Political Attitude means the beliefs and values which underpin the operation of a particular political system. These attitudes were seen as including knowledge and skills about the operation of the political system positive and negative judgments about the system. These attitudes determine how people participate, whom they vote for and which political parties they support. The factors which make attitudes are family, gender, religion, race , ethnicity and region.
Family is generally the first and most enduring factor which influence on young people’s developing political opinions. Though there are generation gaps it is very much obvious that children tend to grow up and vote the way their parents do. If a family is more politically active the child is more likely to hold the same beliefs and attitudes. As children grow older other influences crisscross the family and naturally their attitudes tend to diverge from those of their parents.
Religious beliefs often affect the way people vote. Religion is the faith of the people in values and beliefs. The experiences of 1940s generally show that the Jewish voters are more likely to support democrats than are Catholics or Protestants. The recent experiences have shown that the religious right has supported more conservative candidates for public office in more favour of the Republican party than to the Democratic Party.
Race and Ethnicity
The experiences have proved that for the past half century African Americans are affiliated to Democratic Party than any other identifiable group. Some experts believe that this loyalty is weakening but recent elections have confirmed the strong tendency for black Americans to vote Democratic. It is very evident from some studies that Asian Americans tend to vote conservative, but there is still a lack of concrete evidence to prove this.
The region where a person resides also affect a lot to which party he is voting for. The 1996 presidential elections have provided a statistical breakdown of the 1996 presidential elections. Democrat Bill Clinton won states in red, while states in blue were won by Republican Bob Dole. The solid tendency of to vote for Democrats have began to erode during 1950’s.This is the reason that both Republicans and Democrats are competitive across the south today. However the recent presidential election indicate a general support for Republicans in the south.
Process of formulation of political attitude
To ensure the smooth functioning of the society and system and to maintain peace and harmony within the society every society devices its ways. To have the effective governing of its people, every society develops few mechanisms or agencies such as the state, the government, the political parties and election or selection of representatives. The political attitude formation throws light upon how people cultivate their political beliefs and how they pass on their values to others from one generation to the next. Political attitudes formulation process is an essential element of a political system. Political attitude formulation and political attitude go hand in hand.
Political attitude formulation is a learning process by which an individual acquires orientations, beliefs, values and norms and behavior patterns in political system. Political attitude formulations determine the pattern of socio-political behavior. Political attitude formulation is a psychological concept as it is concerned with the society in general and with individual in particular.
Attitude Formulation in Childhood
The growth of the society is a social process like the growth of the child. A child develops his attitude towards the authority and obedience as per the obedience pattern at family. According to Easton and Dennis there are four stages in the process of political attitude formulation.
- A child recognizes authority through particular individual such as parents, policemen and the president of the country.
- There should be a differences made between private and public authority.
- The understanding about impersonal political institutions such as national legislature, judiciary and voting behavior is developed.
- Distinction between political institution and person engaged in the activities associated with those institutions so that idealized images of particular persons such as the president or the congress.
Adulthood as the next Stage of Attitude Formulation
In this stage the attitude formulation takes places due to peer groups. The way the peer groups behave that way only patterns of obedience and disobedience are decided.
Attitude Formulation in Various Directions
The process of attitude formulation have its influence in various directions. Keeping in mind the example of U.S.A. Almond and Verba pointed out that since democracy is practiced in the country the people demand democracy everywhere such as in school, shops and churches . Since this demand is fulfilled children, workers and others develop articulation about debate and decision making. These experiences make them perfect to participate efficiently in political life and to accept changes in political life.
Functions of political attitude formulation
Maintaining Political Culture
Maintaining of political culture is an important function of political attitude formulation in stable conditions. This function is performed by having communication between political culture from an generation to another generation. But in today’s conditions the political socialization does not always act for maintaining political culture.
Modification of Political Culture
Modification of political culture is an important function of political attitude formulation.
Creating Political Culture
Creating political culture is performed by means of process of political attitude formulation. Every society needs to create new political culture with the establishment of new political system.
Foundation of Present Pattern of Political System
There is no scope for difference of opinions opposition into totalitarian state whereas if we see there are in number of opportunities for difference of opinions and opposition in open societies.
Continuity and Change
There is continuity and change in attitude formulation and this is an important factor of the process of attitude formulation.
Agencies of Political Attitude Formulation
A variety of institutions and agents are involved in political attitude formulation. The important agencies of attitude formulation are categorized as follows:
- Family and peer groups which are the interpersonal agencies.
- Schools , religious institutions and workplaces- Organizational Agents.
- Mass Media, Newspaper, TV and radio.
- The legislature, executive courts and the bureaucracy which are specialized political input structures.
Family and peer groups are two important interpersonal agents of attitude formulation. The patterns of authority and obedience found in a family decide a child’s pattern of obedience to authority. The collective decisions made by the family are important to develop a sense of reward and punishment in a child. When a child in a family participates in decision making, it develops a sense of competence in him and enhances his skill for political interaction.
Another important agency which shapes a child’s political attitude plays groups friendship cliques and small work groups. Individual are likely to adopt or accept their friend’s views either because they respect them or want to be like them. To get accepted by a group the individual tries to modify their interests to that of others. When the influence of parents is reduced the influence of peer group becomes more dominant. The peer groups supplement the socialization function of the family and prepare an individual for more specific political roles. The interaction which takes place in peer groups socialize a person in to new ways of thinking feeling and behaving.
Schools religious institutions, educational institutions and work places are organizational agents of political attitude formulation. The knowledge of the political world as well as political process of a nation is provided to an individual by educational institutions. Schools import values and attitude of the society. The affection for political system is created by the school. Schools provide a common symbols for an expressive response to the system such as flag and pledge of allegiance. A sense of loyalty is also created by school. College and university education tries to develop more rational and radical political ideas in an individual. Thus schools usually confirm the attitudes and strengthen the belief system of the children.
The moral values which have political implications which have political implications are taught by religion. Many religious leaders attempt to socialize children through their religions preachings and services. The religious institutions are present in all political system but their influence varies from one country to another. For example the Islamic fundamentalism has a great impact on Islamic political system world whereas though the church teachers values, it is not in position to control the political system.
Attitude formulation is also affected by the nature of job, employment and workplace. The socialization is shaped at workplace through unions and professional associations. The worker participates in collective bargaining at workplace and this proves to be an important socializing factor. Many of the occupational and professional associations have the power to affect political attitudes in modern societies. Through strikes and other pressurizing methods the workers learn that they can shape their future.
Specialized Political Input Structure
Political parties are the main agents of the mobilization of the masses. A key role is played by the political parties in the entire political attitude formation process. They try to arouse the interest of people in political system and political issues. Elections keep people involved with political process and indicate their active participation in politics. Political parties try to influence the opinions of the people through wall posters, electoral campaigns, propaganda and canvassing. The participation of an individual in the affairs of interest groups gives members opportunities to build an orientation toward the political activities. Thus an unintentional latent attitude formulation is done by interest group.
Religions of the world have a tremendous impact on the minds of the people. They have the power to influence moral values which inevitably have political implications. Most of the religious leaders regard themselves as teachers and their followers usually attempt socialization of children schooling and socialization converts of all ages through preaching and religious services. The presence of religious institutions is felt in all political system; yet, the influence of the same varies from one country to another. The church, although it systematically teaches values, is not in position to control the political system. So, the emergence of religious fundamentalism also has a major impact on the Muslim world and, in recent times, has been a deciding factor in shaping the politics of Islam and others as well.
Political socialization also depends upon job, the workplace and the nature of employment. Jobs, be it in formal organizations, provide for building unions, professional associations, and the like which act as effective means of political socialization. Individuals identify themselves with a group and become sensitive to the norms of the group and evaluate its actions according to their opinion of what is good for the group and what it stands for. One of the powerful socializing experiences for a worker or a laborer is participating in collective bargaining. By this, workers learn that they can shape their future by taking proper decisions and also gain knowledge about specific skill such as picketing, demonstrations, etc. many of the occupational and professional associations have the power to affect political attitudes in modern societies. These associations with a large no. of memberships always defend their member’s economic and professional interests.
Communication act as a link between modern societies. Information about incidents or events in any part of world reaches everybody and becomes general knowledge in just a few hours. Much of the world today reacts in the same way to the same events and is also motivated by similar tastes. This is made possible only because of mass media that includes radio, television, magazines, newspapers and the like. The effect of mass media is the same irrespective of the young or the old or whether one lives in rural and urban areas. However, the nature of mass media is not uniform in all societies. The composition of the society and the distribution of resources within the society exert an influence on the role played by the media. However, one cannot assert the media is the only information as they collecthe news from different sources and systematize them and transmit them to masses. The information first organizes at the government level, whereby the officials and political leaders and the mass media give their own interpretation and provide information to the people. Thus, mass media act not only as an agent of political attitude formation but also as an instrument used by various agents of political attitude formation. Mass media to a large extent is, however not a primary socializing agent. It only strengthens the already established orientations. It informs and interprets in order to maintain status quo.