In an era of outspoken political commentary, heavy campaign advertising in the news media and passionate Internet blogging, individuals are subject to multiple channels of political influence such as region, family values and media.
At the foundation of people’s political lives lies psychology, according to Dr. Jim Taylor, a political blogger for psychologytoday.com and huffingtonpost.com, because “political views, decisions and affiliations are based on our values, attitudes, and perceptions about ourselves, other people and the world.”
Individuals can start to form political views and ideas early on in childhood without even understanding them. People usually pick up political ideologies and views where they learn most everything else: at home.
Dr. Carole Lieberman, a psychiatrist and author of “Coping with Terrorism: Dreams Interrupted,” said: “People get their political views the same place they get their other core values — from their childhood and adolescent experiences with their family. Sometimes these experiences cause people to align similarly to one or both parents, and other times the experiences cause them to rebel against them.”
Dr. Dallas M. Stout, a California State University, Fullerton Dept of Counseling faculty member, said that he has found that people traditionally take one of two routes in forming their political views.
The first route is essentially adopting the dominant political views held by parents and family (Dad was a Democrat so I am, too), whereas the second route, conversely, is to form opinions in reaction to parents or family (Dad was a Democrat so I am a Republican), according to Stout.
The second route, Stout said, can serve as both a message to mom or dad and a political message.
Upbringing as an influence on political views and ideas may go beyond parents to include exposure to education and religious experiences, said Taylor.
He also said views could change as a result of different experiences and perspectives, or very quickly because of a dramatic or traumatic experience. Other elements can also contribute to changes in political views and ideas.
“Indeed, people can change their alignment later in life based upon new factors in their own lives or the changing landscape of their party, there is then a disconnect or disharmony with the core values of their childhood,” Lieberman said.
Location is another factor that Stout said could have an impact on political views.
“A young person growing up … in Orange County (California) will likely be immersed in Republicanism before they can define it,” Stout said. “Being the social learning animals that we are, this has a huge impact.”
Media and advertising are other sources for political views and ideologies. Repeated viewing of a certain candidate or message can ingrain it into the minds of the audience.
“Studies show that repeated exposure to an idea ‘normalizes’ it, which is why some people still think Iraq was responsible for 9/11 and Barack Obama is a Muslim from Kenya,” said Jude Treder-Wolff, a licensed clinical social worker and psychotherapist who conducts professional training seminars nationwide and author of “Possible Futures: Creative Thinking For The Speed of Life.”
The problem with advertisements is that they designed to sell something, not provide information to the public.
“In our media-saturated world, it is increasingly difficult to separate marketing, which is the strategic arrangement of ideas for maximum emotional impact, from ideas that grow from substantive thought and information,” Treder-Wolff said.
Though much political influence comes from upbringing, media advertising and location, the Internet is able to host any and every political ideology or viewpoint for the public to see.
“The good news is that with all the information available to us, anyone, anywhere can use technology and its conveniences to read many different points of view, fact-check and have discussions with others who share diverse perspectives,” Treder-Wolff said.