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!**

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Branching Out

Since 2014, what has happened to Americans’ trust and confidence in the legislative branch?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Why do you think confidence in the Congress has risen in the past 4 years.

  3. What is one consequence of this rising trust in Congress?

  4. How much do you think this trend will impact the 2018 midterm elections?

  5. Although in recent years confidence in the legislative branch has risen, overall, how would you describe Americans’ confidence in the legislative branch?

  6. How do you think party affiliation and impacts trust in the government?

  7. Knowing that over half of Americans had a negative feeling about Congress, what prediction would you make about incumbent reelection rates in the midterm elections?

  8. How does trust in Congress compare to trust in the other two branches?

  9. Why do you think that is?

  10. What has happened to confidence in the executive branch since Trump’s election?

  11. Since 1973, what is the overall trend in confidence in the federal government?

  12. Is this good news?

  13. The branch (judiciary) that is the least democratic (un-elected) is the most popular. The branch (legislative) that is the most democratic (most often elected) is the least popular. Explain that one!

  14. Madison wrote in Federalist 51, “ambition must be made to counteract ambition.” What do you think that quote means?

  15. How does Madison’s quote connect to the data in the chart?

Visual Extension

Learning Extension

Read the Gallup report on American attitudes toward government.

Action Extension

Article V of the U.S. Constitution provides two methods of adopting amendments. First, Congress may, by a two-thirds majority in both houses, propose amendments to the states. Second, if two-thirds of the states ask Congress to call a constitutional convention, Congress must do so. Every amendment to date has been proposed and ratified through the first method. These groups are seeking to persuade state legislatures to take the country into the uncharted territory of an Article V convention. Think about a way you would like the U.S. Constitution to change-repeal the 22nd Amendment, legalize drones in high school classrooms, allow for elections for the federal judiciary, etc. Contact your U.S. Representative and ask them to adopt your amendment.

Dogs on Bikes Extension


AP US Government and Politics

Who is older, on average, the Rolling Stones or the U.S. Supreme Court?

Jonathan Milner    AP US Government and Politics

Jonathan Milner

AP US Government and Politics

On average, the Rolling Stones are older than the US Supreme Court! Here's the stats as of 2018:
Rolling Stones: Mick Jagger, 74; Keith Richards, 74; Charlie Watts, 77; Ronnie Wood, 71. Average age=75.
U.S. Supreme Court: Clarence Thomas, 70; Ruth Bader Ginsburg, 85; Stephen Breyer, 80; John G. Roberts, 63; Samuel A. Alito, Jr., 68 Sonia Sotomayor, 64; Elena Kagan, 58; Neil Gorsuch, 51; Brett Kavanaugh, 53. Average age=66.

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What interesting patterns do you notice in makeup of the current Supreme Court?

  3. We have a very old court. People older than your grandparents are making decisions about what you can and cannot do. Does age have a bearing on the kind of decisions a person makes?

  4. Over half the US population is protestant (51.3%) and yet there are zero protestants on the Supreme Court. Why is the Court so religiously different from the US population at large?

  5. In what other ways does the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the United States) NOT demographically mirror the United States?

  6. If your goal was to become a member of the Supreme Court, what educational/career steps should you take from this moment forward?

  7. Who is your favorite Supreme Court Justice?

  8. Ruth Bader Ginsberg is known as Notorious R.B.G. If you were to give another Justice a nickname, who would it be and what would you call them?

  9. If you were the president of the US (you aren't) and your goal was to make the population of the Supreme Court look more like the population of the United States, describe the demographics of the next person you would nominate to the court:

  10. If a Supreme Court member became senile or suffered from dementia or Alzheimer's Disease would there be anything you could do to remove them from the court?

  11. Over the years, 1/3 of all Supreme Court members have served beyond the age of 75. It has be proposed that all future Justices be appointed for a maximum of 15 years, with a cap on service at the age of 75. In the comments section below, explain your thoughts on a mandatory retirement age for the Supreme Court:

Action Extension

Article III of the United States Constitution leaves it to Congress to fix the number of justices. The Judiciary Act of 1789 called for the appointment of six justices, and as the nation's boundaries grew, Congress added justices to correspond with the growing number of judicial circuits: seven in 1807, nine in 1837, and ten in 1863. What do you think is the ideal number of members of the SCOTUS? Contact Senator Charles Grassley, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and share your thoughts on the size of the Court:

Learning Extension

Take a virtual tour of the SCOTUS.

Extended Animal Extension

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Supreme Court Press

AP US Government and Politics

How liberal is the Supreme Court?

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  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this data?

  3. List one question you have about this chart:

  4. Whoa!!!! Did you know that William O. Douglas is the longest-serving United States Supreme Court Justice by time in office (13,358 days)!? But who exactly was this thrice-married, second-youngest-ever Justice William O. Douglas guy, what did he believe in, and what kind of rulings did he issue that made him so very extremely liberal?

  5. What story does this chart tell about the ideological leanings of the median justice?

  6. Why do you think that is?

  7. What is the main consequence of this story of judicial moderation?

  8. Explain whether this moderation is generally good or bad news.

  9. Identify one of the main principles of a judicial conservative:

  10. Identify one of the main principles of a judicial liberal:

  11. How does this chart reflect the ideas of checks and balances?

  12. If instead of our system of presidential appointments and senatorial approval, we simply voted for our Supreme Court Justices, how different do you think this chart would look?

  13. On the current court, who is the most liberal and who is the most conservative?

  14. Since this chart was produced, Justice Scalia has been replaced by Justice Gorsuch, not dramatically altering the ideological balance of the court. Now Justice Kennedy (often the swing vote) will possibly be replaced by Brett Kavanaugh, after which POTUS Trump will probably have one or two more Supreme Court picks before his second term of office ends on January 20, 2025. How do you imagine that will reshape the ideological balance of the court?

  15. Big question: Why do we even have a Supreme Court anyway? I mean, it's not very (little d) democratic!

  16. Based on this chart, about how long does the average Supreme Court Justice serve?

  17. Over time, do Supreme Court Justices tend to get more liberal or more conservative?

  18. Why do you think that is?

  19. What is a consequence of this tendency?

  20. What specific Justice most deviated from this trend during their time on the bench (Supreme Court)?

  21. If you were to be placed on the Supreme Court (don't get too excited yet. This is just hypothetical!) Where would you fall on the ideological spectrum?

Learning Extension

Don't forget, we're just talking about the Supreme Court here. POTUS Trump also gets to fill vacancies on the federal district and federal appeals courts. Here's what vacancies in those areas look like and how they compare to years past.

Action Extension

Ask your favorite Supreme Court Justice to write you a letter describing their judicial philosophy. The Supreme Court doesn't really do email but you can call or write them at

General Contact Information:

U.S. Mail:
Supreme Court of the United States
 1 First Street, NE
 Washington, DC 20543

Telephone: 202-479-3000
TTY: 202-479-3472
 (Available M-F 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. eastern)

Share their response in class or online.


Animal Extension

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I Believe _____________?

When Americans were asked whether they believed the allegations against Brett Kavanaugh were credible, was there a bigger gender gap (between women and men), or partisan gap (between Democrats and Republicans)?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Was the gender gap or the partisan gap bigger?

  3. Why do you think that is?

  4. What is a consequence of this?

  5. Describe some other divides in the data:

  6. In what way are we least divided about the credibility fo the accusations?

  7. How much of a role does the media play in this divide?

  8. Do you think that most Americans who disagree about this are getting the same facts and information?

  9. List three things that Republicans and Democrats can agree on today:

  10. List one thing that Republicans and Democrats cannot agree on today that they would have agreed on in 2000:

  11. Make one argument someone would use to explain why Kavanaugh’s accusers are not credible:

  12. Make one counterargument to this:

  13. How do you think this data will change as more accusations become public?

  14. How many accusers would have to come forward for someone who didn’t find the accusations credible, to change their mind and find the accusations credible.

  15. Explain whether you find Kavanaugh’s accusers credible.

  16. What media sources do you mostly follow?

  17. How do you think your answers to the proceeding two questions are related?

  18. How do you think this divide will impact the 2018 midterm election?

  19. Let’s say that you were upset by the nominating process (on either side). List three politically efficacious Actions you could Take:

  20. Describe the role of the Senate Judiciary committee in the confirmation committee.

  21. If we voted on the nomination of Bret Kavanaugh do you think he would become a member of the SCOTUS?

  22. Would it be more democratic if we the people voted on SCOTUS nominees?

  23. Should we, as a country, vote on SCOTUS nominees?

  24. How will the midterm elections impact this nomination process?

  25. How will the nomination Process impact the midterm elections?

  26. Why do you think Trump is standing behind Kavanaugh?

  27. Do you think the FBI should investigate Kavanaugh?

  28. Explain Why you think Trump has not forced Kavanaugh to step aside?

Learning Extension

Check out the entire YouGov/Huff Post poll and then read this interesting analysis on 538.

Action Extension

Contact your Senator or any member of the Senate Judiciary committee and let them know what you think about the credibility of these accusations.

Visual Extension

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