AP US Government and Politics: American Political Ideologies and Beliefs Notes

Key Takeaways: American Political Ideologies and Beliefs

  1. The core American values of individualism, equality of opportunity, free enterprise, rule of law, and limited government play a key role in shaping the political attitudes and beliefs of individuals and American political culture as a whole.
  2. Other factors that influence the development of political opinions include family, school, peer groups, media, social groups, historical events, and personal experience.
  3. Polls are commonly used to gauge the public’s opinion about an issue or candidate. Politicians use polls to make decisions about which policies to support and how to utilize their campaign resources.
  4. To be useful, polls must be reliable. Various factors affect the reliability of polling, including the size of the sample, the way in which the sample was selected, and the format of the questions asked.
  5. The three most common political ideologies in the United States are libertarianism, conservatism, and liberalism. Libertarianism and conservatism tend to advocate for individualism and limited government intervention in the private sphere, while liberalism envisions an important role for government in promoting equality and injustice.
  6. The Republican Party is the more conservative of the two major parties and tends to favor limited government and protections for civil liberties and economic freedom. The Democratic Party is the more liberal of the two major parties and tends to emphasize civil rights and the role of government in improving the lives of the American people.

Key Terms: American Political Ideologies and Beliefs

Political Ideology Formation

  • Political attitudes: The opinions people hold about the role of government and the specific programs and policies that their government should implement.
  • Political culture: The combined set of political attitudes held by individuals within the same culture.
  • Individualism: A social and political philosophy that promotes individual well-being over the well-being of society as a whole.
  • Equality of opportunity: The belief that each person should have an equal chance at success and that no person should be limited by circumstances outside of her control.
  • Equality of outcome: Having similar or equal results among individuals within a society; often contrasted with equality of opportunity.
  • Free enterprise: The ability of individual people and businesses to make money with minimal interference by the government.
  • Rule of law: The notion that everyone within a country, including government officials, are subject to its laws.
  • Limited government: The belief that political officials and institutions should have significant constraints on their power.
  • Political socialization: The process by which people form their political attitudes and beliefs.
  • Social groups: Formal or informal groups of people who share similar characteristics and a common sense of identity.
  • Generational effects: Significant historical or cultural events that can permanently affect the political attitudes of the people who lived through them.
  • Life-cycle effects: Fluctuations in political beliefs that can occur as a result of life events that commonly occur at particular points in a typical lifespan.

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