The ________ Branches of Government

AP Government and Politics

What portion of Americans can correctly identify the three branches of government?

  1. How wildly inaccurate was your prediction?

  2. How sad is that information, tho?

  3. If you knew a person who could not name the three branches of government would you let them still be your friend? And what would you think of them?

  4. 1/3 of all the Americans surveyed could not name a single branch. WHAT THE WHAT?

  5. Can you name all three branches?

  6. Can you name all four? (j/k)

  7. What is the big story this data tells?

  8. If you had to list the top causes that explain the results of this survey what would you list as the top three:

  9. What is one consequence of this level of knowledge of the U.S. Government?

  10. If the average Democrat and Republican were shown the information above and asked to comment on it, how different would their responses be?

  11. Is this information good news for Donald Trump or bad news?

  12. Is there any connection between this information and the 2016 election? Share your answer to this question in the comments section below!

  13. Hey, smarty pants. Why do we have three branches of government anyway?

  14. In Federalist No. 51 (1788), James Madison explains and defends the checks and balances system in the Constitution. Each branch of government is framed so that its power checks the power of the other two branches; additionally, each branch of government is dependent on the people, who are the source of legitimate authority. In Fed. 51, Madison calls the people, “the fountain of authority.” If the vast majority of the people can’t even name the three branches of government should they still be the fountain of authority?

  15. Do you imagine that Americans were any better at naming the three branches back in the 18th century when George Washington was president?

  16. Is it actually important to know the kind of information that you could look up on any smart phone in about 5 seconds?

  17. How different do you think the results of this survey will be in 20 years?

  18. Who do you think would do better at identifying the three branches of government, Justin Bieber (Canadian), the actor who plays Draco Malfoy (Tom Felton) in the Harry Potter Movies (English), PewDiePie (Swedish), or the average 10th grader (American) at your school? Explain your answer.

  19. Why do you think that 1% of the people who took this survey “refused” to answer? were they insulted by how easy the survey was? What does “refused” even mean?

  20. Are you depressed about this? I am. Let's talk. Tell me how you feel:

  21. What are some other important facts about our government that you imagine would also be unknown to many Americans?

  22. Any foreign born American who wants to become a citizen will have to pass a citizenship test where they will have to know the answer to this kind of question. Do you think that this kind of questions should be required for citizenship?

  23. Claim: in order to vote any American citizen should have to prove that they can name the three branches of government and answer other important questions about the U.S. Government. Respond to this claim.

  24. List one consequence of requiring a citizenship style test before people are allowed to vote.

  25. Congratulations, you get to title the chart above. What would you name it?

  26. Which of the charts below* is the most depressing?

  27. What percent of statistics are made up on the spot?**


Learning Extension

Read the Annenberg Public Policy report on this survey and weep.

Action Extension (do one of the following)

1-Take a mini-practice citizenship test online and share your results in class or online.

2-Ask ten people to name the three branches of government and share your results in class or online.

* Bonus Smarts Charts

Screen Shot 2017-09-12 at 1.43.23 PM.png
Okay, Mr. 3% who can name Freedom to petition! Happy now?

Okay, Mr. 3% who can name Freedom to petition! Happy now?




Ideology by State

AP Government and Politics

What Ideology is your state?

*If you need a definition of liberal or conservative look no further than right here.

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. In what way did the map characterize your state incorrectly?

  3. What most surprised you about this map?

  4. What least surprised you about this map?

  5. What geographical trends do you see in the map?

  6. Some states are very conservative (Alabama) while others are very liberal (Massachusetts). Why do you think that is?

  7. Because Alabama and Massachusetts are very different, what different policies do you think those states have made?

  8. How closely did state ideology correspond to the outcome of the 2016 presidential election?

  9. Overall, would you say that the US is more liberal, conservative, or just plain average? In the comments section, support your contention with one example or reason:

  10. At one point, North Carolina (the best state ever), Virginia (not), and Kansas were reliably conservative states. What do you think has happened to make them more liberal?

  11. One thing that is certain is change. How different do you think this map will look in 20 years?

  12. What state do you think would most like Honey Boo Boo?

  13. In the comments section, explain what would be best and what would be worst about moving to a state that is diametrically ideologically different from your personal beliefs.

  14. Of all the states, which do you think is the most liberal and the most conservative?*

Learning Extension

Check out this article on Gallup's top ten most conservative and liberal states, along with rankings below*:

Action Extension

Research the political party of the US Senators and US House members from your state. Contact any politicians from your state who are out of line with your state's ideology (as shown in the map above) and advise them on how they should vote on one particular issue that would more closely align them with their state's ideology. You can locate your Representative:

U.S. House of Representatives:

U.S. Senate:

Ideology by Congressional District

Hey, that's Keyboard Cat!

Build a Candidate

AP US Government and Politics

According to polls, which of the following traits would be the biggest liability for a US presidential candidate: past marijuana use, being gay or lesbian, Mormon, Muslim, or atheist?

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How surprising was the information in the chart?

  3. How will this information be different for the 2028 election?

  4. Explain whether this information is good news.

  5. Consider all the traits in the chart and evaluate whether each trait would make your vote for a candidate more likely, less likely, or wouldn't matter:

  6. How different was your evaluation of presidential traits from that of the average American's?

  7. What questions do you have about the chart?

  8. The 2016 election was certainly a surprise for a lot of people. How much did the outcome of the 2016 election deviate from what your would expect based on the data in the chart?

  9. How much do you think that the election of Donald Trump (outsider, non-religious, had financial troubles, had affairs, etc.) will impact  the type of future Democratic or Republican candidates who run for office?

  10. List two generalizations you can make about American presidential trait preferences from the information in the chart:

  11. Do you think that the fact that presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg is a homosexual will hurt his chances to be president more than the fact that he is only 37?

  12. In the comments section, using the information from the chart, create an extremely unelectable presidential candidate:

Visual Extension


Action Extension

Do one of the following:

  1. Contact the Democratic National Party or the Republican National Party and give them five pieces of advice on nominating a presidential candidate based on the information in the chart:

  2. Write a letter to the American people telling them what they are wrong about regarding their desired traits for presidential candidates. Post it on social media or send it to your local newspaper (if you still have one).

  3. Make a poster or flyer or video advertisement for the unelectable presidential candidate you created in question 9 above.

Learning Extension

Read the entire Pew report on presidential candidate traits.

Our World In Data Extension


Our Animals in Drag Extension



In the continental US, what's the farthest you can be from a McDonald's?

Answer: 107 miles. Between the tiny Dakotan hamlets of Meadow and Glad Valley lies the McFarthest Spot: 107 miles distant from the nearest McDonald's, as the crow flies.

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What is the big story this map tells?

  3. Is the fact that there are so many McDonald's good news or bad news?

  4. Explain why, in the US, you can never be more that 100 miles from a Micky D's?

  5. What is the consequence of the ubiquity of McDonald's?

  6. McDonald's is a potent symbol of globalization. Can you think of any better known or more global symbol than McDonald's?

  7. What would this map have looked like in 1950, and what do you think it will look like in 2040?

  8. Is there anything more American than McDonald's?

  9. Is there any US restaurant/store there are more of than McDonald's?

  10. In the comments section below, advise the residents of Meadow, North Dakota whether a McDonald's would be good for their hamlet.

Action Extension

Look at a Google Maps of your community and type in McDonald's. How far could you drive around before you ran into the nearest McDonald's? Without speeding or breaking any laws, see how many McDonald's you can drive to in 30 minutes. 

Learning Extension

Watch 7 minutes of Super Size Me.

No Vacation Nation

AP US Government and Politics

How many paid holidays and vacation days does the U.S. government mandate by law?


AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What was most surprising about this information?

  3. What is the big story this chart tells?

  4. Why do you think the US has such a low level of vacation time compared to all other wealthy nations?

  5. What is one consequence of not having any mandated paid vacation time?

  6. Overall, is this good or bad news?

  7. What about U.S. history or the U.S. political system help explain why we are so different in terms of time off from the rest of the wealthy world?

  8. If workers get paid time off, who pays for it?

  9. Do you consider countries like Norway, Germany, or Sweden, all which get over 25 paid days off a year, to be lazy or economically weak countries?

  10. What questions do you have about this chart and information?

  11. Describe the different ways liberals and  conservatives might react to this chart:

  12. In the comments section, Based on paid vacation time, explain which country from this list would you most like to live in:

Learning Extension

You can read the entire report on our non-vacation nation from the Center for Economic and Policy Research

Action Extension

Contact your congressional representative and let them know what you think about the fact that the U.S. is the only economically advanced nation that gets 0 paid vacation time.

Bonus Chart For Absolutely No Good Reason

AP US Government and Politics