Developing Your Political Ideology
Why and How
September 28, 2018
At this time, you are in the ripe age of adolescence and on the cusp of adulthood. You are discovering yourself, forming your stances, your morals, and ultimately how you perceive life. This exploration of self and demolishment of role confusion is of absolute pertinence in this day and age: As a trailblazer of the future, it is imperative to develop your political ideology.
Now, what exactly qualifies “political ideology”? On a plethora of political issues, it is what you deem morally and logically correct. These decisions may be scattered over the spectrum, as your values can fit into different categories. Thus, you may not fit into a specific part of this spectrum, and that’s completely okay―you’re allowed to have opinions that lie on both sides of it! Since every individual is shaped by their life experiences and circumstances, we all have differing stances.
But, how do we develop these stances?
- Consider everything. Start this process as a blank slate. While the family is the usually largest influence on one’s political ideology, it is most beneficial not to assume their ideology when beginning to form your own. You are not your parents, nor their beliefs.
- Take a quiz. This will give you a broad idea of how you perceive different political issues and will also expose you to new topics. The Pew Research Center’s Political Typology Quiz gives an idea of where you lie on the spectrum, and ISideWith is a good option for learning which politicians share the same values as you. Keep in mind that these are just quizzes, though. I’ve gotten variable results over multiple quizzes.
- Read, read, read. It’s by far the easiest way to keep up with the worldwide scoop. If you have an iPhone, Apple News is a wonderful option that allows you to customize which news sources and stories you would like on your timeline. If you want to keep it old school, reading from a physical newspaper is also perfectly acceptable. The beauty in having a news app on your phone, however, is that many create morning updates that align perfectly with the morning phone scroll that everyone does―instead of checking social media, brief yourself on current events! Be sure to read information from multiple sources: Every newspaper channels a specific audience, so the stories are skewed to align with said audience’s beliefs. This can remove the verity within reporting, but, over time you’ll learn which news sources you prefer and which to avoid.
- Watch a variety of news shows. Last year, my AP U.S. Government and Politics teacher had us watch political commentators from all parts of the spectrum. This provided a clearer image of each party and its values. Highly recommend if you have road rage or like to scream at the TV during sports games―yelling at commentators is just as fun.
- Talk to people! Converse with everyone: your teachers, your parents, your friends, even if they don’t have similar values. Some of the most thought-provoking discussions I’ve had are with people who don’t share the same political beliefs as me. It opens the floor to dissenting opinions that expand your breadth of knowledge, and it allows you to empathize with them. In a world filled with party polarization, understanding from where the other side is coming is imperative to future affairs.
Politics is one vast sea with new species unveiled every day. Due to this, it’s nearly impossible to have well-thought opinions on every issue at hand, but it is feasible to garner a sense of where you stand in controversy.
And with each stance comes the presumed “right” and “wrong”―which, in truth, is erroneous. There is no correct political belief or party: To each their own. In fact, you don’t need party association. It isn’t crucial unless you live in a state, such as Florida, with closed primaries and wish to partake in those. That is only major perk, to vote in the primary election of your respective party, so it is something to consider. If you register as Independent or another third party, you cannot vote in a closed primary election, which is one of the downfalls of not associating within a party.
So, if you find that an abundance of your beliefs align with a certain party, associate with them! Many Independents are secretly major party identifiers with commitment issues, but many of them do not realize that selecting a party is not a liability: Personal declaration is all it takes to associate and you can easily change parties if you wish.
Remember that you are not better than anyone else because of your ideology. Just because you happen to have opinions does not make you superior. Instead realize that, now, you are a better voter and a more educated civilian. Knowledge is power, and acting on this knowledge will impact the political climate.