Class, Socialization, and Politics Essay

This essay has a total of 1884 words and 8 pages.

Class, Socialization, and Politics

Class, Socialization, and Politics

Elections are at the core of the American political system. They are the way we choose our
government, the source of government authority, and a means by which the people can
influence public policy. For most Americans, voting is the only form of political
participation. Essential questions to ask concerning these issues are: Who votes and why?
What influences people to become voters? And what influences how they vote? It is
important to approach these issues from a sociological standpoint addressing such matters
as socialization and social stratification.

Socialization is a gradual process that takes place as we grow up. It is the process that
aids in developing attitudes and opinions that allow us get along within a society. These
beliefs affect the political views we hold later in life. Through social agencies such as
family, schools, peers, and media we become aware of social rules and develop a social
identity. (Introduction to Sociology Pg. 96) A product of this development is political
socialization, which is the process of learning political attitudes and behaviors. The
idea of political socialization helps in providing the answers to the questions concerning
who votes. It aids in explaining how and why people participate in politics. The strongest
agent in political socialization is the family. What this means is that most children
adopt beliefs similar to those held by their parents. Therefore most people will believe
in and vote for issues that are important to members of their family's. The extent to
which an individual is involved in the political process is shaped by his or her family's
level of involvement. For example, a child is less likely to vote if they are raised by
parents who don't regularly go to the polls on Election Day. Children of course, don't
always copy their parents' political learning's, but are often heavily influenced by them.
As a result, most people end up favoring the political party that their parents generally
identify with. Social Characteristics also affect how an individual will participate in
politics. Whether a person is young or old, black or white, rich or poor, northerner or
southerner will have a heavy impact on his or her political opinions and behavior.

Class may be just as important in shaping people's political opinions and behaviors. The
term social class refers to one of the systems of structured inequalities that exist among
different groups within a society. It is the most important concept for analyzing social
stratification in a modern society. (Introduction to Sociology Pg. 222) Within this class
system are three broad overlapping categories: a working class, a middle class, and an
upper class. People are placed within these categories based on their occupation, income,
and wealth. The working class receives the lowest income and fills blue-collar jobs in
factories and farms, as well as white-collar positions like clerical and secretarial jobs
in offices. The middle class consists of professionals like teachers, engineers, small
business people, and skilled workers. The upper class, often called the elite or ruling
class is composed of those who run our major economic and political institutions and
receive the highest earnings for doing so.

Class as reflected in education, income, and occupation, does influence people's attitudes
on a variety of issues. People in the working class tend to be liberal in wanting greater
economic equality and more programs dealing with social welfare. This liberalism on
economic issues contrasts strongly with their ideas on civil liberties. Members of the
middle class tend to be more conservative in their economic views and more liberal on
issues such as free speech and respect for civil rights. Therefore, class attitudes on
political questions are both liberal and conservative.

The problem with figuring out how these various characteristics that divide the population
influences a person's political behavior is that they often overlap. To say that blacks
are less likely to vote than whites may be true, but this infers that race alone is the
key issue. Furthermore, poorer people, those with less education, and those who feel that
they have a less significant affect on their government also are less likely to vote. All
of these categories include the majority of blacks. So, even though the statement that
blacks vote less than white is true, it may conceal as much as it reveals. The issue of
whether blacks with a higher income or education level also vote less must be taken into
concern. The fact is that they don't. Voter turnouts among blacks who belong to the middle
and upper classes are much higher which suggests that race is not as important in voter
turnout as class.

Class differences in voting can reflect differences in economic security. People with
lower incomes face greater challenges when paying bills and finding jobs that have high
enough wages to support their needs. This may lead them to view politics as a luxury they
can't afford to get too involved in. When considering political socialization, the class
system may also have an effect on an individual's attitude towards politics. Children of
working class parents of poor education are more regularly brought up to believe that they
can have little influence on politics. As a result they end up being both more resentful
and more passive towards politics. Contrary to this, children of middle and upper class
parents are brought up to have a much higher regard for politics and are taught to value
and participate in the political process. They are more positively encouraged to believe
that the political system will respond favorably to their involvement.

The difficulty of answering the question of why people don't vote should be clear. Turnout
varies depending on education, race, gender, and age, and it changes over time. History
has shown that nonvoters most often come from the less educated, nonwhite, rural,
southern, poor, blue-collar, or youth of the American population. Conversely, voters most
often come from the white, middle-aged, college-educated, urban or suburban, affluent,
white-collar groups. Generally people with the biggest stake in society are the ones most
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