POLSC221 Study Guide

Unit 5: Political Behavior

5a. Define political culture, political socialization, and political participation

  • What is the relationship between political culture, political socialization, and political participation?
  • How do these three levels build upon one another?
  • What are five agents of political socialization?
  • What are five different types of democratic participation?
  • What factors that cause people to become more or less involved in politics?

Political culture and political socialization refer to the diverse attitudes and traditions individual citizens have toward their political system. These attitudes will inform the type and level of involvement they will have with their political institutions, the expectations they have for achieving a just and fair system, and how well they are able to hold government officials accountable for their actions.

To review, see Political Culture and Socialization and Participation, Voting, and Social Movements.

5b. Compare and contrast political cultures in selected countries

  • How do attitudes about civic participation, socioeconomic status, race and ethnicity, age, and gender influence political culture?
  • How has a history of colonialism influenced the political culture in Nigeria?
  • How have local allegiances and feelings about nationalism influenced the ability of political parties to organize in Nigeria?

Our sense of national identity often provides a foundation for our attitude toward politics and how we should be allowed to participate in national government. Compare what you read above about politics in the United States with what Odoemelam and Aisien have to say about political attitudes in Nigeria.

Political parties in Nigeria complain that they have a difficult time mobilizing their citizens to identify with national institutions because they "show greater sentiments, allegiance, and loyalty to their ethnic groups, families, kinsmen or religious affiliations, rather than the state (country)".

Think about the reluctance some members of the European Union have in terms of the acceptance of new and different attitudes they believe could negatively impact their political culture when considering whether to accept Turkey as a part of their political union. Do you believe these beliefs are unfounded or irrational?

Author Ali Rahigh-Aghsan writes that the citizens of Turkey, a country whose primary religion is Islam, have experienced difficulty fitting in with countries that are part of the European Union, which have been steeped in democratic political culture and secular Christian traditions. Note that many people disagree with the causes and remedies for these political differences.

To review, see Participation, Voting, and Social MovementsPolitical Socialization and Nation Building, and Turkey's EU Quest and Political Cleavages under AKP.


5c. Compare and contrast political socialization in selected countries

  • How have authoritarian governments in China, Russia, Egypt, and Cuba used political surveillance to promote feelings of political isolation, fear, and apathy among their citizens?
  • How are citizens using social media and the Internet to transcend these barriers, to create a new political culture?

Political scientist Emily Parker describes how authoritarian governments in China, Russia, Egypt, and Cuba use political surveillance methods among their citizens to promote a psychological barrier that fosters a sense of isolation, fear, and apathy toward their government. Political activists who want to change this form of political socialization are using social media and the Internet to communicate with others and mobilize protest. The sheer number of protesters makes it easier for individuals to overcome their fear of expressing opposition and highlight instances of government injustice. They hope to foster political change.

To review, see Voices from the Internet Underground and Understanding E-Democracy Government-Led Initiatives for Democratic Reform.


5d. Describe and explain patterns of representation and participation in selected countries

  • What is civil society?
  • How can civic participation promote democratic institutions, social movements, and societal change?
  • What are interest groups?
  • What are some examples of the various types of interest groups?
  • What is a non-governmental organization (NGO)?
  • Why is having independent media important to civil society?
  • What elements do civic societies need to promote independent media?
  • What methods do countries use to register, maintain, and update, their database of registered voters?
  • What are some advantages and disadvantages of these different voter registration methods, such as the practical and security aspects of maintaining a civil registry, ensuring voter turnout, and the risk of voter suppression?

Civil society requires open and robust political discussion and participation by all citizens. Teesta Setalvad, a political activist in India, states that it is extremely difficult to create a civil society that promotes reason, patience, compassion, and justice. It is much easier for politicians to foster revenge, retribution, violence, and hatred. Speaking out against political injustice in favor of civil society often requires great strength and courage.

A key component of participation in democratic government describes the ability individual citizens have to vote freely for a favored political candidate. In most communities, eligible members of the voting public must officially register to vote before they are allowed to participate. However, these processes vary, based on the electoral practices that are part of each country's political system.

To review, see:


5e. Compare and contrast the roles and functions of political parties in selected countries

  • What is a political party?
  • How can party affiliation, issue politics, and a particular political candidate influence how voters vote?
  • What is gerrymandering?
  • How have parties in the United States used gerrymandering to hold onto political power?
  • Why is it difficult for new political candidates to beat a political incumbent?
  • How do low political turnover rates affect voter turnout and political participation?
  • What is proportional representation?
  • What is a coalition government?
  • How do minor parties use coalition governments to their advantage in parliament?
  • What are some advantages and disadvantages for civic participation and individual representation in a proportional parliamentary system?

Citizens often join forces with like-minded individuals to affect political change and make sure their views are represented when government decisions are made. In democratic systems, political parties can provide an easy way for constituents to organize, based on their shared political beliefs and specific issues of concern, or to rally behind a preferred political candidate.

However, the strength or weakness of political parties depends on the society and the system itself. Once a political party has become entrenched in the government system, it can prove difficult for a group of concerned citizens, who feel the incumbent no longer represents their interests, to remove them from political office and effect a political turnover.

To review, see How Voters Decide, What's Wrong with Gerrymandering?, and Proportional Representation.


5f. Compare and contrast the role of interest groups in selected countries

  • Which systems allow for greater interest group engagement?
  • What are the typical focuses of interest groups?
  • How could you describe a non-governmental organization (NGO) as an interest group?
  • How is an NGO different from a typical home-grown interest group?
  • How might you describe a social movement as the precursor to a future interest group?

Interest groups have varying levels of political power and decision-making authority within different political systems. Some are able to enjoy great power within their respective area of engagement, while others are not. Nevertheless, they can have an outsized impact on politics, and influence policy in many ways.

To review, see:


Unit 5 Vocabulary

  • Civic duty
  • Civil society
  • Coalition government
  • Collective action
  • Demographics
  • Ethnicity
  • European Union
  • Free-rider problem
  • Independent media
  • Interest group
  • Issue politics
  • Minor party
  • Non-governmental organization (NGO)
  • Party affiliation
  • Party-line voting
  • Pluralism
  • Political candidate
  • Political culture
  • Political incumbent
  • Political participation
  • Political party
  • Political socialization
  • Political surveillance
  • Proportional representation
  • Social movement
  • Taxation
  • Turnover rate
  • Voter registration