E-Political Socialization, the Press and Politics

The Media and Government in the USA, Europe and China

by Christ´l De Landtsheer (Volume editor) Russell Farnen (Volume editor) Daniel B. German (Volume editor)
Edited Collection 372 Pages
Open Access

Table Of Content

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Table of Contents
  • 1 Introduction
  • Part 1: Political Socialization Background
  • 2 Political Socialization Defined: Setting the Context
  • 3 Youth, Peer Culture, and Everyday Political Consciousness
  • 4 Politics, Education, and Paradigmatic Reconceptualism
  • Part 2: Media Use, Government, and Websites
  • 5 Media Use in the United States
  • 6 Participation Friendliness of Political Websites
  • 7 Empirical Evaluation of Government and Websites
  • 8 The Internet Upholds the Powers That Be
  • Part 3: The Print Press, Broadcasting, and Politics
  • 9 Metaphors in Euroland Press
  • 10 Press Reporting on the Euro
  • 11 The Ukraine Media on the Orange Revolution
  • 12 Post-Communist Media in Russia
  • Part 4: Critiques of the Emerging Virtual/Media World
  • 13 Media and Terrorists
  • 14 Democracy and Virtual Politics
  • 15 The Electronic Media Deficit
  • 16 Does the Media Reduce Political Participation?
  • 17 Implications for E-Media, the Press, Government, and Politics in China
  • Index of Subjects
  • Index of Names
  • Series Index

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Chapter 1

The Editors

Our lives increasingly are played out in an electronic world. The most recent Kaiser Family Foundation study of youth in America shows that the average amount of time spent with media is 10 hours and 45 minutes. This total includes multitasking (e.g., using more than one medium at a time). If one adds texting, the figure jumps to 12 hours and 20 minutes. That is more time than is spent sleeping, eating, and non-media school and face-to-face family-peer socializing. The 10 hours and 45minutes represent an increase of 3 hours and 16 minutes more than was found in the initial Kaiser study conducted in 1999. Between 2004 and 2009, iPod/MP3 player use went from 18% to 76%. Cell phone use went from 39% to 66%. We are moving toward life in a virtual non-face-to-face electronic world. Immediate implications can be seen in the Kaiser Family Foundation study. Heavy media users get poorer grades in school and, relevant to the socio-political world, are more likely to get into a lot of trouble. Minorities (blacks, and Hispanics) are more likely to be exposed to media; consequently, there is a digital divide. Print consumption, included in the overall figure, has declined while TV content has increased along with music/audio, computer, video games, and movies (Rideout, et al., 2010, pp. 2, 4, 10, 28; Kaiser Family Foundation, 2010, pp. 1-3).

Moreover, studies show that adults are moving in the same direction (German and Lally, 2007, pp. 338-339). Studies show that while adults are using the Internet and other computer related media, their TV consumption has also increased. What implications do these developments have for politics? Worries that virtual world consumption would result in lowered political involvement have not been borne out since voter turnout increased in the 2004 and 2008 US Presidential elections.

The nature of our news consumption has changed possibly for the worse. As newsprint declines and access to news moves online, the type of news we consume has changed. In a quality newspaper (such as The New York Times or Le Monde), editors/journalists select what goes on the front page and gets more public attention. On the computer, the top stories are not picked by professional media gatekeepers, but by an algorithm process which quantifies the number of hits each news item receives and moves the most frequently hit items to the top. In a sense, this process (e.g., employed by Google) democratizes the news by giving the general public control over topics that move to the top. But is this majority-based selection method the best way to decide what news is most important?

Majority rule without minority rights might be perceived as majority dictatorship. This is an outcome that democratic societies prevent by using all kinds of checks and balances. Letting the public move news stories to the top might just be the wrong way to determine what really is significant. Furthermore, the news ← 9 | 10 → popup (which appears when one clicks on a news item) is a very brief one-page summary, complete with advertising and other items. This is what people like. Those who run Google have found that it is what the public wants. It’s the news people want to access, not necessarily the news they need to be informed about as citizens. This gets to one of the conundrums of democracy which solves the problem of anything-goes majority rule with minority rights protection or any kind of sage input. And what about the preferred lack of depth?

This book examines the state of print and electronic media in the US, Europe, and China. The latest media developments, such as those mentioned previously, demonstrate that we are living in an increasingly media-centric world. The chapters included here represent theoretical and empirical studies that shed light on the meaning of this development. The trajectory of people’s move to electronic communication is a global phenomenon affecting people’s daily life throughout the world. Does this development aid or impede democracy? Is there an emerging “digital divide” contributing to an increasing gap between the rich and poor nations?

This book is divided into four parts that explore the various aspects of political socialization and its relationship with various media: Part 1 – Political Socialization Background (chapters 2 through 4); Part 2 – Media Use, Government, and Websites (chapters 5 through 8); Part 3 – The Print Press, Broadcasting, and Politics (chapters 9 through 12); and Part 4 – Critiques of the Emerging Virtual/Media World (chapters 13 through 17).

In Chapter 2, Daniel German looks at the basics of the political socialization process. Media, an agent of socialization, seems to edge out the traditional major socialization agency: the family. The trajectory of more media influence in the formation of our orientations toward society, government, community, and relations with other people are carefully monitored to ensure that we do not move in an unwanted direction, such as the destruction of democracy and/or positive social relationships. Inevitably, there is a lag between technology and the study of its effects, so the effort to chart these interrelationships is never finished. Technological change is not new. Witness the effects of the Gutenberg press and radio on communication. The history of communication technology is a steady increase of print and now electronic transmissions in our lives.

In Chapter 3, Heinz Sünker examines the influence of peer groups on the political socialization of youth. Traditional theories provided a pessimistic outlook for the future of successful political socialization. However, more recent explorations into youth and peer culture provide more hope for the future.

Chapter 4 examines the fundamental assumptions and criticisms from US reconceptualists and their current relevance. Some US critical theorists changed from a Marxist viewpoint to one of social democratic liberalism, with an emphasis on democratic, non-revolutionary reform. In this chapter, Russell Farnen focuses on the need for core processes that emphasize problem solving, decision making, ← 10 | 11 → policy analysis, and basic subject matter which discusses political theory, ideology, and systems that help students to both handle and explain their political worlds, regardless of country of origin. This chapter finds political and cognitive sciences, problem solving, socialization, and political education research to be both complementary and mutually reinforcing. American concerns focus on the overly complex nature of such interrelationships, but such studies are mutually productive and useful for future progress in the field.

In Chapter 5, Daniel German and Caitlin Lally document media use among children and adults to show that we are simultaneously moving from less print consumption to more electronic use (including more television, along with a dramatic increase in computer-related activities). In the wake of this development, a digital race-based and socio-economic divide appears to be emerging. Access to information, the computer’s promise of democratization, seems to be unequal. They ask, “Does living in a digital world result in a decline in social capital (face-to-face social mobilization)?” Perhaps we are losing ground in associational activities traditionally fundamental to democracy. Whether or not this is a reality seems to be mitigated by the relative salience of political issues which may or may not drive political involvement. In the face of more electronic media use, voter turnout increased in the US 2004 and 2008 elections. We will need to monitor this potential loss of social capital to determine whether or not this is a false conjecture.

In Chapter 6, Christ’l De Landtsheer assesses the quality of political websites. She examines party and public administration websites, personal websites for political leaders and administrators, and websites of non-governmental social and political organizations. By employing a coding scheme, De Landtsheer measures the “participation friendliness” of these websites and offers suggestions for building a qualitatively good political site.

In Chapter 7, Christ’l De Landtsheer, Natalya Krasnoboka, and Conny Neuner created an instrument to empirically evaluate websites. This survey instrument is a multifaceted methodology for measuring government websites, but it could easily be employed to examine private business websites as well. The authors examined websites in seven European nations and determined that the Netherlands has the most overall participation-friendly site and Poland the least friendly. Their scheme judges the transmission of information, the ease of interactivity, user friendliness (including links, search, and help functions), and site aesthetics. As more and more people enter the virtual world, governments should be interested in creating the most useable sites possible to better serve their citizens and create a more effective government.

Chapter 8 looks at how the Internet reinforces the incumbent political powers. In an empirical experiment, Henk Dekker and Arie in ‘t Veld demonstrate that instead of giving more groups access to people through websites, organizations with more money are able to create better websites that hold the interest of users. ← 11 | 12 → Consequently, the already powerful and financially well-heeled organizations gain access to the voter’s minds while the less fortunate drop out of sight.

Metaphors abound in press coverage of politics and politicians, who attempt to “frame” these metaphors to their advantage. For example, a press story might state that an administration has been hit by a “hurricane” and an administration official may state that we have weathered the hurricane and are returning to normal. The metaphorical frame gives the consumer a sense thatthings are not right or a perception that all is OK. In Chapter 9, Christ’l De Landtsheer and Elisabeth Koch suggest that Euroland nations’ press used positive metaphors (e.g., emotively and persuasively optimistic) to bolster public support for adopting the Euro currency. In comparison, non-Euroland nations’ press was relatively devoid of metaphors. A frame sets the stage for a positive, neutral, or negative view of a political issue and may influence its fate.

In Chapter 10, Marianne Law, Jerry Palmer, and David Middleton show how the United Kingdom press gave a more negative frame to adopting the Euro. This negative frame may have influenced public opinion against joining Euroland.

In Chapter 11, Natalya Krasnoboka and Christ’l De Landtsheer show how traditional media use relatively few metaphors in a crisis. In comparison, the newer online media use metaphors in more abundance in support of a revolutionary mood.

In Chapter 12, Vitaly Konzhukov shows how the Russian government ended the democratization period of print and electronic press following the end of the Soviet Union. The new Russian government resorted to economic deprivation, censorship, and “trumped up” criminal prosecutions to reign in newly developed print and broadcast (radio and television) media.

Several studies cast doubt on the idea of the media’s contributions to democracy. In Chapter 13, Russell Farnen notes that terrorists and media are like a “horse and carriage.” Writing before 9/11, Farnen states that our response to terrorism (which uses the media to convey its messages) mostly is violent. Our response to 9/11 was three wars: one in Afghanistan, another in Iraq, and a final “War on Terrorism” at home in the US and worldwide. He advocates a less violent response that looks at the causes of the terrorist act and examines ways to deal with the underlying problem without resorting to warfare.

In Chapter 14, Andy Koch argues that the Internet’s virtual world should not be a substitute for real-world involvement in politics. Contrary to providing a more democratic avenue for involvement in politics, virtual politics might have the opposite effect by making people lose interest in direct involvement.

In Chapter 15, Mary Hepburn is concerned that television - now combined with the Internet - creates a seductive electronic world. This electronic world encourages people to spend their time there. Hepburn finds this enchantment with the electronic world discourages people from getting involved in the real world of politics. Certainly, this development merits a very careful assessment, which is a primary mission of this book. ← 12 | 13 →

In Chapter 16, Daniel German and Dragan Stefanovic question the whole notion of electronic media’s dampening political involvement based on the rise of voter turnout in America’s 2004 and 2008 elections. Issues played a central role in this increased involvement. They theorize that the salience of issues may move participation up and down and not necessarily the lack of face-to-face relationships. This whole argument may not settle the question since US voter turnout in 2004 and 2008 may have been even greater than it was, being lowered by television and the Internet.

In Chapter 17, Yingfa Song and Hongna Miao examine the influence of the Internet on China’s government. The increased use of the Internet has heightened citizens’ interest in and capacity for political participation. While breaking down the traditional pyramid structure of Chinese society, the Internet has also formed a new bureaucracy and a widening digital gap. China’s quest for cyber democracy is hampered by this digital gap as well as the government’s strict control of the Internet’s content.


German, D. and C. Lally (2007). “A Profile of America’s Media Use and Political Socialization Effects: Television and the Internet’s Relationship to Social Connectedness in the USA,” pp. 327-344 in Policy Futures in Education, Volume 5, Number 3.

Kaiser Family Foundation (2010). “Daily Media Use Among Children and Teens Up Dramatically From Five Years Ago.” http://www.kff.org/entmedia/entmedia012010nr.cfm.

Neuner, C. and C. De Landtsheer (2005). “Towards a Methodology for Evaluating the Quality of (Public) Websites.” http://internetjournals.net/journals/tir/2005/January/Paper%2008.pdf

Rideout, V., U. Foehr, and D. Roberts (2010). “Generation M2: Media In The Lives Of 8- To 18-Year-Olds” in A Kaiser Family Foundation Study, January 2010.

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Part 1
Political Socialization Background

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Chapter 2
Political Socialization Defined: Setting the Context

Daniel B. German

Professor (Emeritus) of Political Socialization, Appalachian State University, Boone, North Carolina, USA


Political socialization is the process by which orientations toward the political system are developed from one generation to another. These orientations include: 1) political knowledge; 2) opinions about specific political issues, deeper attitudes, and beliefs or values; and 3) behavior such as voting. All of the orientations shape an individual, depending on where the process takes place (e.g., in India, the United States, or South Africa). Other influences affecting the unfolding development of political orientations are agents of socialization, including family, media, region, education, ethnic or racial group, and gender. The process begins early in life and continues throughout the life cycle. Out of this process, a political culture which shapes the functioning of a particular political system is formed.


The systematic study of what we call scientifically today “political socialization” clearly began with Plato. In the 4th century BC, Plato wrote the Republic. In this book, he advocated education and training from early childhood on to develop guardians of the city state Athens. They must be devoted to the city and capable of overcoming temptations and witchcraft. These guardians must be strong; but unlike the disciplined and strong rulers of Sparta, they must not use their strength for purposes of tyranny and plunder. Plato advocated the creation of different roles for the city state. A farmer should be a farmer. A soldier should be a solider. An artisan should be an artisan. They each have a specific role and must be brought up (“socialized”) to fulfill a particular function. The soldier must not be surrounded by music or engaged in reading poetry, but instead must be trained in the art of warfare. One might clothe the farmer in glorious robes, but he will cease to be a farmer. Or one might let the potter drink and feast, but then they will cease to be potters. This means that a particular society (whether it is ancient Greece or Russia in the millennium) is the product of upbringing and education.

Knowledge is a product of the socialization process. The level of knowledge in a society has important implications for the development of what type of political system exists. A democratic government requires literacy for its citizens. Democracy could not have developed in ancient Greece without literacy because citizens had to read laws posted outside an assembly area and support or oppose them by direct vote. A critical feature of authoritarian (dictatorships, monarchies, warlords) political systems is to keep the mass of citizens semi-literate to illiterate. Many people in the world (even in the 21st century) do not receive enough ← 17 | 18 → education to be considered literate. How could you engage in politics if you do not understand what is going on? Studies of different types of political systems clearly demonstrate that a high level of educational achievement is associated with non-authoritarian political processes and vice versa. Literacy, however, while being an essential ingredient of free and open democratic political systems, is often not sufficient to the existence of democracy. The Third Reich under Adolf Hitler was as authoritarian as a political process can get, yet Germany at that time had nearly universal literacy. The same was true for the Soviet Union under the totalitarian rule of Joseph Stalin.

Combined with knowledge, a certain set of attitudes and values determines what kind of political system exists. The beliefs and values of a society are referred to as culture. Each nation has a political culture, which refers to its political values or political ways of doing things. In America, there is an acceptance by many (not all) of a kind of democratic creed composed of majority rule with minority rights, rule of law, free speech, and free and open elections. Thus, there is a consensus on the rules of the game played in American politics. In many other nations, this democratic creed is not a part of the typical way of doing things. Transparency International lists many nations in the world which are awash in corruption. There is a “take whatever you can get, by whatever means you can use to get it” philosophy. Fairness is not valued. In Russia, today as throughout its history, people value strong-man rule. Russians are socialized to prefer a strong leader due to a history of invasion, whether from the Mongols to the East or Europeans from the West. If a strong leader (whether Czar or Premier) subverts the election process, eliminates media opposition, and otherwise exerts an iron-handed rule, it is fine with the Russian people. In 2006, Russia was listed as 2.5 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 =low corruption), so it ranks high on corruption.

The US fell prey to corruption during the early 2000s. For example, lobbyist Jack Abramoff bribed members of Congress to pass legislation favorable to his business interests. However, in the 2006 elections, voters threw out of office the party primarily responsible for accepting bribes. Eliminating corruption was listed in polls as one of the primary reason voters gave for overturning the party in power in Congress. Americans consequently showed that they do not accept corruption in political parties and, instead, value a free and open process.

Knowledge, attitudes, and values are connected to political behavior. Studies show that an attitude of efficacy (which is the extent to which one feels that his/her involvement is politically effective or not) is highly associated with political participation. High efficacy is associated with education in democratic political systems; along with trust in the system, it is essential to popular involvement in political processes. If these attitudes fall to a very low level, it is dubious whether a democratic system could function; it might fall prey to an authoritarian or totalitarian alternative, which occurred in the history of Germany, France, Chile, Argentina, Thailand and other nations. ← 18 | 19 →


ISBN (Book)
Open Access
Publication date
2014 (May)
Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Wien, 2014. 372 pp., 54 tables, 14 graphs

Biographical notes

Christ´l De Landtsheer (Volume editor) Russell Farnen (Volume editor) Daniel B. German (Volume editor)

Christ’l De Landtsheer, Professor of Communications Science, University of Antwerp (Belgium). Russell F. Farnen, Professor emeritus of Political Science, University of Connecticut (USA). Daniel B. German, Professor emeritus of Political Science, Appalachian State University (USA). Henk Dekker, Professor of Political Socialization and Integration, Leiden University (Netherlands). Heinz Sünker, Professor of Social Pedagogy and Social Policy, University of Wuppertal (Germany). Song Yingfa, Associate Professor, Director, Institute of Higher Education, China University of Mining and Technology, Xuzhou (China). Miao Hongna, Assistant Professor of Political Science, School of Government, Nanjing University, Nanjing (China).


Title: E-Political Socialization, the Press and Politics