AP®︎/College US Government and Politics
Generational and lifecycle effects on political ideology
Explore how generational effects, political events, and lifecycle effects shape political ideology. Discover how experiences during the Great Depression, Cold War, and Watergate Scandal influenced people's beliefs. Learn how cultural influences and personal life stages can impact one's political leanings.
- [Lecturer] What we're gonna talk about in this video is how political and cultural events might have an influence on someone's political ideology. So let's make this a little bit concrete and political scientists will sometimes have various classifications for these types of effects. So for example, there is something known as generational effects, and these would be events that affect an entire generation, that could influence how an entire generation thinks about their position on different issues. An example of that might be if you were to grow up or if you were an adult during the Great Depression in the 1930s, well that might affect you in many, many different ways. You would start to maybe be a little bit conservative with your own personal finances realizing that a rainy day might come one day. Many people who grew up during the Great Depression viewed FDR, Franklin Roosevelt, as a major factor in taking the country out of the Great Depression. Other folks might disagree with that position. But if you were one of those folks who believed that FDR through the expansion of government helped bring the country out of the Great Depression, and if you believe that FDR was a good leader for the United States during World War Two, well then, you might lean Democrat. You might lean Democrat the rest of your life. And it indeed seems to be the case that many people who grew during the Great Depression did indeed lean Democrat because of their belief that FDR was good for the country. Similarly, if you grew up during the Cold War or if you were an adult during the Cold War you had this thing hanging over you in the 60s, 70s, and 80s of what would a nuclear war with the Soviet Union look like? And so many of those folks might look at someone like a Ronald Reagan, who many people would argue helped bring about the end of the Cold War. And so many of these folks who did view Ronald Reagan as a major actor there might lean Republican. Or even if they don't lean Republican they might say, hey, the type of strong muscular military presence with diplomacy that Ronald Reagan did well, that's a type of point of view that I support. Now these two things were big, macro events that would have happened over many, many years, if not decades. But there could also be particular events and sometimes particular political events that might influence someone's political ideology. So let me write this down, political events. And so an example of that might be the Watergate Scandal under Richard Nixon. Many of the people who were adults then and understood what was going on, it might have led to a general distrust in government. It might have led to a more of a belief that people in high office do things without telling us. Once again, these are not, it's not gonna be everyone who lived in that time period, but it might make some folks lean one direction or another. Now everything I've talked about has been in the realm of politics, but there is also a lot that happens in culture that could affect your ideology. If you see more of a certain point of view on television for example or in movies, that might make you more sympathetic to that point of view. You also have effects over the course of your life that affect your ideology. And so these are often known as lifecycle effects. Lifecycle effects. And this is the idea that as you go from being young to getting older, just different things in your life might make you lean in one direction or another. And these are going to be broad generalizations but let's say you are young, you are in college, you have a lot of student debt, you might lean maybe toward a more progressive candidate or have liberal leanings if a candidate says hey, the government's going to try to reduce student debt or provide more support for young students. But then as you get older and maybe you become a homeowner maybe you have more wealth, you have a higher income, you might say, hey, these taxes really hurt more than I suspected and they're quite large, or maybe you're starting a business or you're saying, hey, these regulations really aren't as good as an idea as I thought they were when I was young, well then maybe you might, and I'd stress might, you might start leaning more conservative. So I'll leave you there. The big picture is is that your political ideology isn't just driven by your genetics or your family and we've talked about these in other videos, or where you grew up. So not just driven by geography, it's driven by a whole set of things, many of the things that might happen to you individually, let's say you had a bad incident with crime that might make you tougher on crime. Or maybe you were on the other side, you got arrested for something you didn't do, that might change your point of view, and things that happen on a bigger scale, things that might happen to your entire generation.