Theories of political behavior

Theories of political behavior, as an aspect of political science, attempt to quantify and explain the influences that define a person's political views, ideology, and levels of political participation. Broadly speaking, behavior is political whenever individuals or groups try to influence or escape the influence of others. Political behavior is the subset of human behavior that involves politics and powers.[1] Theorists who have had an influence on this field include Karl Deutsch and Theodor Adorno.

Long-term influences on political orientation

Interaction with the political views of parental figures is often thought of as the primary long-term influence on political orientation and willingness to take part in the political system.[2][3]

Teachers and other educational authority figures are also often thought to have a significant impact on political orientation. During the 2003-2004 school year, In the United States, students spent an average of 180.4 days in primary and secondary education each year, with a school day being defined as approximately 6.7 class hours.[4] This means that on average a student will spend around 1,208.68 hours in class each year. Post-secondary education appears to have an impact on both voting rates and political identification; as a study of 9,784,931 college students found that they voted at a rate of 68.5% in the 2016 Presidential Election[5] compared to the average of 46.1% for citizens aged 18-29 who voted.[6]

Peers also affect political orientation. Friends often, but not necessarily, have the advantage of being part of the same generation, which collectively develops a unique set of societal issues; Eric L. Dey has argued that "socialisation is the process through which individuals acquire knowledge, habits, and value orientations that will be useful in the future."[7] The ability to relate on this common level is what fuels and enables future ideological growth.

Sociologists and political scientists debate the relationship between age and the formation of political attitudes. The impressionable years hypothesis postulates that political orientation is solidified during early adulthood. By contrast, the "increasing persistence hypothesis" posits that attitudes become less likely to change as individuals become older, while the "life-long openness hypothesis" proposes that the attitudes of individuals remain flexible regardless of age.[8]

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