States of Execution

AP US GOVernment and Politics

What state has had the most executions since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976?*

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Describe one geographical pattern you see in this map?

  3. What do you think explains that pattern?

  4. What portion of Americans favor the death penalty?

  5. Why do you think that is the case?

  6. How do you think public opinion on the death penalty varies by political party? (see below)

  7. How do you think public opinion on the death penalty varies by Age, race, and gender? (see below)

  8. Do you personally favor the death penalty ?

  9. What trend do you see in the number of executions in the US?

  10. What is one explanation for that trend?

  11. Based on public opinion and the trend in the total number of executions, would you say that the number of executions is based on public opinion on this issue?

  12. Was the death penalty a big issue in the 2016 presidential election?

  13. In Furman v. Georgia in 1972 the supreme court ruled that capital punishment was unconstitutional. Upon what portion of the U.S. Constitution did they base their ruling?

  14. In 1976, in Gregg V. Georgia the Supreme court overturned the precedent set in Furman v. Georgia and ruled the death penalty constitutional, in certain cases. Is the Supreme Court allowed to overturn their own precedent?

  15. If you were opposed to the Gregg V. Georgia decision and wanted to outlaw the death penalty, what legal and constitutional steps could you take to make this happen?

  16. Based on all the data from the chart above, do you imagine the death penalty will be legal in 2020?

  17. How does the use of capital punishment in the U.S. Compare to other countries? (see Below)

  18. What is most surprising about any of this information?

* In Furman v. Georgia, the U.S. Supreme Court rules by a vote of 5-4 that capital punishment, as it is currently employed on the state and federal level, is unconstitutional. The majority held that, in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution, the death penalty qualified as “cruel and unusual punishment,” primarily because states employed execution in “arbitrary and capricious ways,” especially in regard to race. It was the first time that the nation’s highest court had ruled against capital punishment. However, because the Supreme Court suggested new legislation that could make death sentences constitutional again, such as the development of standardized guidelines for juries that decide sentences, it was not an outright victory for opponents of the death penalty.

In 1976, with 66 percent of Americans still supporting capital punishment, the Supreme Court acknowledged progress made in jury guidelines and reinstated the death penalty under a “model of guided discretion.”


Learning extension

Read this article in The Economist about the death penalty in the US.


Action Extension

Poll 10 people about whether they favor or oppose the death penalty. Compare your data with general US data from the chart below and explain your opinion of these results in class or online.


Bonus Visuals*

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals In Clothes Extension

Prayer in School

AP US Government and Politics

In 1962, with its ruling in Engel v. Vitale, the US Supreme Court banned school sponsored prayer in public schools. Today, what portion of Americans approve of this ruling?

Critical Questions

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What surprised you about this data?

  3. What big trend do you see in this chart?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is a consequence of this trend?

  6. Predict what you believe these numbers will look like over the next 25 years.

  7. If the US Supreme Court were to revisit its ruling today, do you imagine it would reach the same conclusion?

  8. If the US held a referendum on this issue, how do you think the US would vote?

  9. How does that make you feel about direct versus representative democracy?

  10. Imagine that you were a Justice on today's US Supreme Court. Justice:_____________ Explain how you would rule in the case of Engel v. Vitale.

  11. How high do you think the wall should be separating church and state?

  12. Did you think that in the case of Engel v. Vitale, the defendant was sports broadcaster Dick Vitale of ESPN? Admit it!

  13. Let's say that you were a member of Congress and you were outraged at the ruling from Engel v. Vitale. what specifically could you do about it?

  14. And what specifically could the POTUS do about this issue?

  15. How does age impact opinion on school prayer?*

  16. They say that as long as there are tests in school there will be prayer in school. Is this true or false?

  17. Explain how you think people in the following groups would feel about the Supreme Court's ruling in Engel v. Vitale:

    typical U.S. liberal

    typical U.S. Libertarian

    Justice Earl Warren

    The interest group: Americans United for the Separation of Church and State

    The official platform of the Republican Party

    Donald J. Trump

    the average American

    Drumstick the Turkey who was pardoned by Donald Trump on Thanksgiving 2017.

Learning Extension

Read about the history of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment at the National Constitution Center.

Action Extension

Contact your school principal, superintendent, school board member, or school district lawyer and ask them to speak to your class about the separation of church and state and how it affects their job and your school.

Bonus Charts*

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Our World In Data Extension

Fill In The Blank Constitutional Convention Style

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Use the form below to fill tell us what Madison and Washington were thinking/saying.

Making A Scene

What percent of Americans say that Christian symbols like nativity scenes should NOT be allowed on government property?

AP Government and Politics Resources

AP Government and Politics Resources

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How has that number changed over the past three years?

  3. Why do you think that is?

  4. What is one consequence of this?

  5. If this number continues to change at approximately 2% a year, in what year will the majority of Americans agree that Christian symbols like nativity scenes should NOT be allowed on government property?

  6. How will government actions or laws be impacted by this?

  7. What is the big story the chart tells?

  8. What question do you have about this?

  9. What has your own government done about this?

  10. How different do you think the answer to this survey question would be if we changed the word Christian to Muslim?

  11. What has the Supreme Court of the United States said about religious displays on government property?

  12. The First Amendment states, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," Do you believe that this clause allows for manger scenes on government property.

  13. Do you personally think that Christian symbols like nativity scenes should NOT be allowed on government property?

  14. How do you think demographics impact opinion on religious displays by government.*

Learning Extension

Read the Pew Report on American attitudes towards religious displays by the government.

Action Extension

Find out if your government (city, town, county, district) has any religious displays on public property. Document any displays you find. Contact your local government and tell them what you think about their displays (or lack thereof) and then share your findings in class or online.

Bonus Charts*

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Education Without Representation

Are Whites more over represented (relative to their portion of the population) in universities now than they were 30 years ago?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does this data tell?

  3. Why do you think that is?

  4. What is one consequence of this?

  5. Is this good?

  6. How will this personally effect you?

  7. Which group in this chart is most underrepresented and which is most over represented?

  8. Based on the data in the chart, if you could chose your race (you can't, by the way) so that you'd have the most success at getting into college, what race would you chose?

  9. How do the following demographic factors influence likelihood of college attendance: socioeconomic status, gender, religion.

  10. Explain whether you believe universities should try to roughly mirror the demographics of our country?

  11. Legacies (kids of alumni) are very over represented in colleges. Why is that, and what should be done about it?

  12. What would the following people say about the data in this chart: Bernie Sanders, Donald Trump, Colin Kaepernick, the average American Libertarian, a typical American Conservative, Taylor Swift, your run of the mill American Liberal, your parents, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., you.

  13. Explain whether you believe college admissions should be race-blind? (in other words, students would not list their race on their application).

  14. Explain whether our country (not your race, or my race, but the country as a whole) would be better off if our schools more accurately represented our demographics?

  15. Which of the schools in our bonus chart* does the best and the worst job on admissions? (Yes, you have to define "best"!)

  16. What is one thing the following branches of government could do about this:

Legislative

Executive

Judicial

    Learning Extension

    Read the whole darned NYTimes article and check out their fancy interactive charts about race and college in America.

    Action Extension

    In the Comments section below, write the best darned three sentences you can about your race and how it impacts your college future. In a thoughtful, reasonable, and measured manner, respond to one of your colleagues comments. Bonus extension: contact the president of one of the universities below* and tell them what you think of their admissions outcomes.

    Bonus Charts*

    American Feminism

    A recent Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll asked Americans the following question:

    Do you consider yourself to be a strong feminist, a feminist, not a feminist or an anti-feminist?

    What percent of American women responded, "not a feminist"?

    1. How accurate was your prediction?

    2. What is the big story this information tells about the American opinion of feminism?

    3. Why do you think that is?

    4. What is one consequence of this?

    5. What does the word feminism mean to you?

    6. Why do you think women and men have different answers to this question?

    7. List two government policies that you believe a feminist would support:

    8. How do you think opinions on feminism affected the 2016 presidential election?

    9. Using the data from this graph and your knowledge of American politics and history, explain why we have had an African American president, but not a female president.

    10. What is the most surprising data from this graph?

    11. Describe your reaction to the fact that one third of American men said they were either a feminist or a strong feminist.

    12. About an equal portion of American women said they were either not a feminist or an anti-feminist. Please explain your reaction to this.

    13. And what does anti-feminist mean, anyway?

    14. How do you think age affects people's opinion of feminism?*

    15. Explain your own answer to: Do you consider yourself to be a strong feminist, a feminist, not a feminist or an anti-feminist?

    16. About 1/10 of all Americans had no opinion at all about this question!!! Explain how someone could not have an opinion about this:

    17. What is another big issue that these same 10% of Americans would probably have no opinion on.

    18. In the comments section below, write a question that you think it would very difficult to have no opinion about. For example, "Do you like Donald Trump?" Or, "Would you like me to poke you in the face with this hot fork?"

    19. Which of the following words do you think best describes feminism in the US today; angry, outdated, empowering?**

    20. Who do you think is the best known feminist in America?***


    Learning Extension

    Read more of the fascinating results from the Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll.


    Action Extension

    In class and on social media, explain whether you are a feminist or not.


    Bonus Chart*

    Bonus Chart**

    Bonus Chart***

    Take Our Survey!
    Take Our Survey!
    I am a feminist

    Race Relations

    What percentage of Americans worry "a great deal" about the problem of race relations?

    1. How accurate was your prediction?

    2. What most surprised you about this?

    3. What is the big story this chart tells?

    4. Why do you think that is?

    5. If the current trend continues, what will this chart look like in 10 more years?

    6. Explain whether this is good news.

    7. What questions do you have about this data?

    8. How much do you worry about race relations in the US?

    9. 2008 brought the US its first Black president. What affect did the Obama presidency have on this chart?

    10. Explain any connection between this chart and the rise of Donald Trump.

    11. How do you think the Trump presidency will affect race relations in the US?

    12. In 2008 95% of Black voters voted for Barack Obama; in 2016, 8 percent of Black voters chose Donald Trump. Explain this huge racial voting gap.

    13. List one policy the government could implement that would greatly improve race relations in the US:

    14. Democrats worry about race relations more than Republicans, Black more than Whites. Why do you think that is?

    15. Explain whether you believe Americans should worry about race relations.


    Learning Extension

    Check out the Gallup Report on American's attitudes about race relations.


    Action Extension

    Use this super-cool interactive exit polling data site to draw conclusions about race relations in the US. Are we the United States or not? Share your opinion in class or online.


    Bonus Chart

    Death of the Death Penalty

    Do more Americans support or oppose the death penalty?

    1. How accurate was your prediction?

    2. What most surprised you about this data?

    3. What is the big picture this data paints?

    4. What is a recent trend in the data?

    5. What is one cause of this trend?

    6. What is one consequence of this?

    7. What do you predict this data will look like in 10 more years?

    8. Do you think the US will ever outlaw the death penalty?

    9. Explain whether you support the death penalty:

    10. Has the death penalty been a big issue in this year's election?

    11. Why do you think that is?


    Learning Extension

    Browse the charts from the Pew Research Center's study on support for the death penalty.


    Action Extension

    Research reasons to support and oppose capital punishment and then try to convince one person of your opinion.