The Role of Government in Political Socialization

The Role of Government in Political Socialization

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4291-0.ch001
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This chapter introduces the overarching themes of the book. It looks at theory surrounding political socialization and how the type of government affects the way we learn about politics and government. It suggests that people politically socialized in countries with non-democratic forms of government are less likely to hold democratic values and also be less apt to develop political trust. Additionally, this chapter discusses the data and methods used throughout the book. It also provides a short summary of each of the remaining chapters.
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Government Type And Political Socialization

The type of government in place when a person is politically socialized affects how they are taught about government and politics in their country and also how they view other government types. If being socialized under a communist government, students will be taught that communism is the superior form of government, and therefore weaknesses of democracy (real or not) will be emphasized. For example, in communist Hungary, secondary school students were required to take courses in scientific socialism and political economics. Whether students bought into these courses or not (many people did not), they still cast doubt on democracy.

There is disagreement over how long the effects of being politically socialized under communism last. Some scholars think it takes multiple generations to fully transition from a communist society to a democratic one (Dalton, 1994; Finkel et al., 2001; Gibson et al., 1992; Klingemann et al., 2006; Minkenberg, 1993; Neundorf, 2010; Powers & Cox, 1997; Rose & Carnaghan, 1995). The thought is that it takes so long because the first generation socialized under democracy will still likely be taught by people who were socialized under communism, and therefore, some of the same ideas will be transmitted.

Other scholars think support for democracy is tied more to the economy than socialization, and therefore will not take as long. These scholars believe that democratic transition will occur faster due to the implementation of a free market economy (Burkhart & Lewis-Beck, 1994; Ekman & Linde, 2005; Lipset, 1959; Miller et al., 1994; Neundorf, 2010; Przeworski & Limongi, 1997). Additionally, economic growth is also likely to influence people’s feelings towards democracy. Past research has indicated that support for democracy is tied more to the economy than institutional and political changes (Kotzian, 2011; Neundorf, 2010). A stronger economy will likely equate to more positive evaluations of democracy overall, and people benefitting from the new economy will be especially more apt to evaluate it positively (Andersen, 2012; Neundorf, 2010).

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