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Political Socialization in a Media-Saturated World

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Edited By Esther Thorson, Mitchell S. McKinney and Dhavan Shah

The studies that comprise Political Socialization in a Media Saturated World synthesize, question, and update our knowledge of political socialization that has accumulated over the past 40 years of related research. The scholarship advances innovative theoretical perspectives and develops new models of the socialization process that revolve around the key social structures of family, media, peers, and school. The Hierarchy Model of Political Socialization, in particular, provides a comprehensive conceptual framework for organizing and analyzing youth responses to the political. With research that spans multiple election cycles across nearly a decade, and data drawn from a national panel study that allows for cross-generational comparison, the findings and models of political socialization presented provide the most comprehensive and in-depth examination of youth political socialization that exists to date. This book provides a foundation and research agenda for examining the Millennial generation in the coming years as these citizens mature to adults and become the driving force of society and our polity.
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Chapter Seventeen: Political Socialization Patterns in Younger and Older American Adolescents

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CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

Political Socialization Patterns IN Younger AND Older American Adolescents

HANS MEYER, MI JAHNG, AND ESTHER THORSON



In the 2008 presidential election, an estimated 23 million 18- to 29-year-olds voted, representing the second-largest turnout of youth voters in U.S. history (Circle, 2008). It should be noted, however, that youth (18–29) voter turnout in 2012 (45%) declined from 2008 (51%; America Goes to the Polls, 2013). In 2008, more than 65% of all youth voted for President Barack Obama. It is inappropriate to exclusively attribute this record number of young votes to the charismatic young candidate who made history by being elected the nation’s first African American president. In fact, political socialization, the process that leads young people to learn about, think about, and participate in a democracy, began long before any of these young citizens were eligible to vote.

The goal of the study reported in this chapter is to explore how political socialization changes over time during the teen years, and whether the causal processes that drive it also change over time. Using the first survey of the Future Voters Study (as described in the Introduction) fielded in the spring of 2008, about six months before the general election, we examine the factors that lead children ages 12–18 to participate politically, either online or offline, and how their age affects the process. We define political socialization as a network of responses in cognitive,...

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