How to Understand Different Political Ideologies

Understanding different political ideologies is a case of doing your homework and being open-minded. Being prepared to learn about different political ideologies is a mark of somebody who values people and their beliefs and it sets you well in all walks of life because you are able to better understand just where other people's views and actions are coming from.


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    Know your own political ideology well first. Although this might seem a strange instruction, it is all too easy to accept a political ideology for such reasons as "it's what my parents believed", "my older brother told me it was the only politics for him and that's good enough for me", "all our family believes in this", "my husband votes this way, so I do too", etc. None of these are well-thought out reasons; they're just methods to avoid having to do the research and often, it's about fitting in with "your tribe". So, start by knowing your own political ideology and if you find you don't know much, it's reading time.
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    Find out which political ideologies are relevant in your country. Some countries have a clear dominance between two political ideologies; other countries have variations on the theme. Even within one political ideology, there will be variations of beliefs and tenets among factions, so you will need to be aware of this possibility.
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    Research the history of each political party that is relevant today. History will teach you a great deal about why a party has the beliefs and ideologies that it holds now. This will be an eye-opening experience for you in many cases, and can even lead you to question the continued allegiance to some aspects of an ideology. The past tells us much. In addition to this research, it is important to research the history of political thought. There are short-cut books on this available in bookstores and libraries, or you can do lengthier research by reading about the individuals in biographies, etc. It's up to you as to how far back you go but it is fairly standard to be knowledgeable about one or two Ancient theorists and then to start again around the Enlightenment period.
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    Research the current political parties. No matter what your own beliefs, do the reading for each party. In this way you'll be extremely well informed on their motivations and ideological underpinnings:
    • Look at their websites – this is the best starting point nowadays. Read their political manifestos, read their policies, read their goals.
    • Take time to go through the biographies of individual politicians – you will learn a lot by doing this, including what motivates each politician from a personal and professional perspective.
    • Follow any links that they provide to other sites and information. Clearly these influence their thinking, so the additional exploration is worth it.
    • Read up on the founders of the party. Again, this historical aspect can teach you much about where things started and whether they're still headed that way. The library can be a good source of older information, or try political party archives if they are open to the public.
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    Send away for additional information. Write a letter to your local representative, asking for information about the politics of his or her party. Do this for each representative in your area, regardless of their party.
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    Do your own polling research. Ask questions of friends, family, and colleagues you know are politically active and switched on. Ask them about what motivates their political beliefs and what they understand to be the political ideology driving their chosen party. This is the point where things tend to get really messy but it's also the most interesting because you will be able to see what people have interpreted the current political ideologies to mean.
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    Analyze your research. This is the point at which you draw your own conclusions. No one person will ever be able to draw a single, accurate conclusion because politics sits squarely in the realm of subjectivity. Nevertheless, an informed conclusion is a valuable one and with all your research behind you to back you up, you'll be able to justify your conclusions as to current political ideologies with facts, historical foundations, knowledge about politician's backgrounds, and analysis of what you have seen and heard happening around you.


  • Don't be surprised if your research uncovers numerous inconsistencies and overlaps in ideologies both within and between parties. Politics is a disparate and overly complicated practice that tends to repeat itself and is, after all, simply a grand expression of personal beliefs and desires aimed to motivate the group to agree and follow those who are most persuasive.

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Categories: Political Campaigning and Participation