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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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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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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Old Congress, Young You

AP U.S. Old Government and Politics

What is the average age of a member of the U.S. Congress?

AP US Government and Politics    GoPo Pro

AP US Government and Politics

GoPo Pro

  1. How wrong was your prediction?

  2. What trend do you see in the data?

  3. Why do you think Congress is getting so much older?

  4. What is one consequence of having such an old Congress?

  5. Would you want your grandparents or family members of age 60 and up to represent you in Congress?

  6. What are some mechanisms of how elections and parties work that might explain why Congress is so old?

  7. How do you think the age of Congress impacts gun legislation? How different do you think Congress' age would have been at the founding of our nation?

  8. What do do you think is one policy issue that Congress' old age might actually help it tackle?

  9. What is one policy issue that Congress' age might hurt its ability to legislate?

  10. Is this all good news or bad news?

  11. What is the average age of an American?*

  12. If there was a Silver Alert (missing senior) in Congress, how would the Capitol Police know which Congressperson to help????!

  13. What would be some immediate policy changes if the average age of Congress was suddenly equal to that of America = 37.9?

  14. There are age minimum requirements for Congress! What are those age requirements for the House and the Senate?**

  15. How likely is it that Congress will lower its age average requirement?

  16. Why don't we have age maximums?

  17. How different do you think American politics would be if we had 12 year term limits?

  18. Are you surprised that Democrats are older than Republicans?

  19. What do you think is the average age of new members of Congress?***

*37.9 years!

**House = 25; Senate = 30 years!

***Visual Extension

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Learning Extension

Read this 538 article about the aging of Congress?

Action Extension

My U.S. House Representative is 74 years young. Contact your Congressional Representative or Senator and ask them how their age impacts how they legislate. If they are young use email. If they are old send a carrier pigeon. Share your correspondence in class or online.

 

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals in Clothing Extension

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Approval Ratings

AP U.S. Government and Politics

Every Day is Presidents Day in GoPo

What president has had the highest approval rating since 1946?

Driven By Data    AP US Government and Politics

Driven By Data

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does this chart tell?

  3. What do you think causes presidential approval ratings to generally decline over a presidential term?

  4. Which president had the steepest decline of approval ratings?

  5. Which president had the biggest increase in their approval ratings?

  6. Describe Trump’s approval ratings in comparrison with the other presidents from the chart.

  7. How have rally points impacted recent presidential approval ratings?

  8. Think about how history will impact the future public’s opinion of all the presidents listed in the chart. In other words, 50 years from now, how will we regard these presidents? (That, is will we like each president more or less in the future???)

  9. How do you imagine that falling approval ratings affect the ability of presidents to govern?

  10. How do presidential approval ratings impact midterm elections?

  11. How do presidential approval ratings impact presidential elections?

  12. If you were to add POTUS Trump since his first year in office to this chart what would his approval numbers look like?

  13. What does this chart tell us about the American public?

  14. Describe the economic factors that impact presidential approval ratings.*

  15. What does the chart tell us about political polarization?

  16. They didn’t exactly have polling back then, but what do you imagine George Washington’s approval ratings would have been?

  17. What about Lincoln (think hard)?

  18. Write one question you have about this information:

  19. How do you celebrate Presidents' Day?

  20. In Federalist No. 70, Alexander Freaking Hamilton argues for a strong executive leader, as provided for by the Constitution, as opposed to the weak executive under the Articles of Confederation. He asserts, “energy in the executive is the leading character in the definition of good government. What do you think Hamilton would think about approval ratings and their impact on presidential power?

  21. Explain why Trump’s approval ratings do NOT deviate that much over time. What impact do his static ratings numbers have on American politics.

  22. In the comments section way below, if you were elected president, what would be one thing you could do to immediately improve your approval rating, and what is one thing you could do to make your approval ratings immediately tank?

Visual Extension*

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Learning Extension

Check out these Presidential Approval Ratings charts and story from the Pew Research Center. Or follow the daily interactive Trump approval ratings tracker from FiveThirtyEight.

Action Extension

Go to this interactive Wall Street Journal presidential approval ratings chart. Scroll through each president to see their approval ratings, and the inflection points where their approval went up or down. What generally causes approval ratings to fall and what usually causes approval ratings to go up? Contact POTUS Trump with one piece of advice about improving his approval ratings.

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals in Clothing Extension

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Our Test Prep in Downloading Extension

HIGH FIVE - STUDENT TEST PREP - DIGITAL DOWNLOAD

The Ultimate Student Test Prep. Prepare for the AP® US Government and Politics Exam from home! Download your own DIGITAL TEST REVIEW BOOK - RIGHT NOW! Tons of great review material for all 5 units! FRQ workshops with practice questions for all 4 FRQs. 50 BRAND NEW AP® exam-ready multiple choice questions with test key. Get Your Review On!

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

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HIGH FIVE - STUDENT TEST PREP - DIGITAL DOWNLOAD

The Ultimate Student Test Prep. Prepare for the AP® US Government and Politics Exam from home! Download your own DIGITAL TEST REVIEW BOOK - RIGHT NOW! Tons of great review material for all 5 units! FRQ workshops with practice questions for all 4 FRQs. 50 BRAND NEW AP® exam-ready multiple choice questions with test key. Get Your Review On!

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No Love for the Gov

AP US Government and Politics

GoPo Pro

Of the major U.S. institutions such as the U.S. Congress, the Presidency, Colleges and Universities, the News Media, Large Corporations, Banks, and Religious institutions, which is the least trusted by Americans?

Pew Research Center

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this information?

  3. What is the big story this data tells?

  4. Why do you think the U.S. has such low levels of trust in the U.S. Congress?

  5. What is a consequence of this distrust?

  6. How do you think this data might affect young people considering what career to embark upon?

  7. Explain whether, overall, the data from the chart is good news or bad:

  8. If Americans were asked to evaluate the Supreme Court and Judiciary's impact on the direction of the country, how would they be judged?

  9. Explain how you think the Trump administration will be ranked in terms of their impact on the direction of the country:

  10. Why do you think small businesses are so well regarded?

  11. Why do you think that 28% of Americans have a negative view of colleges and Universities?

  12. Can you believe that 38% of all statistic are made up on the spot?!

  13. How would you personally evaluate each of the institutions in the chart above?

  14. How different do you think this data would have been 50 years ago?

  15. How do you think partisanship (Democrats versus Republicans) would most affect opinions of the institutions from this list*?

  16. The survey above was taken before the 2016 presidential campaign. Explain how you think these numbers have changed because of the election:

  17. What are three steps the U.S. government could take to regain Americans' trust?

  18. What major U.S. institution do you think would fare even worse than the U.S. Congress?

  19. What role do you think the media plays in creating these perceptions of these institutions?

  20. Think about how the media depicts the U.S. government in fictional television shows and movies. What movie or film best encapsulates the prevailing attitudes from this chart? Share your answer in the comments section below:


Learning Extension

Read the Pew Research Center's report on American attitudes towards institutions then check out this cool interactive graph of U.S. trust in the government over time.


Action Extension

Contact President Trump and share one idea you have of how he could increase Americans' opinion of the office of the presidency:

Visual Extension*

Our World in Data Extension

Our Animals in Drag Extension

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Suburban Voters

AP US Government and Politics

We know that most urban voters are Democrats and most rural voters are Republicans. But are suburban voters more likely to identify as Democrats or Republicans?

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What has happened to Republican support in urban areas over the past 20 years?

  3. What is one cause of this urban tilt?

  4. What has happened to Democratic support in rural areas over the past 20 years?

  5. What is one cause of this rural tilt?

  6. How much does the data in the chart accurately describe the place where you live?

  7. If you had to make a statement regarding party affiliation of rural versus urban voters what would it be?

  8. Can you think of a mnemonic device to help remember your party affiliation statement from question 7?

  9. Why do you think rural voters are so pro-Republican?

  10. Why do you think urban voters are so pro-Democratic?

  11. Based on the data above, what information do we need to know in order to predict the outcome of an election?

  12. It's a fact that people who register as independents generally vote for the same party year after year in elections. Why do these people who regularly lean in one direction register as independents?

  13. What is one advantage to registering as a member of a political party?

  14. Can non-citizens vote in federal elections?*

  15. Can non-citizens run for federal office?*

  16. Can naturalized citizens become U.S. Representatives or Senators?*

  17. Can naturalized citizens become U.S. President?*

  18. If subhumans are less than human, are suburbanites less than urbanites?

  19. What is one consequence of this big rural urban divide in America?

  20. How much has this urban/rural party affiliation divide grown over the past two decades, and if it continues, what will this urban/rural party affiliation divide look like in two more decades?

  21. How has this urban/rural divide impacted the Trump presidency?

*Answers

11. No

12. No

13. Yes

14. Heck No!

Visual Extension

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Learning Extension

Check out all the fabulous charts in the Pew Research Center report on trends in party affiliation.

Action Extension

Create a mnemonic device to remember the party affiliation leanings of Americans based on race, gender, education, and generation. Share your mnemonic in class or online.

Cartoon Extension

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Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals in Clothing Extension

What Happens in an Internet Minute? 2018

AP US Government and Politics

GoPo Pro

How many snaps are created every minute?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What's the most interesting fact from this infographic?

  3. What's the most disturbing fact from this infographic?

  4. What is the big story this infographic tells?

  5. In general, is this good or bad news?

  6. How does this internet minute most impact American politics?

  7. How does American politics most impact this internet minute?

  8. Explain which you think has more impact on your life: the U.S. government or the internet.

  9. Imagine their was an internet at the time of the Constitutional Convention. How would that have impacted our country’s founding?

  10. What does your average internet minute look like?

  11. What 2 questions do you have about an internet minute?

  12. Which of the companies/services from the infographic above do you use the most?

  13. Only one generation ago, there was no internet as we know it today. How do you think the internet has most profoundly changed your generation?

  14. How do you think an internet minute will be different in 10 years?

  15. What is the biggest change from 2016* (see below) to 2018 in what happens in an internet minute?

  16. How do you imagine this information impacted the 2016 presidential campaign and election?

  17. What is the biggest impact of the information from the infographic on how the U.S. government functions?

  18. Imagine the internet went down - for an entire year - describe the three biggest impacts that would have on your life.

  19. Imagine the internet went down - for an entire year - describe the three biggest impacts that would have on American politics.

Learning Extension

Check out the Teens Fact Sheet from the Pew Research Center about internet consumption by U.S. teenagers.


Action Extension

Did you know that offline, the average person will have 35 to 48 thoughts per minute? When you get home from school, take twenty minutes to be by yourself. Stay off the internet for the first 10 minutes. Notice how you feel. Pay attention to your thoughts and where they go. Notice every time you reach for your phone or computer. Be aware of the speed of time. Stop. Now go online for ten minutes. Notice how different these ten minutes were from ten spent offline. Share your results with friends or family or in class.

 

Visual Extension

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HIGH FIVE - STUDENT TEST PREP - DIGITAL DOWNLOAD

The Ultimate Student Test Prep. Prepare for the AP® US Government and Politics Exam from home! Download your own DIGITAL TEST REVIEW BOOK - RIGHT NOW! Tons of great review material for all 5 units! FRQ workshops with practice questions for all 4 FRQs. 50 BRAND NEW AP® exam-ready multiple choice questions with test key. Get Your Review On!

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Switching Parties

AP US Government and Politics

Party identification is sticky, meaning that year after year, most people stay in the same party. What percentage of Americans switched parties in 2017?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What is the big story here?

  3. Why do you think that is?

  4. What is one consequence of the fact that so few people switch parties?

  5. Explain whether this story is good or bad news.

  6. What do you think is the main motivation for people to switch parties?

  7. My grandfather switched parties during the Reagan administration. My father in law switched parties during the Obama administration. Do you know anyone who has ever switched parties?

  8. Who was the last major political figure who switched political parties?

  9. What would the party with which you currently identify have to do to make you immediately switch to the other major party?

  10. Over the past year, 22% of people who identified as independents (neither Democrat or Republican) moved towards a political party. Why do you think that change occurred?

  11. What age group do you think is most likely to switch parties?*

  12. Why do you think that is? 

  13. How much did President Trump impact party switching?*

  14. Over the past year, 23% of young Republicans (age 18-29) defected from the party. Why do you think that is?

  15. What is one thing the Republican Party could do to get these voters back?

  16. What question do you have about this data?

  17. Explain whether party switching will become more frequent in the future.

  18. The other day, Donald Trump's Twitter account was deleted for 11 minutes. If political parties were suddenly deleted, but permanently, how do you think this would impact American politics?

  19. Republicans are known as elephants and Democrats, as donkeys. What would be the best mascot for people who switch parties?

  20. Switching Parties sort of sounds like a song title. In the comments section name the artist most likely to record this song:

Learning Extension

Check out this Pew report on party switching.

Action Extension

Find one person who has ever switched parties. Interview them to find out what made them switch. Share your results in class or online.

Visual Extension*

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Adorable Animal Extension

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Our World In Data Extension

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