In a society, all individuals experience political socialization. It is through this process that we learn about our society’s political culture. This includes ideas about voting, exposure to different political parties and their ideas, and introductions to civic values that show us how we might become model citizens. It is worth noting that political socialization does not just happen during childhood; it is a lifelong process.
The agents of political socialization can be divided into two groups: primary and secondary. The primary agents are those that have a direct impact on a person’s political socialization, and the biggest example here is the family. Our parents and their political and civic viewpoints, for example, exert a strong, lifelong influence. Many of our opinions and ideas about the world come from our parents.
Similarly, educational institutions are another agent of socialization. Schools and colleges not only teach us about our nation’s political history and key figures but also help us learn more about being citizens. Debate clubs, for example, teach us how to communicate in a democracy. The final primary agent of socialization is our peer group. Our friends play a key role in helping to develop and solidify our opinions and, more importantly, teach us how to belong and fit into a group.
Finally, the media is a key secondary agent of political socialization. From social media to newspapers, the media provides vital information about our society and the wider world and exposes us to a range of different opinions. Similarly, political institutions help us to learn more about our political culture. An election campaign, for instance, teaches us about the issues that matter, alongside the mechanics of how a democracy works.
It is worth nothing that sociologists and political theorists have identified a number of agents of socialization. You can find more about these in the reference materials below.