CHAPTER 4: POLITICAL CULTURE
When studying, pay attention to:
1. Political Culture
What is political culture?
Political Culture is the fundamental political values, beliefs, and orientations that are widely held
within a political community. Sample surveys are used to determine the public attitudes to certain
political issues. Others methods to examine political culture is through literature, popular culture,
symbols, myths, political institutions, constitution, and policies. Political discourse can also be used to
analyze political culture by observing the language, meanings, and interpretations within politics and
how they use key terms like democracy, freedom, and equality. Political culture can be divided into
countries, then subdivided into regions because of the differing ethnic, class, linguistic, religious,
regional, generational, and gender ideals. It is often described as the political orientation.
Are there basic differences in the political cultures of Canada and the United States?
Ideological Perspectives can be described as the political culture of a political community in terms of
its dominant ideological perspective and fundamental politically relevant values.
United States for example is considered classical liberal because of their emphasis on protecting rights
and freedoms of individuals in a free-market economy and limited government.
Hartsz: When European settlers found Canada and the United States, they took the mother country’s
leading political culture of liberal “fragments” where individual freedom is pre-dominant.
Horotiz: United Empire Loyalists (Americans who left US after War of Independence because they were
still loyal to the crown) gave Canada the “Tory Touch” of traditional conservative values and liberal
values prevalent in American political culture. This developed into socialist values because the primary
ingredient was the presence of both liberal and conservative. Although individualistic values of
liberalism are important to Canada and the US, Canada puts emphasis on other values in addition to
liberalism. This gives us a “richer” political culture than the US.
Lipset: The US and Canada have different political cultures because of history. The US was founded
through a revolution while Canada was counter-revolutionary. When Canadians did not assist
Americans in overthrowing British rule, Canada held on to a more conservative political culture.
Canadians, as a result, are more respectful to authority and are more concerned about maintaining law
and order, giving more trust in the government. In addition, Canadians are less individualistic, more
likely to support collective action for the common good. Canadians are also characteristic of their
greater acceptance and tolerance of differences in society than American political culture because
Canadians are more liberal on social views. Canadians also lean towards egalitarian policies that
redistribute wealth and income to the poor and disadvantaged while Americans believe more so in
equality of opportunity where individuals advance based on merit. However, a survey found that Canadians are losing respect and trust in their government, similar to the
Does Canada have a fully democratic political culture?
Democracy functions best when there are parochial, subject political, and participant political cultures
as to not overwhelm the government with demands but still make necessary changes. The sustainability
of a democratic system depends on the public support for the basic principles of democracy and the
acceptance of authority or the legitimacy of governments that are elected by the people. Furthermore, a
level of political interest and understanding is necessary for citizens to participate meaningfully in
political life and hold the government accountable for its actions.
To answer the question, yes I believe Canada has a fully democratic political culture because the
Canadian government allows for protests and encourages activism, gives the vote to those who do not
wish to participate in public demonstrations, and foster the public’s political education for further
Support for democracy
A survey found that, on a scale of 10 on how important it is to live in a democratic country, the general
global consensus is 8.6 while Canada got a 9.0. Conversely, only 62% of Canadians are “somewhat” or
“very” satisfied with how the democracy functions in their country.
Canadians and Americans alike support liberal democratic values, belief in the desirability of political
freedom, individual rights, political equality, and government based on the rule of law. For example, the
populations are willing to suspend civil liberties in the case of a national emergency.
Why is there distrust of government and politicians?
Canadians trust public servant workers but not politicians, for example, 93% believe firefighters are
trustworthy and 87% for nurses while politicians only got 12% for local and 7% for national.
Majority of Canadians believe either the government doesn’t care about what they think or they don’t
believe they have a say in government affairs. Political distrust is greatest among the more educated and
younger population because disappointment results when their expectations are unfulfilled. In
additional, dissatisfaction may be the result of declining capacity for the government to satisfy because
of globalization. Furthermore, the politicians and political institutions themselves play a role in the
decline of trust and confidence.
Overall, citizens that become more critical of the government, political parties, and politicians have a
greater desire for a more influential voice in decision making, thus taking part in more protest activity.
Their dissatisfaction with democracy is hardly relevant.
Are Canadians interested and knowledgeable about politics? On an everyday basis, very few Canadians are very interested in politics but when elections come
around; 4/5ths of Canadians say they pay attention to the media and discussion. Interestingly enough,
60% of Canadians would fail the citizenship knowledge test for immigrants. Although the general level
of political knowledge may be low, most people are knowledgeable about political issues they consider
important to them. They may not follow political issues defined by politicians, journalists, or academics,
but instead, those that interest or concern them.
2. Political Participation
Voter turnout can tell you about participation in democratic political culture and the differences in ruling
governing elections or the nature of political parties in particular countries.
A quarter of Americans do not even register to vote. Countries with various options to vote have a
higher turnout. Countries that use proportional systems of elections tend to have higher voter turnout
because every vote counts in terms of determining how many representatives each party has in
legislature. Proportional systems also tend to have more political parties with the potential to gain seats,
giving voters more choices.
Countries that use single member plurality, like Canada, may render the votes irrelevant. Thus, voters
may not want to vote because even with their support there is no chance of winning.
Why has voting tended to decline?
Young people vote significantly less than older people with 37% aged 18-24 and 75% aged 65+. This
can be explained through the life cycle and generational effect. Young people are more likely to
participate in protest activities. People who engage in non-electoral political activities are generally
more likely to vote, thus low youth voter turnout cannot be attributed to decisions to engage in political
participation other than voting.
Other types of political participation
Few people directly work for party or candidates in elections and a decreasing number of people join
political parties. However, issue-oriented public interest groups have been increasing. For example,
there is a 27% increase in membership of civic associations, environmental groups, women’s groups, or
peace groups from 1980 to 1999. By participating in public interest groups and social movements,
citizens can try to affect government policies and promote social change.
People can participate in politics through being an active member of political parties, environmental
organization, signing petitions, participating in boycotts, or attending lawful demonstrations.
Civic Engagement: bowling alone? Putnam Robert Putnam found that participation in groups such as community choirs, bowling leagues, and
service organizations developed trust in others, mutual co-operation in pursuit of common goals,
tolerance, and leadership skills. Communities with high levels of social capital tend to be healthier, more
prosperous, have higher levels of civic engagement, and are better governed.
Putman also found that involvement in a variety of social organizations was declining. For example,
bowling league membership had declines sharply; instead, people bowl with family and friends now.
Putnam attributes to the decline in social organization membership to individualizing effects of
television viewing. More time watching television reduces the time to get involve with social
organizations. Declining involvement in social organizations is leading to a decline in the vitality of
Although membership in organizations such as Scouts, parent-teacher associations, and bowling leagues
has declined, membership in conservation and environmental groups has increased.
Regardless of whether social involvement has increased or decreased, Putnam argues that a well-
functioning democracy requires not only a particular set of political institutions, but also a society and a
political culture that foster trust and co-operation.
Who tends to participate?
Factors: life-cycle effect; education and social class; gender: political attitudes, interest and
Those with higher levels of education, higher incomes, and professional or managerial occupations are
more likely to engage in various forms of political participation, including both electoral and protest
activity. However, if there is a major party that represents the working class, the difference in political
participation between classes is small.
University graduates voting turnout has declined slightly but those with less education have declined
Back in the old days, politics was thought to be a male activity. However, studies have found that the
difference between men and women are negligible. Although there are some countries, including
Canada, where women more slightly more than men, it is in higher-level political activities like holding
national or provincial political office or top position in a political party or interest group that women
tend to shy away more than men.
Those with a strong sense of attachment to a political party are more likely to vote and be involved in
election campaign activities. Conversely, those with a high level of political efficacy, political interest,
and political knowledge are more likely to be active participants in politics.
Why is voting participation by young persons low? The sense of moral obligation to vote is weaker in younger voters, they tend to pay less attention to
elections, have less interest in politics, and have less political knowledge. The lower level of voting in
youths is not a result of a cynical attitude on politics or negative feelings concerning all political parties.
The generational effect suggests that as youths grow older, today’s younger people will still be less
likely to vote than their elders. Elections Canada have tried various activities to encourage young people
to vote and it is suggested that schools should provide more and better political education to engage
young people in political activity.
3. Political socialization and changing values
Agents of political socialization
The agents of political socialization include family, peer groups, the educational system, the mass
media, religious organizations, the military, unions, and the workplace. Although socialization happens
throughout the entire life, generally many basic values and orientations are acquired earlier on.
Therefore family plays a large role in political socialization, as seen in parents projecting religious,
ethnic, and other group identities to their children.
As seen in the former Soviet Union, People’s Republic of China, and Nazi Germany, schools, the media,
youth groups, and other organizations promote “correct” values and criticize traditional values. In liberal
democracies, education is less explicit in terms of promoting an ideological perspective, but they still
promote politically relevant values and ideas.
In the United States, the school system was seen s creating a unified, common sense among the
immigrant population. American values were promoted through required courses in “civics.” Public
education systems also taught to prepare children for a disciplined workforce in an industrial system.
In 1960s, 1970s, a more child-centred educational approach emerges in the advanced democracies that
value respect for differences and promote multiculturalism. However, the “liberal” approach is
challenged with the demand for standards, testing, mathematics, and literacy all the while promoting
national values and patriotism instead of multiculturalism. For example, in America, states have
reinstated the need to recite the pledge of allegiance, and France has banned wearing religious symbols
and clothing in schools.
With all the effort to socialize politics into the youths, globalization and the Internet brings views of
democracy to authoritarian governments like China and Iran. Furthermore, may develop their own
attitudes, beliefs and values because youths seldom passive accept what they are told.
Changing value priorities
Post-materialist theory Inglehart suggests that the postmaterialist theory explains how political socialization is affected by the
conditions present when a person is young. When a generation grows up in an affluent world after
World War II, they prioritize the quality of life, and appreciation of more beautiful environment, also
known as postmaterialist values. The generation before and during World War II are more likely to hold
a concern for economic growth, order, and physical security. A survey found that this is consistent even
as the generation ages.
Postmaterialism combined with post-industrial, knowledge-based economy strive for a greater access to
higher education and more effective means of mass communication. Dalton argues that this results in a
new style of citizen politics where there are greater citizen activism, questioning of authority, the
development of new political parties and social movements, the raising of new types of issues, and the
development of more social values. In addition, the attachment between citizens and political parties
In a survey, 56 countries revealed that the majority of the population is a mix of materialist and post-
materialist values and materialists outnumber postmaterialists. However, Canada has the highest amount
Materialists worry about unemployment, economic prosperity, health care, and taxes. Postmaterialists
concern the environment and have added it to the political agenda. The significance of postmaterialism
is that its priorities are prevalent among the educated young generation.
SOME KEY TERMS
Generational effect (142)
Generational Effect is the effect on attitudes and behaviour of the views of different generations that
persist throughout the life cycle.
Life-cycle effect (142)
Life Cycle Effect is the effect of one’s age on one’s attitudes and behaviours. As people grow older,
their attitudes and behaviours may change due to changing circumstances (such as education, marriage,
employment, and retirement) related to age.
New style of citizen politics (148)
New Style of Citizen Politics is a set of changes including greater citizen activism, the questioning of
authority, the development of new political parties and new social movements, the raising of new types
of issues, and the development of more liberal social values.
Political culture (132)
Political Culture is the fundamental political values, beliefs, and orientations that are widely held
within a political community.
Political efficacy (137)
Political Efficacy is the attitude that individuals can have an impact on political decisions and that
government is response to what people want. However, it is known to be quite low in advanced
democracies. Political socialization (145)
Political Socialization is the processes by which the values, attitudes, and beliefs of the political culture
are transmitted to members of the political community.
Post-materialist theory (147)
Post-Materialist Theory is a theory that modern societies are undergoing a fundamental change in
value priorities because generations that grew up in the relative security and affluence of the Western
world since World War II are more likely to give priority to postmaterialist values than to materialist
Post-materialist values (147)
Postmaterialist Values are non-materialist values such as freedom of expression, participation, concern
about the quality of life, and appreciation of a more beautiful environment. CHAPTER 6: UNCONVENTIONAL AND HIGHLY CONFLICTIVE POLITICS:
1. Political protest
What is political protest?
Political Protest can be defined as oppositional political action that takes place outside formal channels,
generally seeking to have government make significant changes in its policies.
The forms of protest
The most moderate forms of political protest are petitions, legally approved demonstrations, and
voluntary boycotts. Non-violent direct actions are a stronger form of political protest and it can include
civil disobedience, illegal demonstrations, or peaceful occupation of a building or place. Then there is
violent protest, sometimes an unintended provoked consequence of a march or boycott. Other times,
premeditated violent protest includes assassinations, guerilla warfare, insurgencies, revolutions, and
Why does protest occur in democracies?
Protest is a means to seek political change when conventional approaches, such as lobbying, have failed.
Those who hold power the elite, will not give it up willingly thus giving rise to disruptive, directly,
highly conflictive waves for people to advance claims on elites. Protests are healthy in democracies
because people can practice their right to protest.
The characteristics of protest:
1. Actions take place outside of formal channels
An expert in going through the regular channels of organization and government can use them to their
own benefit. If it fails, then they can either accept the outcome or find other means outside the formal
channels. This is especially evident in issues that people are passionately involved in, and more so when
the majority is marginalizing the minority although the defeat comes from a democratic process.
2. They are usually carried out by individuals/groups that aren’t usually important
Governments generally accommodate those who have power and resources to shape decisions, leaving
the groups or individuals with scarce resources to make themselves important to government decisions.
Beginning of 1960s, political scientists began to recognize protest as a political resource. Protest disrupts
the government’s routines and demonstrates that a community feels strongly enough about an issue to
take it to the streets. Once a marginalized community, generally invisible to the government has caught
the attention of the media, they can mobilize further resources including politicians, forwarding their
motion. Issues can be marginalized and will only appear after supporters take extraordinary measures. For
example, middle-class protest in support of anti-Vietnam War in 1960s because the issue was
3. Protest politics generally aims to have government make significant changes in the
policies it pursues.
Examples of protests leading to change: women’s rights, making farmers’ voices heard
There are also fishers, Quebec nationalists, Aboriginals, gays and lesbians, and anti-abortion activists.
More on women’s rights: In the late 1800s, women did not have political rights. In the 20 C, political
difference in men and women were virtually non-existent. It took Canadian women 50 years to get
enfranchised in all provinces through lobbying governments and staging mock parliamentary debates
that demonstrate they can argue as persuasively and as rationally as men.
Then there are the farmer’s. In the late 19 and early 20 C, farmers felt they were excluded from power
and wanted to change the system to reflect their needs. Unlike the women’s suffrage, the farmers formed
a political party. Although they were the largest occupational group in the country, they had little
influence because Conservatives and Liberals listened to big businesses. The movement founded