The Center Cannot Hold

AP US Government and Politics

How much ideological overlap is there between U.S. House Democrats and Republicans?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What political ideology is most associated with each of the parties?

  3. What is one trend you see in the data?

  4. What are two causes of this trend?

  5. What is one consequence of this trend?

  6. Is this good news for the average American?

  7. What question do you have about this chart?

  8. In 2012 there were only 11 members of the House of Representatives who had overlapping ideology. What part of the country or type of district do you think these crossover House members are from?

  9. How does ideological overlap in the U.S. Senate compare to the overlap in the U.S. House?

  10. How does ideological overlap in the U.S. Congress compare to the overlap in the U.S. population?

  11. Explain how the trend from the chart above affects the ability of the president to govern.

  12. Imagine that the Supreme Court declares gerrymandering unconstitutional and forces state legislatures to appoint independent panels to redraw all districts without gerrymandering. Explain how the data in the chart would change in the next ungerrymandered congress?

  13. Gerrymandering was named after Elbridge Gerry. Four decades from now, when political scientists use the term Trumping what will it mean? Submit your answer in the comments section below!

  14. How will the Trump administration impact the level of polarization in the future?

  15. If you extrapolate from the data, how many crossover votes do you imagine there will be in 2020?

  16. In the comments section, explain the connection between the data and the fact that less than 10% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing:

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I approve of the job Congress is doing.

Visual Extension*

Learning Extension

Read this Pew Research Center report on political polarization. Or watch this BBC video about polarization.

Action Extension

Take the Pew Political Typology Quiz and then compare your results to your Congressional Representative's ideology scorecard.

Our World In Data Extension

Animals in Clothes Extension

Polarization Nation

AP US Government & Politics

How often do House members from the president's party vote with the president?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What is the big story this chart tells?

  3. What is one reason for party polarization in the House?

  4. What is one consequence of party polarization in the House?

  5. In 1958, a House Democrat was just about as likely as not to vote with Republican President Eisenhower. Why has party loyalty in House voting changed over the past 6 decades?

  6. Overall, is this hyper-party polarization good or bad news?

  7. How different do you think these numbers are in the Senate?

  8. If the trends depicted in this chart continue, how often will party members vote against their president by the year 2020?

  9. If you were a Republican House member from Arkansas, what incentives would influence you to vote with the president's party.

  10. What is the overall effect of this hyper-party loyalty on the American political system?

  11. What would be one change that we could make to the US electoral system that would lower political partisanship in the House?

  12. Can you think of any bill where your own House Representative crossed party lines and voted against their party?

  13. Do you believe that Prince wrote a song called Political Party Polarization Like it's 1999 or is that fake news?

  14. Party polarization sounds sort of like winterizing your political party. Do you agree?

  15. how could Trump's (or any president’s) approval ratings affect party loyalty in the House?

  16. Would the chart above make James “Ambition must be made to counteract ambition” Madison, author of Federalist No. 51 happy?

Learning Extension

Read this fantabulous 538 analysis of party polarization.

Action Extension

Research your Senator or House member and find out how often they vote with the president. Are they with the president

100-80% Trumpier than Trump

79-60% Super-TrumpY

59-40% Trump Friendly

39-20% Anti-Trump

19-00% Trump-Hater

Contact your House Member and ask them how many times they have crossed party lines in a House vote, and under what circumstances they would cross party lines in the future. Share their response with class or online.

Our World In Data Extension

Border War

President Trump claims there is a crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. How do this year’s number of border patrol apprehensions on the southwest US border compare to apprehensions over the past 30 years?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How accurate is Trump’s immigration crisis claim?

  3. What story does the data tell?

  4. Since the year 2000 what trend do you see in the data?

  5. Why do you think that is?

  6. What is one consequence of that trend?

  7. In general, explain whether the data from the chart is good news or bad.

  8. Given the fact that migration is actually decreasing, why do you think there has been such a sense of crisis and such a strong push from Trump and his base of supporters to build a border wall?

  9. Based on the data, would you describe this moment in time as an immigration crisis?

  10. Given the fact that more people are in the U.S. illegally by overstaying their visa than by crossing the Southern border, and that most of those people entered the U.S. through airports, do you believe we should build walls around all major U.S. airports?

  11. In what way is the “border crisis” related to the government shutdown?

  12. Make a list of the three biggest crises facing the US and your best solution to each crisis:

  13. Considering your list, would you consider it worthwhile shutting down the government to force your solution to that crisis?

  14. In what way could the following people end the government shutdown:

  • President

  • House

  • Senate

  • You

Learning Extension

Read the hottest new issue of the Pew Research Center’s new teen style magazine that Everybody’s talking about!

Action Extension

Contact your lawmaker and let them know what you think about the government shutdown and funding for the wall? You may phone the U.S. Capitol Switchboard at (202) 224-3121. A switchboard operator will connect you directly with the Senate or House office you request. Or you can find email contact information for the U.S. House of Representatives here or the U.S. Senate here. Or you may phone the White House and leave a contact at 202-456-1111 or contact them online here.

Visual Extension

Number of unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. declined over the past decade
Table showing that the estimated unauthorized immigrant total declines or holds steady from most regions.

Separated at Birth Extension

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Got a favorite separated at birth politician? Fill in the form below and let us know all about it!


Self Imposed Term Limits

US Government and Politics

How many U.S. representatives are not seeking re-election in 2018?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How normal is this?

  3. Why do you think this high level of retirements from the U.S. House is happening now?

  4. How does the current number of Republicans not running for re-election compare to the number of Democrats not running for reelection?

  5. What is one explanation for this party difference?

  6. Identify one trend from the past quarter century in the portion of incumbents running for reelection.

  7. There are 435 members of the US House of Representatives. Most of the time, a vast majority of them run for reelection. What is one aspect of the US political election system that accounts for this high rate of incumbents running for re-election? A vast majority of the incumbents who run for re-election, win re-election. Why do you think that is?

  8. What is one reason that the number of incumbents not running for reelection is so much higher than usual this year?

  9. When Speaker of the House, Paul D. Ryan recently announced he was not running for re-election he said that he was retiring for family reasons. When incumbents decide not to run what is the number one reason they give for their decision?*

  10. What is the typical number of terms a house Representative serves?*

  11. Explain whether the high rate of incumbent reelection is proof that democracy is functioning well.

  12. Explain whether the normally high rate of incumbents running for re-election is positive or negative:


Visual Extension*

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Leaning Extension

Read the Pew Research Center report on incumbents running for reelection.

Action Extension

Research your U.S. House representative. Find out how long they have been in the House. Contact your representative and explain to them whether you think they should continue to run for office. Share their response in class or online.

Congress Do Little

AP US Government and Politics

How many laws were made under the 113th Congress (2013-2014)?

*as of March 29th, 2016, the 114th Congress had passed 139 laws

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What is the big story this chart tells?

  3. What is one explanation for this trend?

  4. What is one consequence of this trend?

  5. Is this trend good news or bad news?

  6. If this trend continues, how many laws will be made by the end of the 1114th Congress?

  7. Congressional incumbents are reelected at almost a 90% rate. Does that mean that the average American does not want Congress to make laws?

  8. What would the Framers of the Constitution think about this trend?

  9. **The presidents shown in red are Republican, the blue are Democrats. Presidents have to sign any bill passed by Congress. How much responsibility do presidents have for the trend in the number of laws passed?

  10. In the comments section, explain whether you think Congress should make more or less laws:

Learning Extension

**Check out the chart below:

Action Extension

Contact your Congressional representative with your explanation of whether they should make more or less laws:

Animal Rights to Bear Arms Extension

AP US Government and Politics