritage.  






What factors affect persons political of view?

According to St. Gregory faculty and Students of all levels…

1.)  Friends and family

2.)  The Media

3.)  Background( environment and social status involved with a person's upbringing)

4.)  Religious beliefs

5.)  The entertainment business

6.)  Age/Education level

7.)  Women

8.)  Not sure/ Unknown

9.)  Stubbornness

(listed in the order from top to bottom, 1 being most frequent answer  and 9 being the least)


Here are some graphs (links) that show the questions answered by the St. Gregory community...


gov1.pict- What Factors do you think affect a persons political views and values?


gov2.pict- How do you feel the government affects the general public in terms of the media?


gov3.pict- Where do you feel you got your own political points of veiws and values?



gov4.pict-List examples of government in the media you see in your everyday life.


     Overall hypothesis proven by surveys given out at St. Gregory School-

Both sides can’t be accurate because conservatives and the liberals are giving information completely contradicting each other on a single issue, clearly everything you see on the media and the information on the government you come in contact with can’t all be trusted.   Because the information proves conflicting and confusingly unclear, people at a young age observe what’s around them to reason some kind of truth.  Generally there is faith and comfort in what is familiar to us.


     In the nation today after a person has decided their political points of view caused by a variety of factors they then take on one general side(party), and opinion on many issues.  This causes either a sway to the left or right side of politics.  Studies by Time Magazine conclude  that the upbringing of an individual heavily effects the side of politics a person leans towards for the vast majority of the nations individuals.

Here are some examples of the viewpoints from the different sides of politics…



Republicans (conservatives) want/believe...

Democrats (liberals) want/ believe...

...the upper class to have more.  Also want the small group of elite to be writing the laws.

...the common man in Congress and also want the middle class(majority) writing the laws.

...a test to assume adequacy for a person to be able to vote (this test also includes proof of citizenship).

...everyone who is a citizen should be able to vote.

...the government needs to be hands-off


Also punishments for breaking the law to be decided on the state level.


Defend right to a fair trial.

... punishments for breaking the law should be decided and left to congress.


Defend right to a fair trial. 

...the small group of elite should maintain power because more people cause more chaos and more disagreements.

...power should go to the minority to protect “minority” rights.

...that the free enterprise system is the most effective part of economic progress.

...that government regulation and federal control of economic activity can better and effectively distribute wealth  to the American people.

...high taxes, runaway government spending, and over-regulation of business and farming punish initiative and stifle economic growth.

... higher taxes and increased government bureaucracy and spending will not stifle economic growth but instead guarantee prosperity for everyone.



Is the media biased?

Conservatives will always argue about the media being too liberal and vice versa.

Keep in mind people  unconsciously create selective exposure as well as selective perception…and it was the United States general public creating a need out of want that created the system the media has adapted to today.



Here's a really cool/quick online survey that measure's want side of politics your on!  Check it out.




Rational Voters and the Responsible Electorate


The Rational Voter: 



Before you read this section think about the following question.

What makes a voter rational? 

From this definition you just came up with do you feel you are/will be a rational voter?


Is the American voter rational?

The rational voter is relating an individual eligible to vote, and whether they vote in elections with both reason and knowledge. The United States general population has the current reputation of being ignorant towards current public affairs, as well as choosing to remain uneducated in government issues and background. This issues creates two different  arguments.  The first is stated  above, and the second argues that the American voter is indeed knowledgeable on politics and votes using analytical methods that are beneficial.

For the first side of the debate, Bryan Caplan author of the book The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies questions the idea that voters are sensible individuals that the nation can put faith in to make laws.  Caplan clearly states that voters are irrational in aspects of the political scene and merely vote in relation to economics.  His argument is that people are rational when making decisions in their own lives, but never when voting because an individual's own bias on economics comes into play. (4)  Walter Lippmann's (a prominent American Journalist during the first half of the twentieth century) written works are also critical of the United States public and government and give evidence against the United States voter.  His experience as a journalist gives him inside knowledge to what and how much information is given to the public and what the public wants to hear about. He states that the “private citizen” is uniformed and uninterested. His first sentence of his piece titled From the Phantom Public concludes,

“THE PRIVATE CITIZEN today has come to feel rather like a deaf spectator in the back row, who ought to keep his mind on the mystery off there, but cannot quite manage to stay awake.”(5)

His ideals agree that no one has the time to be knowledgeable on every issue and the ideals of the omniscient sovereign citizen is a false ideal that lead to the current disenchantment with the general public.  This goes along with the fact the nation's public has lost interest due to their busy lives.  The following chart shows the issues Americans "tuned out" of since 1966 according to Pew Research center.


Edwards,George C., Wattenberg, Martin P. Government in America: People, Politics, and Policy. 12 ed. Longman, 2005.



While there is more opinion than evidence on the side that states Americans vote irrationally V.O. Key also contradicts himself when he says, “but the voters are not fools.”(9)  The other side to this argument is that the voters are quite rational. There is a lot of evidence to support that the American life is busy and this is the reason they are not as politically informed.  When a person goes to vote, they go to vote for the candidate who they feel will best benefit them.  Doing what’s best for you is rational right?  This is where the media has a significant amount of power because the American life is so rushed the only information that is received is the small biased snippets that fit briefly into the day.  This isn’t a bad thing but the problem that comes into play is that you don’t have time to get know who the candidate really is.  This generalization of the voters as a whole leads into the concept of the responsible electorate.


Interesting Information

Time Magazine concludes that as a rational voter…

“You actively seek as much information as possible about all candidates, consider the positives and negatives and evaluate them against your personal interests.

• Because you learn so much about both sides, this strategy is highly likely to lead to a vote across party lines.”


“• This strategy is also the most likely to result in a incorrect choice — picking a candidate who does not reflect your views. Researchers think that many people can't process all they learn and simply become confused.”(6)

Check out more kinds of voters by visiting,




The Responsible Electorate:



(3) http://people.brandeis.edu/~woll/pol14b2006f.html




Before you read this section think about the following.

Do you feel that American voters as a whole vote rationally? 



The responsible electorate includes the make up of the nations voters as a whole in relation to acceptability and intellect behind their voting patterns.  This issue also incorporates the unknown answer to the question of whether or not the population is informed.  Today the assumption is that the American voters elect to be puppets through alliance to one political party.  Of course there are two sides that produce evidence for this matter as well as with the rational voter.  


Today the constitution and set of politics makes it nearly impossible to not choose a political side.  Most people in the nation choose a party to stand behind.  Is voting consistently with one party and looking only at the red or blue color a candidate wears rather than looking strictly at the candidate a rational way decide?  Although there is no answer to this question, it brings back the thought of opinion in politics.  Although we can’t come to a conclusion on this debate, we can prove that the voter today has more information readily at hand with the varying kinds of media.  Whether it is print, visual or auditory the media presents the sides and arguments forcing even the laziest people to become more easily informed.  The practice of elections in this nation causes the public to be forcefully informed.  The elections in the United States of America are a long, costly process. This time period that occurs about every two years, is a time the media, in particularly the new channels, use to bombard people with information about the candidates.  In today’s standards the time of election campaigning is when the general pubic tunes in to the issues of the nation.  Due to technology the people that are not "standpatters" rely on the media to decide which way they are going to vote. 


 (You will read more about the media in the elections and Campaign in the next section)




Fun Fact-


Data gathered by the Gallup organization and multiple surveys conducted found that 60% of the electorate in presidential elections form 1936 to 1960 followed a party line at the ballet. (Were “standpatters”) (8)




V.O. Key's (a professor who studies modern politics) ideals contradict the common image of the United States voters maintain today.  In his book, Public Opinion and American Democracy, he explains that many individual voters can’t be explained but on a large scale the electorate is extremely rational.  He says, “In American presidential campaigns of recent decades the portrait of the American electorate straightjacket by social determinants moved by subconscious urges triggered by devilish skillful propagandist.  It is rather one of an electorate moved concern about central and relevant question of public policy, of government proficiency, and expectative personality.” (7)  




While these two sides of the argument establish evidence to support their case, the fact remains that less and less people are showing up to the polls.  Martin Wattenburg argues in his work titled Where Have All the Voters Gone?  on the issue of why we are losing the responsible electorate with the new generation.  In his work he quotes Senator John Glenn who states this problem is occurring because, "we have so many young who feel apathetic and critical and cynical about everything they don’t want to touch it.” (9) Wattenburg argues that our generation hasn’t had a defining moment where we were forced to connect directly with the government.  He also argues that the technological advancement in entertainment has hurt the new generation of voters.



Here is a couple charts and a bar graph relating age and public knowlage, by where each generation gets their political information...


(4) Edwards,George C., Wattenberg, Martin P. Government in America: People, Politics, and Policy. 12 ed. Longman, 2005.


This proves the one of the same things that the St. Gregory School statistics did.  More young people get their political information from TV and internet entertainment rather than more serious sources.


This is a direct relation of age and political knowledge taken from Martian Wattenberg's work Where Have All the Voters Gone?.




(5)Wattenberg, Martian. Where Have All the Voters Gone?.The Lanahan readings in the American Polity, Fourth Edition.  pp 596. Lanahan Pub Inc; 4 edition (August 17, 2006)



This proves that with the turn of the century in 2000 all age groups lot some interest in being informed on issues of politics. This also illustrates clearly that the younger generations have lost a significant amount of motivation to be updated politically.  Wattenberg even goes as far as to describe the youngest group of electorate the "know nothing generation."





(6) Wattenberg, Martian. Where Have All the Voters Gone?.The Lanahan readings in the American Polity, Fourth Edition.  pp 594. Lanahan Pub Inc; 4 edition (August 17, 2006)




This chart also is taken from Martian Wattenberg's work Where Have All the Voters Gone?. This chart compares age to the interest in public affairs and also the difference in age.  

Overall the media influences our decision making process when it comes to politics.  Read on to discover how the media used to compared to today in the next section Old Media versus New Media! 







After reading this section you should be able to...

  • Define political culture
  • Explain what political socialization is and factors that effect it
  • Describe what makes up a rational voter
  • Know what the responsible Electorate is
  • And understand how all this relates to you!



Previous Page: Media Introduction                                                                                                               Next Page: Old Media versus New Media





1.Brainy Media. "Walter Cronkite Quotes." July 24 2009.http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/w/walter_cronkite.html (accessed November 9, 2009).


2.ASU School of Mass Comunication. "Walter Cronkite Quotes." September 15, 2002.http://www.evliving.com/2009/06/28/walter-cronkite-quotes/ (accessed November 9, 2009).


3.ASU School of Mass Comunication. "Walter Cronkite Quotes." September 15, 2002.http://www.evliving.com/2009/06/28/walter-cronkite-quotes/ (accessed November 9, 2009).


4.Caplan, Bryan. The Myth of the Rational Voter: Why Democracies Choose Bad Policies . 1 ed. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2007.

5. Walter Lippman. From the Phantom Public. The Lanahan readings in the American Polity, Fourth Edition.  pp 384. Lanahan Pub Inc; 4 edition (August 17, 2006)



Time Magazine, "How America Decides." Nov. 1, 2008.http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1848314_1848341,00.html (accessed Nov. 15, 2009).


7.V.O. Key. Public Opinion and American Democracy.  The Lanahan readings in the American Polity, Fourth Edition.  pp 390. Lanahan Pub Inc; 4 edition (August 17, 2006)


8.The Public Opinion Quarterly, Vol. 24, No. 1 (Spring, 1960), pp. 54-61Published by: Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Association for Public Opinion Research

. ( Accessed by jstor Nov 15, 2009


9. V.O. Key. Public Opinion and American Democracy.  The Lanahan readings in the American Polity, Fourth Edition.  pp 390. Lanahan Pub Inc; 4 edition (August 17, 2006)




2.Edwards,George C., Wattenberg, Martin P. Government in America: People, Politics, and Policy. 12 ed. Longman, 2005.



4.Edwards,George C., Wattenberg, Martin P. Government in America: People, Politics, and Policy. 12 ed. Longman, 2005.


5.Wattenberg, Martian. Where Have All the Voters Gone?.The Lanahan readings in the American Polity, Fourth Edition.  pp 596. Lanahan Pub Inc; 4 edition (August 17, 2006)

6.Wattenberg, Martian. Where Have All the Voters Gone?.The Lanahan readings in the American Polity, Fourth Edition.  pp 594. Lanahan Pub Inc; 4 edition (August 17, 2006)


Comments (6)

mberry said

at 10:03 am on Nov 18, 2009

This is just TERRIFIC! The "conversational" tone directed toward a particular audience is the best we've seen so far! BUT there are TONS of typos! Please help Ariel with this as it is not her strong suit! But the content is fabulous! Oh...you need to be more critical of Cronkite. In Feb of 1968, he went on the air and criticized Vietnam. It was a revolutionary moment in broadcast journalism and shows that he wasn't always "objective"! And biased is spelled..."biased"! :~)

Safatul said

at 6:39 pm on Nov 18, 2009

I'm working on the typos.... but I dont think I understand some of the sentences hehe

Safatul said

at 6:46 pm on Nov 18, 2009

I stopped editing. Sorrys.

Sarah Mann said

at 9:51 pm on Nov 18, 2009

I eddited some grammar issues...

tparsons said

at 1:07 pm on Nov 20, 2009

i really like the survey idea

mberry said

at 9:02 pm on Dec 15, 2009

The survey graphs are great but there are significant typos on them...can you please fix before we show this to a broader audience? Also the scans of the other tables are unclear and look sorta tacky...can they be fixed?

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