chapter  32
8 Pages

Processes and impacts of political socialization

ByErica Weintraub Austin

Despite alleged apathy and ignorance among young people (e.g., Bennett and Rademacher, 1997), adults 18-29 may hold the keys to victory for many politicians because they currently comprise almost a quarter of eligible voters in the United States and have become a potent force for change internationally, such as in the Arab Spring movement (Social Capital Blog, 2012; Schwartz, 2011). Efforts to stiffen voting eligibility in the U.S. have been criticized as targeting young people and minorities, whose turnout rates have been increasing and associate with early voting and same-day registration (Berry, 2011; Employment and Training Institute, 2011; McDonald, 2011). These trends make political socialization a compelling topic for examination.

Socialization to public affairs is well under way by the third grade (e.g., Niemi and Hepburn, 1995), but children do not simply assimilate into the existing milieu. They seek information and information sources that can promote learning, engage in activities that facilitate the process (such as media use), and continually evaluate their progress toward these goals in a reciprocal process of interaction (O’Keefe and Reid-Nash, 1987). Products of socialization include relevant knowledge, confidence and abilities for action, motivations, behaviors themselves, and self-reflection about one’s actions.