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*

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

our world in data extension

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

Judiciary

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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Hilarious Animal Extension, Extension

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SCOTUS 4EVR

When you think about the Supreme Court, you probably think, OLD. But current SCOTUS nominee Brett Kananaugh is only 53. Since 2000, what has been the average age of a nominee to the Supreme Court?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What has happened to the age of SCOTUS nominees over the past century?

  3. Why do you think that is?

  4. What is consequence of this change?

  5. A newborn would be too young (although not according to the Constitution) to be on the SCOTUS, a 99 year-old would be too old (although, again, not according to the Constitution). What is the Goldilocks - just right - age for the Supreme Court of the United States? In other words, if you were a POTUS picking a SCOTUS nominee, what age range would the perfect nominee come from?

  6. According to Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution, who gets to nominate members of the Supreme Court?

  7. Why don't POTUSs pick 20 year olds for the Supreme Court?

  8. Could POTUS Trump legally pick Ariana Grande to be a member of SCOTUS?

  9. According to the United States Constitution, what are the requirements for becoming a member of the SCOTUS?

  10. According to the words of the Constitution, what is the job of the Senate in approving SCOTUS nominees?

  11. What qualities are most necessary to be appointed to SCOTUS?

  12. Currently, what is the lifespan of the average Supreme Court member?

  13. Currently, what is the average tenure of a member of the Supreme Court of the United States?

  14. Don't forget the GoPo naming contest we started yesterday in honor of not-Justice Bork: Take a 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.*

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Learning Extension

Read this NY Times Upshot article about why Supreme Court Justices are serving longer than ever.

Action Extension

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

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

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!

Make the Judiciary Great Again

AP US Government and Politics

What portion of the federal judges that POTUS Trump has appointed are Black or Hispanic?

AP US Government and Politics

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. That's not a typo. The answer is ZERO. How surprising is that?

  3. How far back in time would you have to go to get a president who named no African-American or Hispanic federal judges?*

  4. From the presidency of Harry Truman through Barack Obama, what trend in judicial diversity do you see in this chart?

  5. Describe two causes of this trend:

  6. Describe two consequences of this trend?

  7. Is this trend good or bad news?

  8. How does the diversity of Donald Trump's federal court nominations compare to the trend?

  9. Why do you think Trump is reversing the trend and moving backwards?

  10. In an increasingly diverse country, do you think most Americans are supportive of a less diverse bench?

  11. In an increasingly diverse country, do you think most Trump supporters are supportive of a less diverse bench?

  12. How much do you think the diversity of Trump's appointments impacts Trump's current approval rating (40% approval; 54% disapproval on March 26, 2018)?

  13. Based on the chart, how does presidential political party affiliation impact the diversity of judicial selection?

  14. Evaluate the following statement (do you agree or disagree, and why?): diversity on the federal courts doesn't matter. 

  15. How do you think Trump's appointment of females to the federal judiciary compares to past presidents?**

  16. If you were president (you aren't) how much would you take diversity (racial and gender) into account when naming federal judges?

  17. Explain your opinion of the lack of diversity in Trump's nominees to the federal judges to the bench.

  18. What branch of government could do something to stop Trump from appointing so many White males to the federal court?

  19. What could they do?

  20. In your opinion, how much does Trump's slogan, "Make America Great Again." have to do with race and making America White again?

Visual Extension**

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Historical Extension*

Berkeley La Raza Law Journal    100% White Male Appointments

Berkeley La Raza Law Journal

100% White Male Appointments

Washington’s appointments to federal courts of general jurisdiction established a national precedent. Over a span of 145 years, the thirty presidents who succeeded Washington made the same sex and race selections. As shown in the table below, the first thirty one American presidents appointed, and the Senate confirmed, 857 White men to federal courts of general jurisdiction.

To get to a president who appointed a smaller portion of Black or Hispanic federal judges you'd have to go back in time. Past Nixon, past Kennedy, past even Dwight. D Eisenhower or Harry S Truman. You'd have to go all the way back to Herbert Hoover (born 1874) to get a president who named zero Black or Hispanic judges.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt appointed the first woman to serve as a federal judge on a court of general jurisdiction. On March 6, 1934, President Roosevelt nominated Florence Ellinwood Allen to serve on the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit. The Senate confirmed Allen on March 15, 1934, and she received her commission six days later. Roosevelt also apoointed the firm African American male to the federal bench. Roosevelt modestly challenged racial segregation in the federal judiciary. He appointed an African American Harvard Law School graduate, William H. Hastie, to a four -year term as a federal judge in the U.S. Virgin Islands. With his appointment, Judge Hastie became the first man of color to serve on the federal bench.

Harry S. Truman became president upon Roosevelt’s death in 1945. Truman appointed Irvin Mollison, the first African American male federal judge to a court of general jurisdiction.

In 1960, Dwight D. Eisenhower appointed the first Asian federal judge, Cyrus Niles Tavares.

President John Fitzgerald Kennedy was the first president to appoint more than two men of color to the federal bench. On March 24, 1961, slightly more than two months after assuming office, Kennedy nominated the first Latino candidate to the bench - Reynaldo Guerra Garza. The Senate confirmed him on April 13, 1961.

Learning Extension

Read the Pew Research Center's report on diversity in federal court appointments or take a really deep dive and read the Berkeley La Raza Law Journal report on the history of diversity in US federal courts.

Action Extension

Contact the POTUS and tell him what you think about his judicial appointments so white.

 

Make Puppies Great Again!

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IncarceRACEion

How different are incarceration rates for Blacks and Whites in the US?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How accurate do you think the average American would be?

  3. How surprising is this information?

  4. What is the take-home point of this chart?

  5. List two consequences of this huge disparity in incarceration rates for different races:

  6. What questions do you have about this?

  7. Why do you think there is such a huge disparity in incarceration rate for different races?

  8. Explain why these racial disparities in incarceration are not a bigger issue in the 2016 election or in American society, in general?

  9. Explain whether you think this chart is good or bad news:

  10. If you were to rename this chart, what would a good title be? Write the new title in the comments section below:

  11. What steps could the US government take to change these numbers?

  12. Prediction: What percent chance does a black male born in 1991 have of spending time in prison at some point in his life?*

Learning Extension

Here's a really cool interactive map from the Sentencing Project where you can find out more about your state's statistics on incarceration. One of the best works of non-fiction I've read in years is Michelle Alexander's inspiring The New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness, part of which you can read for free on Google Books.

Action Extension

Share this information with friends and family, in person or on social media. Find out what they think about this (is it good, bad, changeable?) and share their responses with class.


Bonus Chart

Here's another way of looking at this information:

*A Black male born in 1991 has a 29% chance of spending time in prison at some point in his life.