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

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President.jpg

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

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Our Animals in Drag Extension

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Campaign Stops

AP US Government and Politics and Chickens

In the 2016 presidential elections, after the party nominating conventions, what four states had over half of all campaign events?

Post-Convention Campaign Stops per State

NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE PLAN

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What was most surprising about this map?

  3. What is the take home story of this map?

  4. explain why the map looks this way.

  5. What is one consequence of this concentration of campaign activity?

  6. What is the political science term we use to describe these four states?

  7. Central to the concept of democracy is the the idea that all people are politically equal. The Declaration of IndEpendence contains these lines regarding the value of equality. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” Does this map resemble political equality?

  8. Why did California, the nation's most populous state, receive only one campaign stop?

  9. 28 states received no visits from presidential campaigns. Why is that?

  10. Explain whether the information from this map is good news.

  11. Imagine the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished the Electoral College (don’t hold your breath). How would that Constitutional change impact the data from the map?

  12. Explain how this concentrated campaign activity in those four states impacted voter turnout in those states.

  13. Explain how this concentrated campaign activity in those four states impacted voter turnout In the other states.

  14. At the time of the Constitutional Convention The Anti-Federalists were afraid of too much power being concentrated in a central national government. They prefered that power be centered at the state level. If an anti-federalist saw this map, after they stopped freaking out about how Big the U.S. had gotten, what claim would they make about this map and the power of states?

  15. What change in the US electoral system could make campaign events be spread more evenly throughout the US?

  16. What is a pirate’s Favorite place to eat lunch?*

Learning Extension

Analyze the map with the folks from NPVP and watch this video that explains how the NPVP works.

Action Extension

If states with a majority of electoral votes enacted the National Popular Vote Plan, US presidential campaigns would be very different and campaign stops would be more evenly distributed. Use this handy little link to contact your state representative (they decide where your state's electoral votes go) and let them know what you think about the National Popular Vote Plan.

Dog Meme Extension

AP US Government and Dogitics

AP US Government and Dogitics

Snow Map Extension

How Much Snow Does It Take To Cancel School?

How Much Snow Does It Take To Cancel School?    AP Government and Politics

How Much Snow Does It Take To Cancel School?

AP Government and Politics

*ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRBY’S

Use Your Outside Spending Voice

What has happened to campaign spending by outside groups (not the candidates) since 1990?

  1. How accurate was your insouciant little prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this data?

  3. What has caused this change in outside spending over time?

  4. What is the most important consequence of this change in outside spending over time?

  5. If the trends illustrated in this chart continue, what will outside spending levels be like in another decade?

  6. Explain whether this is good news or bad news.

  7. Explain whether this increases or decreases the power of candidates.

  8. Explain the impact of increased outside spending on the level of American democracy.

  9. Describe the level of wealth of the kinds of groups, corporations, and people who spend most of this outside money.

  10. Explain whether this chart supports the claim that the United States political system is more of an elite democracy or more of a participatory democracy.

  11. On Jan. 21, 2010, in the landmark Citizens United v. FEC ruling, the Supreme Court overturned restrictions on independent expenditures from corporations and labor unions. This decision set a precedent that would spawn the creation of so-called super PACs, which can accept unlimited contributions from corporations, unions and other groups. What happened to levels of outside spending after this 2010 ruling?

  12. What exactly does outside spending mean?

  13. What are Super PACs, anyway?

  14. Do you think Marvel will make a Super PAC comic?

  15. In Citizens United v. FEC the Supreme Court ruled that limits on outside spending were a violation of the free speech clause of the First Amendment. Do you agree with the Court’s interpretation of the First Amendment?

Visual Extension

Learning Extension

Action Extension

Super Heroes have superpowers that mere mortals do NOT possess. Super PACs have super powers, too. Learn a little more about the super powers of Super PACs and create your very own SUPER PAC! Be sure to name your Super PAC and include a list of your super powers. A drawing would be nice! Share your Super PAC in class or online. *Don’t forget to register your Super PAC with the Federal Election Commission.

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals in Drag Extension

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Electoral Votes

How many electoral votes per person does your state have?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this information?

  3. What questions do you have about this map?

  4. What is the big take home message of this map?

  5. Describe the mechanism by which the electoral vote power of some states is greater than others:

  6. Describe the history by which the electoral vote power of some states is greater than others:

  7. What is a consequence of the inequality in electoral college voting power?

  8. Central to the concept of democracy is the idea that all people are politically equal. Some would claim that in a truly democratic country, every person in every state would have the same electoral votes per person (in other words, the color of each state on the map would be the same). Respond to this claim.

  9. Were it the case that every state in the map above was the same color (equal electoral votes per person) who would have won the 2016 Presidential election?

  10. Describe one way our country would be different today had Trump not become president.

  11. The average electoral vote represents 436,000 people, but that number rises and falls per state depending on that state’s population over 18 years of age. Calculate the exact number of people an electoral vote represents in your state.

  12. How does your state compare to others in terms of electoral college power?

  13. How does the map of electoral vote power (above) relate to the map of the percentage of state residents who are white (below)?

  14. Should your power to vote for president be impacted by what state you happen to live in?

  15. If I wanted to increase my presidential electoral power, what state would I most want to move from and what state would I most want to move to?

  16. Overall, Is this map good news or bad news for the U.S.?

  17. If you thought that it was best to get rid of the electoral college, what would be one step towards achieving this goal?

  18. Why hasn't the U.S. abolished the electoral college?

  19. How does this map affect strategy in presidential elections?

  20. How much wood could a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuck wood?


Learning Extension

Read about the fact that the electoral college was created to empower slave states.


Action Extension

The National Popular Vote Plan is a proposal to undo the unequal power of the electoral college. Read about the plan and contact your state legislator to share your opinion of the plan.


Visual Extension

Our World In Data Extension

Oh My Goodness!

Our Animals in Clothes Extension

Our Completely Random Visual Extension

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All politics is identity

The biggest predictor of how someone will vote in a congressional election is their political party identification. After that, in congressional elections, what demographic factor best predicts how someone will vote?

  1. How accurate was your amazingly wonderful prediction?

  2. Based on the chart, what is the biggest predictor of voting?

  3. Why do you think that is?

  4. What is one consequence of this?

  5. Is America becoming more or less religious, and how will this impact future elections?

  6. What is the big story the data tell?

  7. Describe in which ways the data from the chart is true for you?

  8. Which demographic feature has the least impact on how people vote?

  9. Is the data in the chart good news?

  10. Claim: when people vote based on their identity (race, ethnicity, gender) they are putting their identity above and before the country as a whole. Respond to the claim above with reason, logic, and facts.

  11. We didn’t collect this kind of data 75 years ago, but if we did, do you think we would have seen the same effects of identity on voting?

  12. Democrats picked up about 40 seats in the 2018 midterm election. How did the data from the chart impact the results of the 2018 midterm elections?

  13. How does the information from the chart impact how political campaigns are run?

  14. How much do you think the rhetoric and policies of Donald Trump impact the data in the chart?

  15. Why didn’t we know how Blacks and women and other minorities voted in, for example, the year 1916*?

*Fun Fact. In the 1916 election, incumbent President Woodrow Wilson defeated Supreme Court Justice Charles Evans Hughes by 600,000 votes. FYI: Wilson was the only Democratic incumbent president to win reelection between 1832 and 1936.


Visual Extension

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Learning Extension

Read The Economist’s analysis of demographics and voting.

Action Extension

Survey your own class and see how much the demographic features outlined in the chart hold true for your class. Share the results in class or online.

Incumbency Advantage

As recently as 20 years ago, holding office added an average of 8 percentage points to a candidate’s electoral margin. How much was incumbency worth in the 2018 election?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How surprising was this data?

  3. What is the story this data tells?

  4. Incumbency advantage has decreased over the past 20 years. Make a claim to explain why that is.

  5. What is one consequence of the shrinking incumbency advantage?

  6. Is this good news?

  7. How do you think that this shrinking incumbency advantage will impact how incumbents govern?

  8. What is the connection between the unpopularity of congress and incumbency advantage?

  9. Incumbency is actually a disadvantage for Senators in big states like Texas or California. Why do you think this is?

  10. Existing research shows that says being an appointed incumbent isn’t nearly as powerful as being an elected one. Why do you think that is?

  11. If you were an incumbent in office and you wanted to make election rules to help increase incumbency advantage, what rules would you make?

  12. Despite the fact that he could have ruled for life, Gorge Washington retired after two terms as president. In his farewell address, Washington wrote, “The period for a new election of a citizen to administer the executive government of the United States being not far distant, and the time actually arrived when your thoughts must be employed in designating the person who is to be clothed with that important trust, it appears to me proper, especially as it may conduce to a more distinct expression of the public voice, that I should now apprise you of the resolution I have formed, to decline being considered among the number of those out of whom a choice is to be made.” What would Washington say about incumbents who stay in office for 4 or 5 terms?

Visual Extenstion which has absolutely nothing at all to do with today’s class starter.

The higher the number, the stronger the correlation.    CityLab

The higher the number, the stronger the correlation.

CityLab

The higher the number, the stronger the correlation.    CityLab

The higher the number, the stronger the correlation.

CityLab

Learning Extension

Read this 538 story on the shrinking incumbency advantage.

Action Extension

Anyone representing you in the government is now (or is about to be) an incumbent. Contact your incumbent and ask them how long they plan on staying in office. Share their response in class or online.

Therapy pet extension Finale

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Costs and Benefits of Election Costs

What was the total cost of the 2018 midterm election, and was it the most expensive U.S. congressional campaign in the history of the entire freaking world>>>????

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  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How does the 2018 midterm election rank in the history of expensive midterm elections?

  3. What trend do you see in the data?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is one consequence of that?

  6. Is that a good thing?

  7. Which party do you think outspent the other: the Democrats or Republicans?*

  8. How familiar do you think the average American is with this data?

  9. How do you think this level of spending impacts American voter turnout?

  10. Based on the data in the charts above, make a prediction of the cost of the 2020 presidential election and the 2022 midterm election.

  11. What percent of the campaign donations came from the top 1% wealthiest Americans.*

  12. Imagine that you were opposed to money in politics. One thing you could do would be to not give money to politicians. But let’s say a politician who was opposed to money in politics was running for office against a politician who accepted tons of money from very wealthy donors. Would you give that anti-money in politics politician money so that they could beat their plutocratic opponent?

  13. Here is a claim: High levels of spending in elections show a high level of citizen interest and participation in elections, and strengthens our democracy. Respond to the claim with at least one piece of evidence from today’s class starter and one piece of information you have leaned from your study of American government and politics.

  14. Imagine that the Federal Election Commission made a rule* that limited each House and Senate candidate to spending no more than $1 per constituent. (I realize the rule would be unconstitutional, and it’s not going to happen - just humor me) How would that impact politics?

  15. Would you support that rule?

  16. What role could the Congress, Executive branch (bureaucracy), and Supreme Court play in stopping that proposal?

  17. Describe how they following would respond to the above proposed spending limit:

  • Interest Groups

  • Political Parties

  • Media

  • Congress

  • The Supreme Court

  • Tiffany Haddish

  • James Madison

  • Dr. Martin Luther King

Visual Extension*

Learning Extension of Pisa

Read the entire report and check out all the cool charts from Open Secrets and the Center for Responsive Politics.

Action Extension


Follow this step-by-step guide to calling your (well funded) congressional representative and let them know what you think about the level of money in politics and what they should do about it. Share the highlights of your conversation in class or online.

Therapy Pet Extravaganza Extension

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Age Voting Gap

Young voters (18-34) are predicted to vote at a higher rate than they did in the 2014 midterm election. But what is this year’s midterm voter turnout predicted to be for young voters compared to voters age 65 and older?

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  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. According to the data, what is this year’s midterm voter turnout predicted to be for young voters compared to voters age 65 and older?

  3. What are three reasons for that?

  4. What is the big story this data tells?

  5. What most surprised you about this data?

  6. What is one consequence of this difference in voter turnout?

  7. How do you think these voter turnout rates compare to elections past?

  8. Describe three U.S. policies that would change if 32% of all midterm voters were young people, and only 13% were 65 and over?

  9. Explain why those policies would change?

  10. There is a minimum age for voting, should there be a maximum age?

  11. Across all age groups, voters are registered in roughly similar numbers. Why does that same rate of voter registration not translate to the same rate of voter turnout in midterm elections?

  12. Are midterm elections especially for old people?

  13. If the largest share of voter turnout in midterm elections came from young people, how would that impact US political campaigns?

  14. Some states have made it more difficult for young people to vote (for example, my state, NC, has made it particularly difficult for college students to vote). Why do you think that is?

  15. Do you think that more young people would vote if the candidates they could chose from were younger?

  16. Explain which party you think young voters are more likely to support.

  17. In the 2016 presidential election, the three leading candidates (Trump, Clinton, Sanders) would all have been above the age of 70 had they won the election. Why do you think that is?

  18. How do you think this age gap compares to voting gaps by race, sex, and socio-economic-status?

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Learning Extension

Read this Pew report on voting rates for Generation X and millennial voters

Action Extension

How old are the candidates running for federal office (House, Senate) in your district? Find out and share what you learned in class and online.

Baby Giraffe Extension

That’s a real baby giraffe, y’all!

That’s a real baby giraffe, y’all!

It's A Toss-Up!

AP US Government and Politics

In the 2018 midterm elections, of America's 435 congressional districts, how many are toss-ups, that is: too close to call and winnable by either party (yellow)?

Yellow = Toss-Up   AP US Government and Politics Lesson Plans

Yellow = Toss-Up

AP US Government and Politics Lesson Plans

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How do you think the average American would answer this question?

  3. What most surprises you about this map?

  4. How many states are solidly one color?

  5. How many Americans live in toss-up districts?*

  6. What is the big story this map tells?

  7. Why are there so few toss-up districts?

  8. What is a consequence of the low number of toss-up districts on the U.S. political system?

  9. Is this good news?

  10. Is this good for democracy?

  11. Is your district a toss-up? Use Roll Call's Super-Duper Interactive Congress Map and find out whether your district is a toss-up. If it is, that's great. If it isn't, contact your representative and ask them to step down.

  12. Who draws these district lines anyway?

  13. If every district were a toss-up would that be good for the U.S. political system?

  14. If you were the incumbent representative in any but the 8 toss-up districts, what would you think about this map?

  15. How do you think this information impacts political parties and campaigns?

  16. What is the connection between the low number of toss-ups and bipartisanship and compromise?

  17. How different do you think this map was 50 years ago?

  18. What is one positive thing about toss-up districts?

  19. Why are there less toss-up districts (yellow) every year?

  20. Do you think there will eventually be zero toss-up districts?

  21. Approximately 300,000,000 Americans live in non-toss-up districts, does that mean that in the House races, at least, their votes don't really matter?

  22. What does this map tell us about federalism?

  23. What does this map tell us about the US election system?

  24. Voters are supposed to chose their representatives, but in most cases, the representatives are choosing their voters. Would it be fair to say that the system is rigged?

  25. That's a lot of questions! What question do you have about all this?

Bonus Chart*

Learning Extension

Read the WAPO article about toss up districts!

Action Extension

Politics is supposed to be about competition, but as you look at America's congressional districts, you'll see there's really not much competition going on! Now here's the hard part. Your state legislature decides how to draw the U.S. Congressional district lines. In many cases, these lines could be drawn so that many, if not all, of the districts in most states were much more competitive. Contact your state legislature and ask them to make their districts more competitive! If you feel strongly about this, pressure you legislature until they make districts more competitive. Share your results in class or online.

Adorable Baby Animal wearing glasses and reading a book Extension

AP US Government and Politics

AP US Government and Politics

Midterm Election Costs

For the current midterm election, has more money been raised for U.S. Senate or U.S. House races?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How surprising is the data?

  3. Why do you think more money has been raised on House than Senate races?

  4. What portion of House seats are up for election this year?

  5. What portion of Senate seats are up for election this year?

  6. Why do you think there is so much money in elections?

  7. What are two consequences of all this money in elections?

  8. Explain whether the data in this chart is good news.

  9. In the 2016 U.S. House elections, only 6 out of 435 House seats were won by the candidate who spent LESS than their opponent. Why do you think that is?

  10. Based on the data in the chart, do you think that Republicans or Democrats will win more races?

  11. Overall, does more money come from PACs or from Individuals?

  12. Over a billion dollars have been raised for the 2018 House races. How do you feel about that?

  13. The Federal Election Commission tracks most of the money raised in elections. Explain whether the almost 2 billion dollars raised so far for the 2016 election makes the American political system more or less democratic.

  14. In some countries there are limits on how much money a candidate can spend, limits on how long elections can last, and lots of public funding for elections. Explain whether you think there should be limits on how much money a candidate can spend.

  15. How does all this money impact American politics?

  16. How does all this money impact you?


Learning Extension

Check out the Open Secrets campaign spending website from the Center for Responsive Politics.


Action Extension

Share the most interesting thing you learned about campaign financing from Open Secrets in class or online.


Cord Extension

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Animal Extension

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