The way people feel about and perceive the social and political environment creates the dynamic of a political climate. The organic nature of political climate means that at any time public sentiment can impose a change in what’s valued by society. Variables that can work independently or in concert include the actions of political decision-makers, societal events and social change movements. Interpretation of political climate is subjective but as a whole, can create a mechanism for governmental action and new social constructs.
Public opinion helps to define a political climate, especially in a democratic society. Politicians often base decision-making and legislative strategy on the feelings and thoughts of their constituents. They will even use surveys to gather information about what will influence election results. The media is a common vehicle for public opinion. For example, a demonstration about a political issue may be televised and consequently impact public perception. In turn, a groundswell of support may spark the development of new laws or action by a governmental official.
Political climate is often shaped by the organizational operating structure. Decision-making by leaders about specific issues sets the tone for what is valued. Popular political leaders wield more power and usually have more support to get things done. Similarly, the financial health of government influences the political climate. For example, in a time of serious budgetary constraints, approval to spend money on new initiatives is likely to be more challenging. Understanding the way an organization operates sheds insight on leaders who may be allies on a particular issue or obstacles to making organizational change.
Societal events tell the story of a political climate. The way people behave indicates their feelings, mood or comfort-level in an organization or community. For example, if a same-sex couple feels comfortable being open about their relationship, the political climate might be considered liberal or open. The media helps to shape the climate, simply by sharing stories about social change or community issues. The news about public reaction to a political issue makes a statement about societal environment and can influence the feelings and thoughts of those who are uninvolved.
Social Change Movement
Social change initiatives may serve as a barometer of political climate or even shape it. Public sentiment about an issue can be a deciding factor in the importance of the issue. For example, a topic that goes viral on the Internet or results in a massive demonstration may result in attention from local, state or even national politicians. A group invested in a particular issue needs public support to make broad-based change. The change itself may swing political climate by instilling new public expectations or garnering mass support.
- Image Source/Digital Vision/Getty Images