Our ideologies shape the way we perceive the world. People with different ideologies see things quite differently. A person with a pessimistic ideology, for example, might see every person he passes on the street as a potential thief and liar. But someone with an optimistic view of human nature will view those same people on the street as potential friends. This phenomenon occurs in politics as well: Our ideologies shape how we see, hear, and analyze political discourse.
Ideologies also influence our behavior and how we make decisions. In politics, ideology often determines whom we vote for. Generally, conservatives tend to vote for Republican candidates, and liberals tend to vote for Democratic candidates. But our attitudes also help determine whether we will donate money to candidates, go to rallies, and even vote. On a larger, more global scale, ideologies often heavily influence political parties, leaders, and policy. People’s firm belief in their ideologies has led them to cause wars, found countries, ignite revolutions, wage genocide, and create empires. As a result, understanding the various major political ideologies that have shaped much of Western history is fundamental to understanding political science. Likewise, understanding the differences in American political ideologies helps us better understand the American people and government.