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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Incumbent Reelection Rates

AP US Government and Politics

Over the past half century, about what percent of incumbents* are reelected to Congress?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What most surprised you about this data?

  3. What is the big story this chart tells?

  4. Why do you think that is?

  5. What is one consequence of this?

  6. Is this good news, bad news, neither, or both?

  7. Based on this chart alone, make one prediction about incumbents and the 2018 midterm elections:

  8. If you were to draw this chart twenty years into the future what would it look like:

  9. Have US incumbent reelection rates always been this high? (see bonus chart below.)

  10. Imagine a world where there were no incumbents (in other words, you were not allowed to run for reelection EVER) what would that political system look like and who would it empower?

  11. No matter what happens in the the next  election, the big winners will be incumbents. Who will the big losers be?

  12. What are three reasons that incumbents win?

  13. Let's say that you wanted to take away some of these incumbent advantages, who would have to pass the laws to take away those advantages?

  14. In the most recent decades, presidents get reelected at about a 66% rate. Explain whether you believe our current president will be reelected:

  15. Explain whether you believe our current president should be reelected:

  16. You must have a few questions about this chart. Write down a question that comes to mind:

  17. Based on the data, what assumptions would you make about the popularity of Congress today?

Learning Extension

This is a meme about Congressional incumbents.

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Check out Pulitzer Prize winner Politifact's exploration of whether this meme is true.

Action Extension

Think about incumbents and why they win. Think about the Congressional incumbents who represent you (they could be Senators or members of the House). Do a little research on your own personal incumbent and decide whether you should vote for them or not. If you can vote, vote your conscience. If you can't vote, find someone who can and explain whether they should vote for the incumbent or not.

Bonus Charts

Barb!

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Hilarious Animals!

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A Woman's Place Is In The House...Of Representatives

AP US Government and Politics

Which three states have never had a woman representative in the House or the Senate?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. How surprised are you by this information?

  3. How did your own state and district do in regards to female representation?

  4. What story does the map tell?

  5. Do you notice any big geographical patterns in the map?

  6. Explain whether this is a happy map or a sad map.

  7. Why do you think these three states have never had any representation?

  8. What is one consequence of never having elected a female for these three states?

  9. Vermont and Mississippi are about as politically and culturally different as any two states could be. Why do you think they both agree on not having female representatives?

  10. It's been said that the gender of the politician isn't important, what matters are the policies they fight for. In the comments section, explain whether you think this statement is true:


Learning Extension

Check out this great article and interactive map at Vox where you can find out about female representation in your own state and ditrict.


Action Extension

Vote for a woman or convince someone else to vote for a woman. Better yet, lobby your political party (Emily's List for liberals, the NFRW for conservatives) to run women for office. Or best of all, if you are a woman, run for office.


Bonus Maps

Campaign Stops

AP US Government and Politics and Chickens

In the 2016 presidential elections, after the party nominating conventions, what four states had over half of all campaign events?

Post-Convention Campaign Stops per State

NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE PLAN

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What was most surprising about this map?

  3. What is the take home story of this map?

  4. explain why the map looks this way.

  5. What is one consequence of this concentration of campaign activity?

  6. What is the political science term we use to describe these four states?

  7. Central to the concept of democracy is the the idea that all people are politically equal. The Declaration of IndEpendence contains these lines regarding the value of equality. “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,” Does this map resemble political equality?

  8. Why did California, the nation's most populous state, receive only one campaign stop?

  9. 28 states received no visits from presidential campaigns. Why is that?

  10. Explain whether the information from this map is good news.

  11. Imagine the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolished the Electoral College (don’t hold your breath). How would that Constitutional change impact the data from the map?

  12. Explain how this concentrated campaign activity in those four states impacted voter turnout in those states.

  13. Explain how this concentrated campaign activity in those four states impacted voter turnout In the other states.

  14. At the time of the Constitutional Convention The Anti-Federalists were afraid of too much power being concentrated in a central national government. They prefered that power be centered at the state level. If an anti-federalist saw this map, after they stopped freaking out about how Big the U.S. had gotten, what claim would they make about this map and the power of states?

  15. What change in the US electoral system could make campaign events be spread more evenly throughout the US?

  16. What is a pirate’s Favorite place to eat lunch?*

Learning Extension

Analyze the map with the folks from NPVP and watch this video that explains how the NPVP works.

Action Extension

If states with a majority of electoral votes enacted the National Popular Vote Plan, US presidential campaigns would be very different and campaign stops would be more evenly distributed. Use this handy little link to contact your state representative (they decide where your state's electoral votes go) and let them know what you think about the National Popular Vote Plan.

Dog Meme Extension

AP US Government and Dogitics

AP US Government and Dogitics

Snow Map Extension

How Much Snow Does It Take To Cancel School?

How Much Snow Does It Take To Cancel School?    AP Government and Politics

How Much Snow Does It Take To Cancel School?

AP Government and Politics

*ARRRRRRRRRRRRRRRBY’S

Ranking our Rights

AP US Government and Politics

Of the following rights, which do Americans think is the least important: freedom of speech, the right to vote, the right to privacy, freedom of religion, the right to own guns?

AP US Government and Politics

AP US Government and Politics

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. What story does this data tell?

  3. Why do you think that is?

  4. What most surprised you about this information?

  5. What is one consequence of Americans' enduring love of freedom of speech?

  6. The right to own guns is relatively unessential Americans' sense of freedom. How do you think that impacts the recent national debate about gun reform?

  7. According to this poll, which Constitutional Amendments are deemed as essential?

  8. WHat other Amendments (not listed above) would you personally describe as indispensable to your sense of freedom?

  9. How would you personally rank these five freedoms on a scale of most to least essential to your freedom?

  10. Explain how differently you think the average American Republican and Democrat would rank these five freedoms:

  11. If you were an autocratic government, determined to take away citizens' rights (think Putin) explain which of those five rights would you first take away.* This is hypothetical - don't actually do this!!!!!

  12. What's wrong with Americans that we no longer consider our Third Amendment Freedom from having to quarter soldiers as essential to our freedom????

  13. That Third Amendment right, which seemed essential in 1787 is more or less obsolete today. The Framers also were concerned about an overreaching national government and thus protected the right of states to form militias (2nd Amendment). Do you think that this idea is equally obsolete?

  14. Imagine Americans wanted to abolish the 2nd and 3rd Amendment (we've abolished amendments before) What steps could Americans take to do this?

Learning Extension

Read the Pew research Report on The Five Freedoms.

Action Extension

Share the following ranking with any ten people. Share the results in class or online.

Create your own user feedback survey

AP Pugament and Pugatics

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

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

Our Animals In Clothing Extension

Split Ticket

AP US Government and Politics

Do more U.S. voters cast a straight-ticket* or a split-ticket ballot?

  1. How accurate was your prediction?

  2. Does this information surprise you?

  3. Describe one trend from the chart?

  4. What do you think explains that trend?

  5. What is one consequence of that trend?

  6. Is that good news or bad news?

  7. How did this trend impact the 2016 presidential election?

  8. How does this trend relate to divided government?

  9. Which party do you think is more worried about this trend right now?

  10. Why is there no data in this chart for split-ticket voting in midterm elections?

  11. Do you think that split-ticket voting is generally a bad idea?

  12. Explain whether you would ever vote a split-ticket?

  13. in the 1990 presidential election, 63 percent of states with Senate races voted for the same candidate for president as for Senate. In 2014, 91 percent of states did. In 2016, that metric was 100 percent. Is this good or bad news?

  14. What do you think is the main motivation of voters who vote a split ticket?

  15. Explain whether you think Republicans or Democrats are more likely to split ticket vote.

  16. What is the best argument against split ticket voting?

  17. Based on his writing in Federalist No. 51, what claim would James Freaking Madison, author of the Constitution, and shortest president EVER, make about the value of voting a split ticket?

  18. Based on his writing in Federalist No. 70, what claim would Alexander Hamilton, First Secretary of the Treasury and Ten Dollar Founding Father without a father, make about the value of voting a split ticket?

Visual Extension

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Learning Extension

Check out these cool charts on split-ticket voting from WAPO.

Action Extension

Talk to people until you find someone who did (or would if they could) vote a split-ticket vote. Try to understand why they are splitting their ticket and share your conversation in class or online.

*Straight-ticket voting (also called straight-party voting) allows voters to choose a party’s entire slate of candidates with just a single ballot marking. Voters make one punch or mark on the ballot in order to vote for every candidate of that party for each office on the ballot.

Our World In Data Extension

Our Animals in Clothing Extension