Least Distrusted Branch of Government

AP US Government and Politics

What is the most trusted branch of the United States government?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What least surprised you about this data?

  3. As of 2017, what is the big story this chart tells?

  4. Over time, what is the big trend you see in this chart?

  5. Why do you think the judiciary is the most trusted branch of government?

  6. Why do you think the legislative branch is even less trusted than the executive branch?

  7. How do you think the behavior of the trump administration will impact the level of public trust in the executive branch over the next few years?

  8. Overall, is this information good news?

  9. How do you think party affiliation impacts trust in the judiciary?*

  10. How do you think party affiliation impacts trust in the executive branch?*

  11. If you ran a business that only about 1/3 of your customers trusted, how long would you stay in business?

  12. If we didn't have separation of powers and checks and balances do you think the American people would trust the government more or less?

  13. we currently have a divided government. How do you think the prevalence of divided government impacts the public's trust in the U.S. government?

  14. What is the most important consequence of our current level of trust in the US government?

  15. What do you imagine levels of trust would be like in a totalitarian country like North Korea?

  16. Let me remind you that although only about 1/3 of Americans trust the legislative branch, they tend to reelect the legislature at about a 90% rate. Explain this paradox:

  17. The most trusted branch is the one we do NOT vote for. What does that say about democracy and the power of voting?

  18. Does that make you think that if we abandoned voting we would have a government we trust?

  19. Is it possible that it is a good thing that we do not tend to trust our government?

  20. What would Thomas Jefferson think about the lack of trust in the U.S. government?

  21. Explain whether you think people trust their state and local governments more than they trust their federal government:

  22. How do you think the fact that we are a multi-ethnic nation impacts our level of trust in the government?

  23. Did you know that 27% of all statistics are made up on the spot?

  24. In the comments section, propose one change in the U.S. government to increase public trust in the government:

Learning Extension

Read the complete results of the Gallup Poll before it's too late!

Action Extension

Contact the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUSofA). Congratulate them on being the most trusted branch. Mail them a certificate of achievement. You can't email them!!!! Really! But you can call or write. Here's their contact information.

Supreme Court of the United States.
1 First Street, NE.
Washington, DC 20543.
Telephone: 202-479-3000.

Bonus Charts*


Extra-Super-Bonus Chart-o-Rama for no good reason!**

our world in data extension

Divided Government We Fall

Since 1973, How often has the United States Had divided government?

Jonathan Milner     GoPo Pro     *as of 11/9/2018

Jonathan Milner

GoPo Pro

*as of 11/9/2018

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What the heck is divided government, anyway?

  3. Circle all the years on the chart where we have had divided government.

  4. Do we have divided government today?

  5. What is the big story this chart tells?

  6. Why do you think that is?

  7. What is one consequence of our frequently divided government?

  8. Why does the fact that the Democrats had 61 senators in 2009* matter?

  9. Explain whether you think divided government is generally a positive or negative thing.

  10. Do you think the next president, regardless of their party, will likely have a divided government?

  11. In the 19th century we were much less likely to have divided government. Why do you think Americans today are willing to have divided government so often?

  12. What would James Madison think about how often we have had divided government in the past 40 or so years?

  13. Now that Donald J. Trump has to deal with A Democratic House of Representatives, how do you think he will change his approach to governing?

  14. When the new Democratic majority House of Representatives is sworn in next January, what are some powers they could use against President Trump?

  15. What does divided government have to do with Federalist #51?

  16. When we have non-divided government (also called party Government or unity government) government spending increases, year over year, by 3.4%. When we have divided government, year over year government spending increases by 1.5%. Explain the reason for this difference.

Learning Extension

Read this story from Reason, Three Cheers for the return of Divided Government

Action Extension

Contact Nancy Pelosi (likely Speaker of the House) or Donald Trump (likely President) and explain how you would like them to rule during divided government. Share your comments in class or online.

Visual Extension

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Confirmation Bias Hearings

In his 1941 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, Justice-to-be Robert Houghwout Jackson was asked about to comment on three different political topics/issues. How many topics/issues was Justice Kagan asked to comment on in her 2010 confirmation hearing?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. how many topics and issues do you think Justice-to-be Kavanaugh will be asked in his confirmation hearing?

  3. Do you think that all these questions about all these topics actually make a difference in selecting good justices?

  4. What trend do you see in the data from the chart?

  5. Explain the cause of the trend you identified.

  6. Describe one consequence of this trend you identified in the data.

  7. Do we have a good system for picking justices-who serve un-elected for life?

  8. How democratic (with a little d) is this entire justice-confirmation process?

  9. What would the perfect number of topics/issues to ask a nominee be?

  10. If you could, how would you changed the confirmation process?

  11. How likely do you think it is that a single Democrat will vote for Kavanaugh or that a single Republican will vote against him?

  12. In what way is the current confirmation hearing an example of checks and balances?

  13. What would Federalist 51 have said about

  14. In 1987, at his failed confirmation hearings Robert Bork actually answered the questions he was asked in long and voluminous comments. He was NOT confirmed to the Supreme Court (fun fact, ushering in the nomination of quiet-Justice Kennedy, whose Supreme Court seat we are now filling). Robert Bork's failed nomination spawned the verb: to Bork, meaning to talk to much; to say too much about what you really believe; to reject someone who says too much.

  15. Have you ever been Borked?

  16. Will there be a new verb formed to be Kavanaugh? Make up your own definition:

  17. take another famous politician (Ryan, Trump, McConnell, Pelosi, Obama, Schumer) and make a verb out of their name. Write a sentence using their name as a verb and post it in the comments section below. The "best" sentence (by either a student or a teacher) will win a $10 Amazon gift card.*

Learning Extension

Read this 538 article about Supreme Court Confirmation Hearings.

Action Extension

Watch some of the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, contact your U.S. Senator and tell them whether you think they should approve his nomination.

*Contest rules - I determine what "best" means! I will accept answers through Sunday, September 9th, 2018 by 8:32 pm.

Trumping the Courts

Relative to recent presidents, how much impact has President Trump had on the federal judiciary?

  1. Describe One trend from the infographic.

  2. What is the primary cause of this Trend?

  3. Explain the impact of this trend on U.S. politics.

  4. What about the current political makeup of the U.S. House and Senate has allowed the president to make such an impact on the courts?

  5. Explain whether this information is good or bad news:

  6. Although the 22nd Amendment limits the President to two terms of office, some would say that a president serves for life - not only his life, but the life of his judicial appointments. Explain whether you agree or disagree with this statement:

  7. In regards to specific policy, describe two ways a Trump-nominated judge might differ from an Obama-nominated judge?

  8. Besides ideology, in what ways do you imagine Trump judicial picks differ from Obama judicial picks?

  9. This infographic shows appointments to the federal appeals court. Describe the relationship  between U.S. appellate courts, U.S. district courts, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

  10. Imagine that the Democratic Party had great success in the 2018 midterm elections and took control of the US House. Describe how that would impact Trump's success in the confirmation of judicial appointments?

  11. If you were a Democratic strategist concerned with stopping Trump's impact on the judiciary,  would you prefer for your party to control the US House or the US Senate?

  12. Describe how this is an example of checks and balances?

Learning Extension

Read more about the impact the president is having on the US federal judiciary,

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Action Extension

Check out the American Constitution Society's interactive map to find out about current judicial nominees in your state then contact your US Senator and share your opinion about the confirmation of current judicial nominees.

Video Extension

It's never too early for the Supreme Court with Dogs!