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American Political Culture: An Overview

American Political Culture: An Overview

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American Political Culture: An Overview

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  1. American Political Culture:An Overview

  2. Political Culture • Political Culture • A coherent way of thinking about how politics and government ought to be carried out • The broad pattern of ideas, beliefs, and values about citizens and government held by a population • Political Socialization • The process through which individuals acquire their political beliefs and values

  3. Sources of Political Culture • Historical Roots • American Revolution – fought over liberty • Constitution – balancing liberty with control • Long standing distrust of authority • Sociological Factors • Widespread participation • Absence of established religion made diversity possible • Family: instills ways we think about world and politics • Lack of class consciousness (a belief that you are a member of an economic group whose interests are opposed to people in other such groups) • Most people consider themselves middle class • The American Dream?

  4. Sources of Political Culture • Culture Wars • Battle over values; different from political disputes in 3 ways • Money not at stake • Compromises almost impossible • Conflict more profound • Differences in beliefs about private and public morality • Orthodox – morality is more important than self expression • Progressive – personal freedom more important than tradition; rules change based on circumstances

  5. What we believe:The ideas that unite us • Values: central ideas, principles, or standards that most people agree are important; elements of the American view of the political system include: • Democracy – government officials should be accountable • Equality – equal vote and equal chance to succeed • Liberty – free to do what we want with limited expectations • Civic Duty – people should help and take things seriously • Individual Responsibility – responsible for your own actions and well being

  6. Questions Directions: Answer the following discussion questions with your partner. • How do we know Americans share these values? • If these values are important, how can we explain inconsistent behavior? • If there is agreement among Americans on certain political values, then why so much political conflict? • What does Americanism mean?

  7. Questions Directions: Answer the following discussion questions with your partner. • How do we know Americans share these values? • Books, speeches, slogans, political choices, personality tests, opinion polls • If these values are important, how can we explain inconsistent behavior? • Self interest and social circumstances • Myrdal described “an American dilemma” resulting from conflict between creed and behavior (Creed is a source of change)

  8. Questions Directions: Answer the following discussion questions with your partner. • If there is agreement among Americans on certain political values, then why so much political conflict? • Conflict over specific policies (even among those who have common beliefs) • Civil War – Confederate Constitution modeled after US; the South didn’t believe a new political culture had to be created • What does Americanism mean? • Bound by common values and hopes

  9. Faith in rules and individuals • Most Americans believe we should focus on fair rules and processes rather than guaranteeing results, and on individuals being responsible for their own success. • Procedural guarantees: government assurance that the rules will work smoothly and treat everyone fairly, with no promise of particular outcomes • Other democracies, such as those in Sweden and Norway, concentrate on substantive guarantees: assuring outcomes are fair. • Equality of opportunity vs. equality of results

  10. Faith in rules and individuals • Individualism: belief that what is good for society is based on what is good for individuals • Individuals, not government, are responsible for their own well-being • Politics revolves around the belief that individuals are usually the best judges of what is good for them • We assume that what is good for society will follow automatically. • Collectivist point of view: gives the government some responsibility for individual welfare and holds that what is good for society may not be the same as what is in the interest of individuals.

  11. Political Efficacy • Definition -- citizen’s capacity to understand and influence political events; 2 parts: • Internal efficacy -- confidence in one’s ability to understand influence events • Hasn’t changed much in past 60 years • External efficacy -- belief that govt. will respond to citizens • Declined steadily in past 60 years • Americans seem to believe govt. is becoming too big to respond to individual preferences • Still much higher in U.S. than Europe • We’re not alienated, but realistic

  12. Political Tolerance • Allows free discussion of ideas and selection of rulers • Levels of Tolerance: • Most Americans agree abstractly, but would deny rights in concrete cases • Many fear U.S. is too tolerant of harmful behaviors, so we sometimes defend common “moral standards” over protecting individual rights • Still, most willing to allow expression by those we disagree with • How do unpopular groups survive? • Most people don’t act on their beliefs • Officeholders more tolerant than general public • Courts are insulated enough from public opinion to enforce constitutional protections

  13. Almond-Verba Study • Americans have a strong sense of: • Civic duty – belief that one has obligation to participate in civic and affairs • Civic competence – a belief that one affect govt. policies • Americans vote less often than other countries, but our citizens campaign more, attend more political meetings, contact govt. officials more • We’ve lost some trust in govt., but still higher than most countries • Slight majority says they’re “very patriotic”

  14. Factors of Political Socialization • Family - #1 factor • Children tend to choose the same party as their parents • Schools and education • Citizenship skills • Groups • The spiral of silence: the process by which a majority opinion becomes exaggerated because minorities do not feel comfortable speaking out in opposition • Political and social events • Examples of divisive and unifying events?

  15. Political Culture – Sources of Division • Self-interest • Gender • Gender gap • Marriage gap • Partisanship • Religion • Race & Ethnicity • Geographic Region • Economic Status • Age • Political generations • Education

  16. Public Opinion – Sources of Division • Self interest – What is in it for me? • Ideology – sets of ideas about politics, the economy, and society • Education – better educated=more likely to vote • Age – Political generations: groups of citizens whose political views have been shaped by the common events of their youth • Geography – region and metropolitan status • Economic status – what do the extremes have in common? • Religion – Protestant/Catholic vs. Jewish/None

  17. Gender Examples • More men support military • More women consider sexual harassment a serious problem • Since ’60s, women vote Dem more than men, and vice versa • Not as significant of an indicator as marriage (married vs. unmarried)

  18. Religion Example • Protestants are more conservative on economic matters than Catholics or Jews • Jews tend to be liberal on economic and social issues than Catholics or Protestants • Catholics tend to be more liberal on economic issues than they are on social issues (Catholics becoming more conservative)

  19. Education Example • Higher Education = more conservative or • College education = liberal views Conflicting results, not always a correlation

  20. Social Class • “Blue collar” (Laborer) typically Democrat • “White collar” (Businessmen) typically Republican Relationship is becoming less clear

  21. Race and Ethnicity Examples • African Americans – 90% Democrats • Hispanic Americans – tend to affiliate with Democrats, but less likely than African Americans • Asian Americans – less liberal than Hispanic Americans or African Americans, but still consistently vote Democrat • White, more divided, fluctuates by election

  22. Geographic Region Example • East and West Coasts – more liberal • Mid-West – more conservative • Urban - liberal • South – 1870-1950s - Democrat “Solid South” but today they are primarily social conservatives • White Southerner usually less liberal

  23. Mistrust of Government • Increasing since 1950, but ebbs and flows • Causes: Vietnam, Watergate, Clinton impeachment • High patriotism after 9/11 • Support for the President most likely to fluctuate • No dramatic change in confidence of Americans themselves or in system as a whole • What institutions have the highest approval?

  24. Do Men and Women Think Differently about Political Issues? Source: Pew Research Center.

  25. What Is the Extent of Americans’ Political Knowledge? Source: Nick Glass “Americans Bomb Pew Test of Basic Political Knowledge,” Politico, 4/28/15.

  26. What we believe: The ideas that divide us • Ideologies: • sets of beliefs about politics and society that help people make sense of their world • Coherent set of values and beliefs about public policy • Changes over time for people; terms have meant different things at different time periods • A political spectrumis a system of classifying different political positions upon one or more geometric axes that symbolize independent political dimensions • Crash Course in Political Ideology

  27. What we believe:The ideas that divide us • Conservative vs. Liberal? • Conservatives: people who generally favor limited government and are cautious about change • Liberals: people who generally favor government action and view change as progress

  28. Political Ideology Chart

  29. Ideological dimensions • The economic dimension • Conservatives prefer little government involvement in economy • Liberals see a positive government role • The social order dimension • Economic security has led Americans to become more concerned with quality-of-life and moral issues • Division over limited versus more active government control of individual lives

  30. Our Economic System • We say our economy is “fair and efficient” • But, we believe in limits to market freedom • Govt. should regulate business to prevent monopolies, correct specific abuses • We tolerate economic inequality more than political inequality • Equality of opportunity OK, but not equality of results • Liberal groups more willing to view disadvantages women and minorities have faced to be result of failures of econ. System rather than fault of individuals • We’re willing to help people “truly in need,” but not those who can help themselves • Ethic of self-reliance, personal responsibility, individualism

  31. Our Economic System • Free enterprise – individuals and businesses allowed to compete for profit with minimal govt. interference (“laissez-faire”) • Capitalism – private citizens own most (if not all) of the means of production, and decide how to use them • Market Economy – individuals own the factors of production, make economic decisions through free interaction

  32. Relationship between the ideological dimensions • The two dimensions do not dovetail neatly • Leaves different mixes of ideological groups • Economic liberals • Social liberals • Economic conservatives • Social conservatives • Libertarians • Communitarians

  33. Voting, Campaigns, and Elections: An Overview

  34. 10 Steps to the American Presidency • Step 1 - Invisible Primary/Announcement • Steps 2/3/4 – Caucus & Primary, Primary Debates, Primary Campaigning • Step 5 – General Election Campaign Begins • Step 6 – Vice Presidential Choice • Step 7 – Convention • Step 8 – General Election Debates • Step 9 – Election Day • Step 10 – Transition/Inauguration

  35. Step 1 - Announcement • Invisible Primary • Raise money (PACs) • Raise credibility, improve reputation • Announcement • Previous Elections • President Obama announces 2008 • Mitt Romney announces 2012 (video) • 2016 Election • Hillary Clinton (2016) • Donald Trump (2016)

  36. Steps 2/3/4 – Primary/Caucus • Primaries and caucuses • Presidential primary: an election by which voters choose convention delegates committed to voting for a certain candidate • Open Primary – primary elections in which eligible voters do not need to be registered party members • Closed Primary – primary elections in which only registered party members may vote • Party caucus: local gathering of party members to choose convention delegates

  37. Steps 2/3/4 – Primary/Caucus • Primaries and caucuses, cont’d. • Front-loading: the process of scheduling presidential primaries early in the primary season • Front-runner: the leading candidate and expected winner of a nomination or election • Momentum: the widely help public perspective that a candidate has gained electoral strength

  38. Step 2/3/4 – Primary/Caucus • Primary Campaigning • 2008 Democratic Primary: Clinton 3am ad vs. Obama 3am ad • Primary Debates (highlights) • Democratic First Primary Debate, 2015 • Republican First Primary Debate, 2015