Unpopular Sovereignty

How many times in American history did the person who lost the popular vote get elected president?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does the chart tell?

  3. What person who won the presidency lost the popular vote by the largest margin?

  4. What president won the popular vote by the largest margin?

  5. Does the person who lost the popular vote but won the presidency usually win reelection?

  6. Democracy means rule by the people. By the people, we mean the majority (most) or plurality (more) of the people. If one out of nine presidents are elected without wining the majority or plurality of the popular vote what does that tell us about American democracy?

  7. Explain how the popular vote loser can be the winner in American presidential campaigns?

  8. Explain whether U.S. congressional elections are more or less democratic than U.S. presidential elections.

  9. Describe one consequence of the fact that one of nine American presidents lost the popular vote?

  10. Imagine you played a pick-up basketball game and at the end of the game the team with the most points ended up losing. (Would you keep playing?) Explain how unpopular sovereignty (the loser winning) impacts voter turnout.

  11. The Framers of our nation did not once use the word democracy in the Constitution. They also built the electoral system that produces unpopular sovereigns (presidents who lost). What do you imagine the framers would think about the results of the 2016 election?

  12. Explain the impact of losing the popular vote but winning the presidency on the legitimacy and the rule of that president?

  13. Describe how losing the popular vote has impacted the Trump presidency.

  14. Based on the chart and your knowledge of American politics, do you anticipate that Donald Trump will win reelection (either with a majority or not)?

  15. How will the fact that the popular vote loser can win the presidency impact the 2020 presidential campaign?

  16. Explain whether you believe the United States should create a system to ensure that the winner of the popular vote wins the presidency.

Visual Extension

Learning Extension

Read about The National Popular Vote Plan, a voting method that would insure that the winner of the popular vote was always elected president.

Action Extension

Contact your state legislators to share your thoughts about the The National Popular Vote Plan.

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GoPo Pro

What percent of Americans would be willing to vote for a woman for president?

  1. What story does this chart tell?

  2. Identify one trend from the chart.

  3. Explain one reason for this trend.

  4. What is one consequence of the trend?

  5. How many times has one of the two major American political parties run a woman for president?

  6. Make a claim about how likely a woman (this could be a general claim or a focused claim about a specific candidate) is to win the presidency in the 2020 election.

  7. Explain whether this chart is good or bad news.

  8. If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be a woman, would you vote for that person?

  9. Describe how you think party affiliation, gender, and age would impact how voters would respond to this question.

  10. If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be a man, would you vote for that person?

  11. Six percent of American voters automatically disqualify any female presidential candidates. What percent of Americans do you believe would automatically disqualify a male presidential candidate?

  12. Given the data in the chart, a male presidential candidate would be starting off with a six point head start over any female candidate. Explain whether tha alone is reason enough for a political party to automatically reject any female candidate.

  13. Given the fact that according to many polls Elizabeth Warren is now in first or second place among Democratic presidential candidates, and given the data from the poll above, make a claim about whether the Democratic Party should try to stop Warren (a female) from being their presidential nominee?

  14. How much do you think the sex of the Democratic presidential nominee impacted the 2016 presidential election?

  15. How much do you think the sex of the Democratic presidential nominee will impact the 2020 presidential election?

  16. How do you think the sex of the Democratic presidential candidate will impact the strategy of the Trump reelection campaign?

  17. If you think a woman could ever win the American presidency, in what year do you predict that will first happen?

  18. Explain why we have had an African-American (or more accurately, a mixed-race) president and not a female president.

  19. Explain what it is about the ideological and demographic makeup of the Republican and Democratic parties which explains why the Republicans have never nominated a female for president, while the 2016 Democratic Presidential nominee was a woman, and two of their leading 2020 Presidential candidates are females.

  20. What does the Declaration of Independence say about equality?

  21. What does the U.S. Constitution say about women running for office or voting?

  22. Amendment XIX gave all American women the right to vote on August 18, 1920. That was less than 100 years ago. Do you think it is surprising that a woman would has not won the presidency since this Amendment is less than a century old?

Visual Extension


Gallup report on how demographics like religion, race, and gender affect a candidate’s electability.


Learning Extension

Read this great Vox story: Women candidates are constantly asked about their electability. Here are 5 reasons that’s misguided.

Action Extension

In a quartet, trio, or pair enter into a respectful discussion about why a woman has never been president and whether a woman ever will win the U.S. presidency. Before you share your opinion, listen both carefully and actively to your partners as they share their opinions. Repeat a summary of their comments back to them when they are done. Share the results of your conversation in class tomorrow.

Census So White

What ethnic group is most concerned that the answers they provide to the 2020 Census will be used against them?

  1. How wrong was your assumption?

  2. How surprised are you by this information?

  3. What story does this data tell?

  4. How accurately does this data reflect your own story?

  5. The U.S. census counts every resident in the United States. It is mandated by Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution and takes place every 10 years. Describe precisely (feel free to quote it) who the U.S. constitution says should be counted:

  6. more than $800 billion in annual federal funds are allocated based in part on Census population data. That’s a lot of money! What else is the Census data used for anyway?

  7. The Census question many Americans are worried about asks, "Is this person a citizen of the United States?" Why would this question worry anyone?

  8. Of all ethnic and racial groups, Explain why Asians are the most concerned and Whites the least concerned about census data being used against them.

  9. The Census Bureau expects that 630,000 households may not complete the 2020 Census because of a potential question asking about respondents' citizenship question. Why would the CENSUS BUREAU INTENTIONALLY ask a question they know will SKEW the results of the SURVEY data?

  10. What U.S. Government department is the Census Bureau part of?

  11. One expert predicts that as many as 24 million people would not be counted as a result of adding this citizenship question. HOw could thE undercount of the actual population impact things like public health and education?

  12. Federal law strictly prohibits the Census Bureau from sharing information with organizations like ICE, the FBI, or Border Patrol. Obviously, this is not comforting enough to the many people who are deciding not to answer the census. Why do you think they feel this fear of the Census AND THE GOVERNMENT?

  13. The Trump administration is locked in a legal battle with dozens of states, cities and other groups that do not want the question to appear on forms for the constitutionally mandated head count of every person living in the U.S. Why would so many states and cities be opposed to this question?

  14. Has the census ever asked about citizenship status before*?

  15. How will the census citizenship question affect you?

  16. Do you know anyone who has concerns about filling out the census?

  17. Here is a claim: The census is supposed to count everyone who is here, and this question will make AN ACCURATE count unlikely. Respond to THE VALIDITY OF THAt claim using your knowledge of the US political system.

  18. Who decides whether the use of a citizenship question on the census is constitutional?

  19. If you were the president (you’re not), explain whether you would include the citizenship question on the Census?

  20. Based on the map below*, do you think the census will impact red and blue stats equally?

Visual Extension*


Learning Extension

Look at this online copy of the new census.

Action Extension

Tweet the Census Bureau at @uscensusbureau and let them know what you think about the citizenship question.

Our World In Data Extension

National Emergency

AP US Government and Politics

What portion of Americans approve of Donald J. Trump’s decision to declare a national emergency to build a wall?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Describe public opinion of the Trump Emergency Declaration?

  3. How do you think public opinion on the emergency declaration varies by party affiliation?*

  4. Why do you think the public feels that way about Trump’s national emergency Declaration funding a border wall?

  5. Who does the U.S. Constitution empower to fund things such as interstate highways, n.A.S.A., and border walls?

  6. Does Article II, Section 2 of the Constitution give the president the power to go against the Congress’ wishes and fund a border wall?

  7. President Trump’s power to declare a national emergency and build a wall comes from 33 U.S. Code § 2293 - Reprogramming during national emergencies and 10 U.S. Code § 2808 - Construction authority in the event of a declaration of war or national emergency. Based on your reading of these two short section of the U.S. Code, does Trump’s declaration of an emergency fall within the meaning of that code?

  8. You just made a claim about Trump’s power to declare a national emergency. What institution gets to make a claim about this which carries the rule of law?

  9. There are a number of things Congress could do to stop Trump. What is the most likely thing the Senate and House could do about Trump‘s declaration of a national emergency?

  10. The power of the purse (funding) is a Congressional power laid out in Article I, Section 8 of the U.S. COnstitution. The Congress has repeatedly refused to fund a wall. By declaring a national emergency and funding a border wall, president Trump is taking away the funding from congress and giving it to himself. What does this action do to checks and balances?

  11. According to James Madison in Federalist No. 51, Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. Whose ambition is currently counteracting trump’s ambition?

  12. List the top three national emergencies that America faces:

  13. If you had to rank the border, in terms of national emergencies, how high would it rank?

  14. When Americans are asked to name the top national emergencies how high does the border wall rank?*

  15. Explain whether there is a connection between Trump taking such unpopular positions as declaring the border an emergency and his low public approval ratings?

  16. clearly, the president is taking a highly unpopular action. In your opinion, Explain whether this means that Trump is a strong or a weak leader.

  17. explain whether taking such a highly unpopular position makes Trump more of a trustee, delegate, or Politico.

  18. During two years of a Republican controlled Congress, POTUS Trump was not able to convince the legislature to fund his wall, Nor was he able to convince the public of the importance of the wall. Why do you think that is?

  19. President Trump is very good at convincing people of things they already believe in. He has been less successful at convincing people who don’t already agree with him. Explain whether successful presidents (or politicians) are able to convince people to change their minds. Support your argument with examples from american political history.

  20. The House and Senate have rejected the president’s requests for spending for the wall. Many Senators from his own party have publicaly opposed his national emergency declaration. Explain whether you believe the Congress will stop him?

  21. There are already a number of legal challenges to the national emergency Declaration (hear the list below). Where will these challenges ultimately end up and how do you think the SCOTUS will rule on this issue?

VISUAL Extension*


Action Extension

Contact your member of Congress and let them know what you think about Trump’s Declaration.

Our World In Data Extension

Job Opportunity

What political office is the best stepping stone to the Presidency?

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  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about the data?

  3. Which branch of government - executive, legislative, or judicial - is most likely to lead to the presidency?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. Of the offices listed in the chart above, which ones have been occupied by the current president?

  6. One Supreme Court Justice has run for president. Who was it and why do you think that happens so infrequently?

  7. According to Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, To qualify for office, Presidents must be 35, a natural born Citizen, and been a U.S. resident for fourteen Years. Do you like these qualifications or would you like them changed in some way?

  8. Besides the constitutional requirements, what are some other general qualifications or background expectations we have for presidents?

  9. Very few outsiders (people who have never held public office) have become president. Why do you think this is?

  10. What is one consequence of this?

  11. By far, the majority of presidents held public office before becoming president. Explain whether you think that is good or bad.

  12. Based on the chart above and your knowledge of American politics, explain which current Democratic presidential contender you think is most likely to win.

  13. More governors have become president than any of the other offices listed in the chart above. Why do you think that is?

  14. Most presidents who run for reelection win. Why do you think that is?

  15. Explain whether Trump will be reelected president.

  16. The three Presidents who are generally regarded as the best ever are Washington, Lincoln, and Franklin .D. Roosevelt. What offices did they hold before the presidency?

  17. What trend do you see in the following list of the offices held by the most recent presidents?

Nixon Governor

Ford House of Representatives/unelected VP

Carter  Governor

Reagan Governor

Bush Sr. Senator/Vice-President

Clinton Governor

Bush Jr Governor

Obama Senator

Trump Businessperson and Reality TV star

Learning Extension

Read the FiveThirtyEight piece: Which Offices Are Good Stepping Stones To The Presidency?

Action Extension

Explain who you think is going to be the next president, in class or online.

Our World in Data Extension

Political Valentine’s Day Extension