Democracy Minus

AP US Government and Politics

Since 1930, what do you think has happened to the percent of Americans who say: it is "essential" to live in a democracy?

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  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this data?

  3. Is this good news or bad news?

  4. What is the big trend you see in this data?

  5. What are two causes of this trend?

  6. What are two consequences of this trend?

  7. Explain whether you believe that it is "essential" to live in a democracy?

  8. How does the U.S. compare to the other countries in this chart?

  9. Based on the trends in this data, how much longer do you think democracy will last in the U.S.?

  10. What questions do you have about this information?

  11. Do you think the citizens of Hawkins, Indiana live in a democracy or a demo crazy?

  12. Explain how this data connects to the 2016 presidential election?

Learning Extension

Read the entire scary article about the de-democratization of the world.

Action Extension

Create a poll on facebook, Twitter, or Poll Everywhere to survey ten of your friends about the following question: Do you believe that it is "essential" to live in a democracy? Share the results in class or online.

Adorable Animal Extension

If you can't handle cuteness you might want to look away!

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Shrinking Swing Seats

AP US Government and Politics

Out of 435 House seats how many are swing seats*?

*A swing seat is a district held with a small majority that is generally competitive in a legislative election. Because the number of Democrats and Republicans in a swing district are so close, a swing seat might be won by a Republican one election, and then a Democrat the next. This is also known as a competitive seat. The opposite is a safe seat, an district that is drawn so that it is predictably won by one party or the other, so the success of that party's candidate is almost taken for granted.

Cook Political Report

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does this chart tell?

  3. Explain one reason the number of swing seats is shrinking.

  4. What is one consequence of the shrinking number of swing seats?

  5. What is good about swing seats?

  6. Is the shrinking number of swing seats good news or bad?

  7. How surprising was this information?

  8. What would be one way for there to be more swing seats in the US?

  9. Who draws the district lines in US house races?

  10. Does this chart make majority leadership in the House likely to change parties any time soon?

  11. How does the lack of swing seats affect how campaign and elections are run?

  12. If you were to extrapolate these trends into the future what would the chart look like by the year 2020?

  13. If you were a representative in a safe seat, explain what incentive you would have to listen to the will of the people or compromise on your views.

  14. Explain whether the Senate has swing seats.

  15. How would having more competitive elections, instead of elections where we already know who will win in almost all elections, impact the kind of policies we get?

  16. What questions do you have about this?

  17. How does this information impact American democracy?


Learning Extension

I have not lived in a swing seat during my adulthood. Instead, the two districts I have lived in have been safe for one party for the past two decades. Check out the Cook Political Report chart of very few competitive races from 2016 or take a gander at this interactive map of competitive seats from 270 to Win.


Action Extension

Find out if your district is a swing seat. Share your answer in class or online. Contact your US House representative and explain to them why they do or don't need to listen to the will of the people or compromise in any way.


Bonus Map

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Senate So White

White Americans are better represented in the U.S. Senate than any other racial group. What group has the least representation?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does the chart tell?

  3. Explain why this racial disparity in representation exists?

  4. What is one consequence of this disparity?

  5. In a democracy, all people are supposed to be equal. Does this chart show that all people in America are equal?

  6. Describe a connection between the data from this chart and the Connecticut Compromise.

  7. What could remedy the inequality described in the chart?

  8. Should we remedy this inequality?

  9. The author of the editorial the above chart comes from proposes that D.C. and Puerto Rico become states. How would that impact the data from the chart?

  10. Descibe one policy change that would likely happen if all racial groups in America were represented equally?

  11. One students responded to this chart by making the claim that it doesn’t matter what race of politician represents a state or district as long as they do what is best for the country. Respond to this claim.

  12. What story does the chart below tell?

Learning Extension

Read David Leonhardt’s NYTimes editorial, The Senate: Affirmative Action for White People to learn a bit more about how racial disparities in politics works.

Action Extension

Read the comments on David Leonhardt’s NYTimes editorial, The Senate: Affirmative Action for White People then leave your own comment.

Political Animal Extension

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Democracy Around the World

AP Government and Politics

In a Pew survey of 38 countries* (see list below), of the following ways of governing a country, which is the most popular: Representative Democracy, Direct Democracy, Rule by Experts, Rule by a Strong Leader, Rule by the Military?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What is most surprising in this data?

  3. What is the big story this chart tells?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is one political consequence of this data?

  6. Is this good news?

  7. If we had the data from 1937 (80 years ago, and on the eve of WWII) how do you imagine that data would compare to today's?

  8. How different do you think this data is going to be in 10 years?

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

  10. Which of those five types of government would you say is more like the current government of the United States?

  11. Imagine the earth was under attack by Martians (I know they don't exist, bear with me). Explain whether you think that would make earth-people more or less democratic.

  12. American Democrats and Republicans don't always see eye to eye. However, if the typical American Democrat and the typical American Republican took this survey, how much do you believe their answers would differ?

  13. Explain the circumstance in which you believe that democracy is not the best form of government:

  14. Since the rule of POTUS Trump, would you say the US has become more or less democratic (with a small d)?

  15. This data is taken from citizens from different countries, of which some are democratic (Japan), somewhat democratic (Turkey) and non-democratic (Russia). How would the data differ if you only surveyed citizens of democratic countries?**

  16. How would the data differ if you only surveyed citizens of non-democratic countries?**

  17. How would the data differ if you only surveyed American citizens?

  18. How do you think education level impacts the survey data?**

  19. How do you imagine political ideology (left v right) impacts the survey data?**

  20. Explain whether you think that most people living in a non-democratic country are yearning to be free (in other words, do they secretly want to live in a democratic country)?

  21. Are you having a nice day?

  22. If you were in charge, would you allow every single person in the world who wanted to live in a democratic country to move to America?

  23. Imagine a democratic country elected non-experts (I know, it's hard to imagine!!!!) who ran their government very poorly, and then let's imagine a second country that was undemocratic, but ruled by experts who ran a very efficient and good government. Explain which of the two countries you would prefer to live in:

  24. Rank the 38 countries* from the chart below from most to least democratic. Which three would be at the top of the list (most democratic), which three would be at the bottom of the list, and where exactly would the U.S. under our current POTUS rank?

  25. You know, you should thank your teacher for giving you this cool class starter right now. They could be giving you a quiz or a test or a 5 paragraph essay or something like that but instead they are giving you this awesome information. So hey, why don't ya show them some love!

Learning Extension

Read the entire Pew report on the state of democracy.

Action Extension

Think about one thing you could do to make your country more democratic and one thing you could do to make your country less democratic. Share your answer in class or online. And don't forget to thank your teacher!

The 38 Countries*

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Bonus Charts!!!!**

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Changes in Democracy

US Government and Politics

How has the percent of the world living in a democracy changed over the past 200 years?

Max Roser - Our World In Data

US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprises you about this chart?

  3. What is the big story this chart tells about democracy in the world?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is the most important consequence of this?

  6. Overall, is this good news or bad news?

  7. What the heck is a closed anocracy, and is that the direction the U.S. is headed in under Trump?

  8. What question do you have about this chart?

  9. With the Trump victory and the rise of authoritarian political party power in Europe what do you think the future of democracy looks like over the next 4 or 5 years?

  10. Based on the overall trends of this chart, what would you say to people who are all in a tizzy with worry about the rise of Trump and authoritarian governments around the world?

  11. If the % of people living in democracies has increased, what types of government have most decreased?

  12. If you had to extrapolate and predict where we would be in the next 200 years what prediction would you make?


Learning Extension

Check out this list of the world's closed anocracies


Action Extension

Keep the U.S. a democracy! Go online and Register to vote. If you are not old enough to vote, or already are registered, share this link with your friends on social media.

Bonus Chart