Political Socialization

Stability and Homogeneity

While political socialization by the media is a lifelong process, after adolescence, people’s basic values generally do not change. Most people choose what media they are exposed to based on their already existing values, and they use information from the media to reaffirm what they already believe. Studies show two-thirds of newspaper readers do not know their newspaper’s position on specific issues- and most media stories are quickly forgotten. Studies on public opinion of the Bush administration’s energy policies show that the public pays more attention to issues that receive a lot of media coverage, and forms collective opinions about these issues. This demonstrates that the mass media attention to an issue affects public opinion. More so, extensive exposure to television has led to “mainstreaming," aligning people’s perception of political life and society with television’s portrayal of it.

There are different patterns in socialization based on race, ethnicity, gender, age, income, education, geographic region, and city size. For example, generally, African Americans and Hispanics rely on television for their information more than white people. More women than men watch daytime television, and more men than women follow sports programs. Older people read more newspapers than younger people, and people from the ages of twelve to seventeen (although they consume the most media) consume the least amount of news. Northerners listen to radio programs more than Southerners do. News outlets on the East Coast tend to cover international affairs in Europe and the Middle East the most, while West Coast news outlets are more likely to cover Asian affairs; this demonstrates that region affects patterns in media socialization. Income level is also an important factor; high-income families rely more on print media than television and consume less television than most of the population.

Ultimately, however, the common core of information and the interpretation the media applies to it leads to a shared knowledge and basic values throughout the United States. Most media entertainment and information does not vary much throughout the country, and it is consumed by all types of audiences. Although there are still disagreements and different political beliefs and party affiliations, generally there are not huge ideological disparities among the population because the media helps create a broad consensus on basic US democratic principles.