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Influence of political events on ideology

Political events significantly shape people's beliefs and ideologies. These events can impact party identification, attitudes towards government, and opinions on international relations. The effects can be short or long-term, and events during formative years (18-24) often have lasting influences on individuals' political views.

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Video transcript

- [Instructor] In discussing political socialization, we've talked a lot about factors that go into how people develop their opinions on government and politics. Your family, your friends, your demographic characteristics, like your race, your gender, they all contribute to your views. In this video, I wanna talk about another set of factors that influence a person's political views, and that's political events. And political events include not just elections or debates or laws, but things like terrorist attacks, or international incidents, or economic recessions. These are external events that shape a person's beliefs, either in the short-term or maybe even for the rest of their lives. So what are some examples of how political events influence ideology? Some events can change a person's party identification or how strongly they identify with a party. For example, researchers have found that people who lost family members in the September 11th terrorist attacks became more politically active and have identified more strongly with the Republican party since then. Sometimes events can influence a person's attitudes toward government and the political process as a whole. And here we're not talking about which party a person favors, but rather their ideas about government itself, like is the government trustworthy? Does my vote really count? One example of this is the lasting influence of the Vietnam War and Watergate scandal on public trust in government. You can see in this graph by the Pew Research Center that since polls started asking Americans whether they trust Washington to do what is right always or most of the time, trust peaked in the early Johnson administration, then crashed in the mid-1960s and 1970s and has never really recovered since. So events that happened more than 50 years ago have left a mark on public trust in government that hasn't gone away. But not all political events have such a lasting effect on beliefs. Some events influence opinions for just a short term, like international events that influence Americans' attitudes towards other countries. For example, you can see in this poll data done by Gallup, that the public's favorable opinion about Russia has changed a great deal over the last 20 years, with revelations about Russian hacking coming in 2015 leading to a sharp decline in favorable opinions. The last thing I wanna note here is that researchers have discovered that political events that happen when someone is in their formative age, or the age from about 18 to 24, when people are just getting out on their own and starting to form an independent identity. Events that happen then are more likely to have long lasting effects on a person's political beliefs and behaviors. The great recession in 2008 had a strong effect on people in the millennial generation, many of whom were just getting out into the workforce when it hit. Studies have shown that this had an especially strong influence on their ideas about government and money compared to other generations. So events can have both short and long-term effects on people's political beliefs, not just about whether they lean more liberal or conservative, but also about how they think about government itself. And those effects may be felt more strongly depending on what stage a person is in their life or how deeply an event impacts them personally.