15 terms

Chapter 6: Public Opinion and Political Beliefs

public opinion
Citizens' attitudes and opinions about political issues, leaders, institutions, and events.
A specific preference on a particular issue.
Basic principles that shape a person's attitudes and opinions about political issues and events.
political ideology
A cohesive set of beliefs that forms a general philosophy about the role of government. (Ex: liberalism, conservatism).
1. Within political philosophy, "classical" liberalism is simply a belief in individual rights, limited government, written constitutions, and religious toleration. In this sense, both Republicans and Democrats are liberal.
2. Within contemporary American politics, liberalism is the ideology that promotes social justice and diversity, government intervention in the economy, more economic equality, expansion of the social welfare state, and concern for consumers and the environment. Democrats are typically liberal in this sense. (Ex: Sen. Elizabeth Warren).
1. Within political philosophy, "classical" conservatives were opposed to democracy and defended aristocracy, monarchy, and state religion. The philosophical basis for this opposition was skepticism about government's ability to solve problems and the position that gradual change was preferable to radical change.
2. Within contemporary American politics, conservatism is the ideology that retains skepticism about government's ability to solve problems. Conservatives are therefore generally opposed to government intervention in the economy, supportive of the economic and social status quo, opposed to expansion of the social welfare state, and defenders of business. Republicans are typically conservative in this sense. (Ex: Sen. Ted Cruz).
Libertarians are basically "classical" liberals with a 19th century-style laissez-faire view of government's role in the economy and society. They want to maximize individual freedom by minimizing government power both in the economy and in people's personal lives. For example, a libertarian may favor the legalization of marijuana and oppose a government program that provides health care insurance. Some Republicans are inspired just as much by libertarianism as conservatism. (Ex: Sen. Rand Paul).
Note: Democratic socialism/social democracy is not communism. Socialists basically believe that equal opportunity cannot exist without social (public) ownership and provision of certain services. They favor a strong government that regulates the free market to minimize economic inequality in order to promote equal opportunity. For example, a socialist would support publicly-financed higher education and a government program that guaranteed health care insurance to all citizens. Some Democrats are inspired just as much by socialism as liberalism. (Ex: Sen. Bernie Sanders).
political socialization
The induction of individuals into the political culture and the development of beliefs, values, attitudes, and opinions about government and politics.
agents of socialization
Individuals typically develop their beliefs, values, attitudes, and opinions from 1) family and friends, 2) school and religion, 3) mass media and political environment.
gender gap
This term is often used in reference to the gender "pay" gap, but it is also used more broadly to discuss differences in opinion and voting behavior between men and women. For example: women tend to support a more generous social welfare state and vote Democrat, whereas men tend to support a more aggressive foreign policy and vote Republican.
party affiliation
An individual's party affiliation refers to their voting behavior and/or party membership. Most people identify as Republican or Democrat, while some consider themselves Independents (who still vote one way or the other). Party affiliation is influenced both by political socialization and party image (perception of what the party supports or opposes).
party polarization
The divergence (moving farther apart) of the attitudes and beliefs held by each party and their voters. The trend in American politics has been increased polarization between Republicans and Democrats. The polarization of voters has produced polarization of elected officials, which contributes to the inability (or unwillingness) of members of Congress to compromise.
geographic sorting
The tendency for people to choose to live near other like-minded people. Liberals may leave the small town or suburb for the city, while conservatives may leave the city for the suburbs. Such sorting further contributes to political polarization as communities become less diverse and more homogenous.
marketplace of ideas
The public forum in which beliefs and opinions are exchanged and compete.