Why It Matters

Explain the relationship between political culture, public opinion, and citizen participation in politics

Photo of a sign that reads, "Polling Station." A view of blue sky and clouds in the background


What are the core beliefs that drive American political behavior? Equality? Democracy? Individualism? No doubt these are important, but do these commitments explain all that we see in American political history, or what we hear in our contemporary political debates? What other attitudes or beliefs do we need to add that might be said to make up the “American creed”?

As you work through this module you will think about the ideas, attitudes, and beliefs that make Americans tick. That is, you will consider the enduring and evolving tendencies of American political culture.

You will also consider public opinion as it relates to specific issues and events. Furthermore, we will investigate the relationship between public attitudes and preferences and public policy. Understand that this is a very important relationship if we believe in democracy.

You will also consider a problematic fact of life for committed democrats: We the People are not particularly well informed about political issues or history. Can democracy work in such a context? Then again, are the preferences of elite decision-makers any better?

There’s a lot to think about as you work through this module focused on political culture and public opinion.