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POLSC231: Introduction to American Politics

Unit 2: American Political Behavior   The diverse American public is a major component of the American political system. Politics touches the lives of all Americans – voters, politicians, the young, the old, and everyone in between. Political scientists are extremely interested in studying how the public participates in the American political system. This unit will explore the various areas of political behavior and their influence on American politics. We will also discuss some more general subtopics that pertain to the American public and its role in the political system, including public opinion, the media, political participation, political parties, campaigns, elections, and interest groups. To fully understand American democracy, you must consider how these concepts have changed over time and how they continue to influence politics in America today.

Unit 2 Time Advisory
Completing this unit should take approximately 48.5 hours.
 
☐    Subunit 2.1: 5.5 hours
 

☐    Subunit 2.1.1: 3 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.1.2: 0.25 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.1.3: 1.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.1.4: 0.25 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.2: 9.5 hours
 

☐    Subunit 2.2.1: 0.75 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.2.2: 1.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.2.3: 1.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.2.4: 2.25 hours

☐    Subunit 2.2.5: 0.5 hours

☐    Subunit 2.3: 6.75 hours
 

☐    Subunit 2.3.1: 1.25 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.3.2: 2.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.4: 11.25 hours
 

☐    Subunit 2.4.1: 0.75 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.4.2: 2 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.4.3: 4.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.5: 10.25 hours
 

☐    Subunit 2.5.1: 0.25 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.5.2: 2 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.5.3: 1.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.5.4: 1.5 hours

 

☐    Subunit 2.6: 2.75 hours
 
☐    Unit 2 Current Events Challenge: 1.5 hours
 

☐    Unit 2 Assessment: 1 hour

Unit2 Learning Outcomes
Upon successful completion of this unit, you will be able to: - define public opinion, and describe what it measures and how it has evolved in American politics; - discuss how public opinion polls are used in electoral politics; - explain the key values inherent in American political culture; - differentiate between the various ideologies that exist across the political spectrum, including liberalism and conservatism; - discuss the pervasive influence of the mass media on electoral politics and political behavior; - trace the evolution of the media in the US; - distinguish “old media” from “new media,” and explain the latter’s influence on the American political system; - analyze the politics of media ownership and its impact on government and democracy; - examine the various methods in which Americans participate in politics; - explain the factors that impact voter turnout; - discuss the key voting trends over the past century; - outline the history and evolution of suffrage in the United States; - discuss the role of social movements in mobilizing political participation; - explain the role, function, and structure of American political parties; - trace the history and evolution of the US political party system; - discuss the relationship between political parties and the media; - explain the difference between a presidential primary versus a caucus; - analyze the distinguishing features between congressional and presidential elections; - explain how the Electoral College works in electing the president, including the pro and con arguments about its contemporary usefulness; - evaluate the role of money in campaigns and elections; - analyze the effectiveness of campaign finance reform; - assess the role and impact of interest groups in the American political system; and - define the various types of interest groups and the activities in which they engage.

2.1 Public Opinion and Political Socialization   - Reading: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Student Study Guide #2: American Political Behavior” Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Student Study Guide #2: American Political Behavior” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read over this brief list of questions, all of which will be addressed in Unit 2. You should use it as a guide before each subunit to help you determine some of the most important material to be covered. At the end of the unit, use it as a resource to review important terms and concepts.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

2.1.1 Defining and Measuring Public Opinion   - Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Opinion and the Media” Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Opinion and the Media” (PPT)
 
Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Public Opinion” and “The Media” below.
 
Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Opinion” Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Public Opinion” (YouTube)
     
    Also available in:
    iTunes U (Lecture 8)
     
    Instructions: This lecture provides information pertaining to public opinion and political socialization. Public opinion is a complex phenomenon, and scholars have developed a variety of interpretations of what public opinion means. Political socialization helps define one’s public opinion in that it is a process by which people develop the attitudes, values, beliefs, and behaviors that are conducive to becoming good citizens. You’ll also learn from this lecture how many people’s understanding of the political world comes through their exposure to and interaction with the media.
     
    Watching his lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 7: Public Opinion” Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 7: Public Opinion” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read this chapter on pages 241-277. It provides a comprehensive overview of public opinion – what it is, what it measures, and how it has evolved – in addition to making a case for the importance of public opinion in a democracy. Finally, the chapter takes on the increasingly complicated relationship between the media and public opinion.
     
    Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes
     
    Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.1.1 − Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.1.1 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

2.1.2 Public Opinion, Polling, and Politics   - Reading: US Department of State: John Zogby’s The Long Campaign: “Political Polls: Why We Just Can’t Live Without Them” Link: US Department of State: John Zogby’s The Long Campaign: “Political Polls: Why We Just Can’t Live Without Them” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Public opinion polls are often used in order to gauge a candidate’s appeal to the public. Read the text to learn more about America’s fascination with public opinion polls and to discover how these polls influence elections. As a long-time pollster, the author aims to make a strong case regarding the need for polls, stating that they perform the important function of revealing the innermost thoughts, feelings, biases, values, and behaviors of the body politic. Do you agree or disagree with this claim?
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Mobile App: Gallup Inc.’s *Gallup News* Link: Gallup Ink’s Gallup News (iOS app)
     
    Instructions: This optional app makes available the latest polls on politics, the economy, national wellbeing, and the world. While reading/viewing the polls, keep in mind that public opinion is constantly changing, and that these polls offer only a snapshot of opinion, largely based on the top issues of the day. To help reinforce this point, also read some of the news articles, which are updated daily, on current events and public opinion.
     
    Reading through this optional app should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.1.3 Influences on Political Socialization   - Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 6: Political Culture and Socialization” Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 6: Political Culture and Socialization” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read Chapter 6 on pages 195-241, which explains how citizens gain an understanding and acceptance of US political culture through a process called political socialization. Political socialization is the process by which people learn what it means to be citizen and develop an understanding of government and politics. The chapter also focuses on the ways that knowledge about politics and attitudes toward government are passed on across generations.
 
Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

2.1.4 American Political Culture and Ideology   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Political Ideology” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Political Ideology” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read these brief definitions of various types of political ideologies.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.

2.2 The Media   - Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Media” Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Media” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lecture “The Media” below.
 
Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Media” Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “The Media” (YouTube)
     
    Also available in:
    iTunes U (Lecture 7)
     
    Instructions: The media has come to play a very important role in shaping our political system. In particular, broadcast media has significantly impacted the landscape of American politics ever since the first televised presidential debate between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon in 1960. In addition to the shape and power of the media, Dr. Scott also discusses whether Americans consider the media to be a trustworthy source of information. Many people question the objectivity of the news media and find much of it to be politically biased.
     
    Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 1: Communication in the Information Age” Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 1: Communication in the Information Age” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Chapter 1 on pages 8-47. The media, in particular the print media, have been called the “fourth estate” and the “fourth branch of government.” The news media are a pervasive feature of American politics and generally help define our culture. New communications technologies have made the media more influential throughout American society and serve as a link between politicians, government officials, and the public. The fact that political information can now be transmitted much more quickly and subjected to far more individual control has transformed the political information environment. New media formats, such as blogs, podcasts, and wikis, blend interpersonal interactions with mass communication. This chapter examines and discusses the current and rapidly changing political information environment and its impact on political behavior, processes, and government.
     
    Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.2 − Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.2 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

2.2.1 The Evolution of the Media in the United States   - Reading: Boundless: “The Muckrakers” Link: Boundless: “The Muckrakers” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this overview of early “investigative journalism,” known as “muckraking,” for an introduction to how media has historically influenced politics.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to Boundless, and the original version can be found here.

  • Reading: US Department of State: David Vaina’s “New Media Versus Old Media” Link: US Department of State: David Vaina’s “New Media Versus Old Media” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this article to learn more about how new technologies have influenced the media and politics in our country. In the US, there has been a demonstrable shift from the people who produce the news to the people who consume it in the form of citizen-journalists and bloggers. As a result, citizens have far more choices – a phenomenon that has produced a very different political discourse.
     
    Reading this article and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Web Media: YouTube: US Department of State: “Elections: New Media: A New Era” Link: YouTube: US Department of State: “Elections: New Media: A New Era” (YouTube)
     
    Also available in:
    Adobe Flash
     
    Instructions: Watch this brief video clip on the evolution of the media in the United States, paying careful attention to the ways in which new media is allowing more individuals to participate in the “mass media.” Are the political implications of new media good or bad for democracy and American politics?
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

2.2.2 Private or Public: Who Should Own the Media?   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Introduction to the Politics and Policy of Media Ownership” Link: The Saylor Foundation's “Introduction to the Politics and Policy of Media Ownership” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this introduction to the politics and policy of media ownership and consolidation.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.

  • Reading: Washington College of Law: American University Law Review: Ben Scott’s “The Policy and Politics of Media Ownership” Link: Washington College of Law: American University Law Review: Ben Scott’s “The Policy and Politics of Media Ownership” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read this report. Ben Scott argues that the 2003 congressional decision to reverse a Federal Communications Commission ruling to deregulate the broadcast industry represented an important moment in the cross-section between politics and policy. Specifically, the policies and regulations that shape the media system became political issues for the American people. The author makes a number of significant points as to why this happened: grassroots pressure trumping corporate interests, the ability of a powerful political minority to up-end the process, and the unpopularity of media concentration among the American public. Finally, he argues that this transformative conflict will carry over into other key media issues for years to come.
     
    Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Ben Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

2.2.3 Regulating the Media   - Reading: Congressional Research Service: Angie A. Welborn and Henry Cohen’s “Regulation of Broadcast Indecency: Background and Legal Analysis” Link: Congressional Research Service: Angie A. Welborn and Henry Cohen’s “Regulation of Broadcast Indecency: Background and Legal Analysis” (PDF)
 
Instructions: This report focuses on two prominent television events that placed increased attention on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the broadcast indecency statute that it enforces – the airing of an expletive by rock singer Bono during the 2003 Golden Globe Awards, as well as the “wardrobe malfunction” that occurred during the 2004 Super Bowl half-time show. It also discusses the legal evolution of the FCC’s indecency regulations, and provides an overview of how the current regulations have been applied. While reading the report, consider the various court rulings regarding the First Amendment and broadcast media. What has been the general consensus, if any, on the constitutionality of banning “indecent” words or actions by the government?
 
Reading this report and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

2.2.4 The Role of the Media in the American Political System   - Web Media: YouTube: US Department of State: “Elections: New Media: New Challenges” and “New Media: Government 2.0” Link: YouTube: US Department of State: “Elections: New Media: New Challenges” (YouTube) and “New Media: Government 2.0” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch these two video clips (3:54 minutes and 1:59 minutes, respectively) to learn about the impact that new media has had on American elections and the government. Think about how, in the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama was able to seize the power of new media, including social media, to connect with voters and strengthen the “grassroots” component of his campaign.

 *New Media: New Challenges* also available in:  
 [Adobe
Flash](http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/?videoId=1388771046#axzz2hQt14HAF)  
    
 *New Media: Government 2.0* also available in:  
 [Adobe
Flash](http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/?videoId=7415786001#axzz2hQt14HAF)  
     
 Watching these clips and taking notes should take approximately 15
minutes.  
    
 Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.
  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Analyzing Political Cartoons” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Analyzing Political Cartoons” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Political cartoons are illustrations containing a commentary that usually relates to current events or personalities. They typically use visual metaphors, humor, and caricatures to address often complicated or controversial political issues. Colonial America’s earliest pictorial representations in the press were political in nature. In 1754 an illustration by Benjamin Franklin, titled “Join or Die” appeared in his newspaper, The Pennsylvania Gazette. Along with his editorial about the “disunited state” of the colonies, the picture helped to make his point about the importance of colonial unity during the French and Indian War.
     
    Today, political cartoons can be found on the editorial page of most newspapers, and they are disseminated widely on the Internet. They have been influential in shaping public opinion both historically and presently, and they play a critical role in helping citizens understand both the positive and negative aspects of representative democracy.
     
    For this assessment you will analyze the techniques, styles, and themes of various contemporary political cartoons. Please follow the directions in this file. Ater you complete the assessment, check your work against this guide to responding.
     
    Completing this assessment should take approximately 2 hours.

2.2.5 Good or Bad: Evaluating the Media and Its Influence on Democracy   - Reading: University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School for Communication: “The Value of Social Media for Promoting Democracy” Link: University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School for Communication: “The Value of Social Media for Promoting Democracy” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Read this short article, which asks whether or not social media is a net positive for promoting democracy.
 
Reading this article should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to the University of Pennsylvania, Annenberg School for Communication, and the original version can be found here.

  • Reading: European Journalism Centre: James Harkin’s “Social Media and 2011 Revolutions: Reshaping World Politics” Link: European Journalism Centre: James Harkin’s “Social Media and 2011 Revolutions: Reshaping World Politics” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video, which discusses the role that social media played during the 2011 revolutions.
     
    Watching this video should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. It is attributed to James Harkin and the European Journalism Centre, and the original version can be found here.

2.3 Participation and Voting   - Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Voting Behavior” Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Voting Behavior” (PPT)
 
Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lecture “Political Participation” below.
 
Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Political Participation” Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Political Participation” (YouTube)
     
    Also available in:
    iTunes U (Lecture 9)
     
    Instructions: Why do we participate and vote the way we do? What are the factors that prevent us from voting? What are the types of participation? Conventional methods of participation are voting, writing public officials, engaging in public demonstrations, and volunteering for campaigns. Unconventional forms of participation include militia training, engaging in riots, looting, and blocking entrances to public buildings. Over time, we have seen a gradual extension of Americans’ right to vote. Early in the republic’s history, only white, landowning men could vote, but during Andrew Jackson’s presidency, property qualifications fell out of favor. By the 1850s, all taxpaying and landholding requirements were lifted for white males. It wasn’t until the passage of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution that black males were given the right to vote; however, many southern states enacted measures to prevent blacks from voting – i.e., poll taxes, literacy tests, intimidation – which lasted well into the 20th century. The 19th Amendment, passed in 1920, formally gave women the right to vote in elections. A number of civil rights bills and constitutional amendments were passed in the 1950s and 1960s to remove some of the remaining vestiges of discrimination toward African Americans and other minority groups.
     
    Watching this lecture and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Patrick Scott and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 8: Participation, Voting, and Social Movements” Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 8: Participation, Voting, and Social Movements” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read Chapter 8 on pages 277-323. There are many different ways that Americans can participate in politics, including voting, joining political parties, volunteering, contacting public officials, contributing money, working in campaigns, holding public office, protesting, and rioting. Voting is the most prevalent form of political participation, but many eligible voters do not turn out in elections. People can also take part in social movements, in which large groups of individuals with shared goals work together to influence government policies.
     
    Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.3 − Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.3 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

2.3.1 Voting Behavior   - Reading: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 12 – Voting Behavior and Intensity” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 12 – Voting Behavior and Intensity” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation on voting behavior, voter turnout, and how they change given certain conditions. The demographics of the American population – gender, education, socioeconomic status, race, and occupation – can provide a barometer as to why/if people will vote. For example, “Baby Boomers,” vested with a strong sense of civic duty based on their formative years in the 1960s, are very likely to vote. It also looks at the phenomena of voter intensity, issue saliency, and political efficacy in determining people’s likelihood of voting.
 
Watching this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: C-SPAN Video Library: “Voter Demographics and Turnout in Election 2012” Link: C-SPAN Video Library: “Voter Demographics and Turnout in the 2012 Election” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: In this video, David Lauter, Washington Bureau Chief of the Los Angeles Times, discusses voter turnout in the 2012 election and how it was greatly impacted by the demographic and attitudinal changes among the American electorate.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: This material is in the public domain.

2.3.2 Enfranchisement and Trends in Political Participation Over Time   - Web Media: US Department of State: “Government: Suffrage” Link: US Department of State: “Government: Suffrage” (Adobe Flash)
 
Instructions: Watch this video, which looks at the women’s suffrage movement in the United States and how women finally won the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Reading: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Learn NC: Deborah M. S. Brown’s “The Long Struggle for Women’s Suffrage” Link: University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill: Learn NC: Deborah M. S. Brown’s “The Long Struggle for Women’s Suffrage” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this concise yet comprehensive discussion about the history of women’s suffrage in the United States.
     
    Reading this discussion should take approximately 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 Generic License. It is attributed to Deborah M. S. Brown and Learn NC.

  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Voter Turnout in the 2012 Presidential Election” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Voter Turnout in the 2012 Presidential Election” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Voter turnout in the United States has risen and fallen over time, depending on a complex mixture of social, political, and economic forces. According to the Center for Voting and Democracy, after rising sharply from 1948 to 1960, turnout declined in nearly every election until it dropped to less than half of eligible voters in 1988. Since 1988, it has fluctuated, from a low of 52.6% of eligible voters in 1996 to a high of 61% of eligible voters in 2004, the highest level since 1968. Examining statistics about who votes, where, and when, can provide useful insight into the challenges (and opportunities) in fostering voter engagement and a healthy democracy.
     
    For this assessment, you will use national and state-specific voter-turnout data to discover patterns and draw conclusions about voting in the U.S. When you have finished, check your work against this answer key.
     
    Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

2.4 Political Parties   - Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Political Parties” Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Political Parties” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Political Parties I” and “Political Parties II” below.
 
Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Political Parties I” and “Political Parties II” Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Political Parties I” (YouTube) and “Political Parties II” (YouTube)
     
    Also available in:
    iTunes U (Lecture 10 and 11)
     
    Instructions: Political parties are among some of the oldest organizations in the United States. At one point in our country’s history, they were very strong and dominant in our political system. However, the strength of political parties has declined in recent years due to a combination of factors: a rise in the number of political action committees (PACs), interest groups, and professional campaign consultants, which have effectively “pushed out” the role of political parties in deciding how citizens will vote. In addition, people’s attachment to political parties has significantly waned with the increase in the number of voters who consider themselves political “independents.” Dr. Scott also discusses the structure of the US two-party system (versus a multi-party system) and how it impacts the outcome of elections.
     
    Watching these videos and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 10: Political Parties” Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 10: Political Parties” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read this chapter on pages 354-406. Political parties are essential to democracy – they simplify voting choices, organize the competition, unify the electorate, help organize government by bridging the separation of powers and fostering cooperation among branches of government, translate public preferences into policy, and provide an outlet for loyal opposition.
     
    Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.4 − Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.4 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

2.4.1 Evolution of Political Parties in America   - Reading: US Department of State: Outline of the US Government: “Political Parties” Link: US Department of State: Outline of the US Government: “Political Parties” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Read this concise historical explanation of political parties in the American system of government. Political parties are not mentioned in the Constitution – in fact, the Founding Fathers, including George Washington, were wary of “factions” that could undermine democracy.While Washington accepted the fact that it was natural for people to organize and operate within groups like political parties, he also argued that every government has recognized political parties as an enemy and has sought to repress them because of their tendency to seek more power than other groups and take revenge on political opponents. Despite his warnings, political parties developed soon after the Constitution was written, largely out of necessity. Political leaders who also opposed parties recognized the need to organize officeholders who shared views so that government could operate effectively.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 9 – Political Parties” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 9 – Political Parties” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch the two-part presentation on the history and evolution of political parties in America. The first political parties arose in the late 18th century and came to be defined by the competing philosophies of Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. Hamilton, a Federalist, felt it was important to invest in manufacturing and industry, while Jefferson, a Democratic-Republican, sought to protect agrarian interests, focusing instead on the power of the individual farmer. The Democratic-Republicans sustained prominence in Congress and the presidency for more than 20 years after George Washington left office, culminating with the demise of the Federalist Party and the beginning of the Second Party System.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.4.2 Parties in the American System Today   - Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 10 – Party Function and Structure” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 10 – Party Function and Structure” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this two-part presentation on the structure and functions of political parties in the US. Political parties serve three important functions: helping the electorate to decide, contesting elections, and organizing government. Parties in America are organized much like the federal government – each has offices at the national, state, and local level – and often operate in a decentralized manner. The presentation also goes on to describe the historical evolution of political parties, beginning with the political machines of the late 19th century up until the early 20th century political reforms, such as primary elections, that stripped political parties of much of the power they held historically. Finally, some of the key ideological differences between the Republican and Democratic parties are discussed.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “Third Parties” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Third Parties”
     
    Instructions: Throughout the history of American politics, no more than two political parties have ever dominated at one time. Today, the two major political parties in the U.S. are the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. These parties have emerged as dominant due in large part to their many supporters, and their organizing and fundraising capabilities. Third parties, on the other hand, have a relatively small base of support and money. More importantly, their candidates rarely win elections.
     
    Third parties are generally categorized in three ways:

    • Ideological – based on ideals that are often radically different from those of the two major parties;
    • Single-Issue – addressing one main concern;
    • Factional – parties that have split from a major party.

    For this assessment you will conduct research on a third party, either current or defunct, and answer the questions below. A list of current third parties can be found at Politics1 or by conducting an Internet search for American third parties.
     
    1. In what category does the third party belong? Why?
     
    2. What political and/or social factors led to the emergence of this party?
     
    3. List three of the party’s platform issues or political goals.
     
    4. What has been the impact of the party on electoral politics and/or national public policy?
     
    After you have answered these questions, you may check your work against this guide to responding.
     
    Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

2.4.3 American Parties: Ideology and Identification   - Reading: Democratic National Committee: “2012 Democratic National Platform” Link: Democratic National Committee: “2012 Democratic National Platform” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Scroll down to “Download the PDF” to read the platform. Prior to the conventions every four years, the committees for the national parties choose key party members who meet to contribute, debate, and vote on policy stances that become the basis of their party's official platform. Party delegates – citizens selected to represent their states at national conventions – vote to support or amend platform drafts. Eventually, each position is presented as a carefully worded “plank” in a final platform document.
 
Party platforms are nuanced marketing tools as well as political ideologies. As a result, platforms are intended to appeal to the largest possible base within the party – a difficult task in a membership group representing millions of people – in addition to convincing undecided voters. To that end, be sure to “read between the lines” to get to the core of what is really being stated in the platform. Finally, keep in mind that both parties will often have similar goals, such as improving education, but have different viewpoints on how they should be achieved. Being aware of this will help you to make a clearer distinction between their fundamental ideological positions. You will be asked to read the Republican Party platform in the resource box below.
 
Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Republican National Committee: “2012 Republican Platform” Link: Republican National Committee: “2012 Republican Platform” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Scroll down to “Download PDF” to read the platform.
     
    Reading this selection and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 11 – Party Identification” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 11 – Party Identification” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch the two-part presentation on party identification and national shifts in party control (realignment and dealignment) in the American political system. A person’s loyalty to or preference for one political party is called party identification. When people identify with a party, they usually agree with the party’s stance on a few major issues and give little weight to its stance on issues they consider minor or secondary. Additionally, the web media discusses how some elections can serve as turning points that define the agenda of politics and the alignment of voters within parties during periods of historic change in the economy and society.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

2.5 Campaigns and Elections   - Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Campaigns and Elections” Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Campaigns and Elections” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Campaigns and Elections,” “Elections,” and “Campaign Finance Reform” below.
 
Reading this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s ”Campaigns and Elections,” “Elections,” and “Campaign Finance Reform” Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Campaigns and Elections” (YouTube), “Elections” (YouTube), and “Campaign Finance Reform” (YouTube)
     
    Also available in:
    iTunes U (Lecture 12, 13, and 14)
     
    Instructions: Watch these three lectures. The nature of campaigns and elections has changed dramatically over the past several decades. The use of the Internet, professional polling and media consultants, electronic mailing lists, and focus groups have, in effect, raised the stakes – and the amount of money needed to mount a successful campaign. At the same time, candidates find themselves relying on more traditional campaign strategies, such as preserving their core base of supporters, trying to run to the middle to convince undecided voters, and focusing on those states that have the greatest chance of payoff during the general election. All of these factors have resulted in millions of dollars being spent to wage a campaign, and success is by no means guaranteed. Dr. Scott also discusses some of the costs associated with these campaigns and shows that despite the enactment of notable campaign finance reforms, campaigns are now raising more money than ever before.
     
    Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: The material above has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 11: Campaigns and Elections” Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 11: Campaigns and Elections” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Read this chapter on pages 406-462. Elections are crucial in a representative democracy like the United States. They enable people to choose their leaders and thereby influence public policy. They endow elected officials with legitimacy. There are two main types of elections: primary elections and general elections. Candidates from the same political party compete for the party’s nomination in primary elections. Candidates from different parties run in the general election, which determines who will take office.
     
    Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.5 − Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.5 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

2.5.1 The History of Campaigns in the United States   - Web Media: US Department of State: “Elections: Presidential Campaign” Link: US Department of State: “Elections: Presidential Campaign” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Watch this video on presidential campaigns and the ways in which the use of the media has changed throughout American history. Think about how presidential campaigns have evolved throughout your own life.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This video is in the public domain.

2.5.2 The Presidential Nominating System   - Web Media: YouTube: IIP State: “Iowa Voters” Link: YouTube: IIP State: “Iowa Voters” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch this video to learn about the Iowa caucuses and how Iowa voters play an important role in nominating candidates for president. Historically, the Iowa caucuses have served as an early indication of which candidates for president might win the nomination of their political party at that party’s national convention, and which ones could drop out for lack of support. Think about the criticism that the Iowa caucuses play too much of a role in the early nominating process. Many believe that because its population does not reflect nationwide demographics, the Iowa caucuses should not be portrayed as an indicator of the types of voters that turn out in the general campaign.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: YouTube: Khan Academy: “Primaries and Caucuses” Link: YouTube: Khan Academy: “Primaries and Caucuses” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video about how the states choose their delegates for the national party conventions. As you watch, think about how complicated the system is. Was it designed this way for a purpose? Are these contests a useful barometer in measuring presidential fitness?
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. It is attributed to the Khan Academy and can be viewed in its original form here.

  • Assessment: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Presidential Nominating System” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “The Presidential Nominating System” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Every four years, the major political parties in the United States select their presidential candidates through a process of primary elections and caucuses. This nominating process relies on a dense matrix of national and state party rules and state election laws. The process has gone through several reforms – most notably in the early 1970s when new rules made the selection process more open and responsive to rank-and-file party voters, and reduced the power of party leaders and bosses to control delegations to the national conventions. Despite its complicated nature, the presidential nominating process is simply a race among presidential candidates to accumulate a majority of delegates in order to claim the nomination at the national convention.
     
    This assessment is divided into two parts. The first part is a matching exercise, in which you will match the term identified with the presidential nominating system with its correct description. The second part consists of two short-answer questions. Be sure to review the above resources before formulating your answers. After you finish, you can check your work against this answer key and guide to responding.
     
    Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

2.5.3 Elections: Presidential and Congressional   - Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 14 – Congressional Elections” and “Lesson 15 – Presidential Elections” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 14 – Congressional Elections” (YouTube) and “Lesson 15 – Presidential Elections” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch both presentations to learn about the unique structure of congressional and presidential elections in the American political system. For one of the lessons, you will learn about the power of incumbency when it comes to congressional elections. Incumbent office holders have a number of advantages: name recognition, a significant re-election war chest, and franking privileges. Many challengers can be intimidated by these factors and decide not to run. In many ways, the nature of incumbency makes the political process more intractable for newcomers. When watching the presentation, think about the pros and cons of having incumbents hold office for so long. For example, seniority and institutional memory can help many legislators become effective policymakers for their constituents; on the other hand, legislative institutions are missing a fresh perspective on the important policy issues of the day.
 
Watching these videos and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: YouTube: Khan Academy: “Electoral College” Link: YouTube: Khan Academy: “Electoral College” (YouTube)
     
    Instructions: Watch this video, which serves as a helpful primer on the role of the Electoral College in electing US presidents. While watching the video, think about the consequences of having an Electoral College for democracy in America. The fact that the popular vote winner in the 2000 presidential election (Al Gore) did not become president prompted a national debate on the Electoral College. Supporters of eliminating the Electoral College advocate a direct popular election of the president, which would give every voter the same weight in accordance with the “one-person, one-vote” doctrine. Opponents contend that this type of plan would undermine federalism and make presidential campaigns more remote from voters, as candidates might stress television and give up their forays into shopping centers, city malls, and other nontraditional campaign forums across the country. The next reading discusses these arguments in more detail.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 15 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License. It is attributed to the Khan Academy, and the original version can be found here.

  • Reading: US Department of State: The Long Campaign: “Has the Electoral College Outlived Its Usefulness?” Link: US Department of State: The Long Campaign“Has the Electoral College Outlived Its Usefulness?” (HTML)
     
    Instructions: Read this debate on whether the Electoral College should continue to play a role in selecting the American president. Ross Baker makes the case for retaining the Electoral College as it was established by the US Constitution in 1787. Baker is a professor of political science at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. Jamie Raskin presents the arguments for adapting the Electoral College system to ensure that election results reflect the national popular vote. Raskin is a Maryland state senator and a professor of constitutional law at American University in Washington, DC. He introduced legislation that made Maryland the first state in the country to join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Which side – Ross Baker (pro) or Jamie Raskin (con) – do you think makes the more convincing argument? Why?
     
    Reading this debate and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

2.5.4 Campaigns: Financing and Strategy   - Web Media: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 13 – Financial Participation in Elections” Link: YouTube: The Regents of the University of California: US Government and Politics: “Lesson 13 – Financial Participation in Elections” (YouTube)
 
Instructions: Watch the two-part presentation on the role that money plays in campaigns and elections. In the early 1970s, the Supreme Court enacted a number of rulings to reduce the influence of special-interest groups on federal elections; however, this did not prevent the existence of soft money, unlimited amounts of money given to political parties for get-out-the-vote activities. In 2002, the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act banned soft money and instituted limits on the amount of money that federal candidates can receive per election cycle. However, a number of loopholes have enabled special-interest groups to circumvent the law and operate outside of IRS regulations. Needless to say, running a successful campaign costs more than ever before. Many political candidates now spend an inordinate amount of time raising money for their campaigns.
 
Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Web Media: C-SPAN Video Library: “SuperPACs in the 2012 Election” Link: C-SPAN Video Library: “SuperPACs in the 2012 Election” (Adobe Flash)
     
    Instructions: SuperPACs have emerged as the dominant new force in campaign finance. Created in the aftermath of two landmark Supreme Court decisions, these independent spending-only political action committees collected unlimited contributions from individuals, corporations, and unions to advocate for or against political candidates in the 2012 presidential race. In the video, participants in the Washington Ideas Forum discuss the influence of SuperPACs in the 2012 election.
     
    Watching this video and taking notes should take approximately 45 minutes.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource is in the public domain.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.5.4 − Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.5.4 − Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

2.6 Interest Groups   - Web Media: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Interest Groups” Link: Missouri State University: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Interest Groups” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Use this PowerPoint as a reference as you watch the lectures “Interest Groups I” and “Interest Groups II” below.
 
Watching this presentation and taking notes should take approximately 30 minutes.
 
Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Lecture: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Interest Groups I” and “Interest Groups II” Link: YouTube: Dr. Patrick Scott’s “Interest Groups I” (YouTube) and “Interest Groups II” (YouTube)
     
    Also available in:
    iTunes U (Lecture 15 and 16)
     
    Instructions: Watch these two lectures to gain a general understanding of important terms and concepts for future readings and assessments.
     
    The framers understood that organized interests would always attempt to influence public policy. In fact, after the Constitution was written, interest groups formed immediately in support of and opposition to its ratification (Federalists vs. Anti-Federalists). The Anti-Federalists argued against the new Constitution claiming that the United States would be too large to govern as a democracy (republic) and had too many groups, or factions (groups of people connected by shared beliefs). While James Madison acknowledged that there were many differing factions, he also indicated that a democratic form of government, using the ideal of majority rule, would tame the factions and cause them to work together as much as possible. He claimed that the republican form of government created by the new Constitution would allow all the factions to express themselves and to influence the workings of government by getting their members elected and/or appointed to offices. Minority groups would be protected because the factions would have to negotiate their differences. In this way, the republic would create a system of government in which the majority would rule but the ideas of the minority would have to be taken into consideration. Numerous factions would also mean that no one group would be able to take complete control of the government.
     
    This seems like a logical and well-meaning argument on the merits of interest groups; however, elected officials as well as the public are often critical of the roles of special-interest groups in the political process. The activities of lobbyists (who try to influence legislation on behalf of interest groups) can smack of vote buying and influence peddling. There are so many organized lobbies today, which represent numerous segments of society and address a wide range of issues, that the distinction between special-interest groups and those of the American people may no longer be valid. In a sense, interest groups are the American people.
     
    Watching these lectures and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: This resource has been reposted with the kind permission of Dr. Patrick Scott from Missouri State University, and can be viewed in its original form here. Please note that this material is under copyright and may not be reproduced in any capacity without the explicit permission of the copyright holder.

  • Reading: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 9: Interest Groups” Link: American Government and Politics in the Information Age: “Chapter 9: Interest Groups”
     
    Instructions: Read Chapter 9 on pages 323-353. Interest groups have long been important in electing and defeating candidates, in providing information to officeholders, and in setting the agenda of American politics. Americans have long been concerned about the power of what some call special interests and the tendency of groups to pursue self-interest at the expense of less organized groups or the general public. As this unit will show, restraining the negative tendencies of interest groups while protecting liberty is not an easy task.
     
    Reading this chapter and taking notes should take approximately 1 hour.
     
    Terms of Use: This text was adapted by The Saylor Foundation under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work’s original creator or licensee.

  • Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.6 – Quickfire Quiz” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Subunit 2.6 – Quickfire Quiz” (PDF)
     
    Instructions: Answer these questions to assess your understanding of this subunit.
     
    Completing this activity should take approximately 15 minutes.

2.6.1 History and Role of Interest Groups in American Politics   What we call interest groups today, the founders of the Republic called factions. For the framers of the Constitution, the daunting problem was how to establish a stable and orderly constitutional system that would also respect the liberty of free citizens and prevent the tyranny of the majority, or of a single dominant interest. Today, interest groups exist to make demands on government.

2.6.2 Types of Interest Groups   Interest groups vary widely: some are formal associations or organizations, while others have no formal organization. Some are organized primarily to lobby for limited goals or to broadly influence public opinion by publishing reports and mass mailings. Interest groups can be categorized into several broad types.

2.6.3 Lobbying and Other Interest Group Resources and Tools   For many decades, interest groups have engaged in lobbying, but these efforts have become much more significant as groups become more deeply involved in the electoral process, especially through the expanded use of political action committees (PACs), mass mailings, advertising campaigns, and litigation.

2.6.4 Evaluating the Impact of Interest Groups: Good or Bad for Democracy?   While media coverage on interest groups is more negative than positive, focusing on the activities of powerful interest groups in finance, energy, and manufacturing, an oft-quoted statement is that “the special interest is us,” meaning that we are all beneficiaries of interest-group activity in the form of consumer protection, cleaner air, safer drinking water, and workplace safety. It is perhaps more accurate to state that interest groups are both good and bad for democracy. Do you agree with this statement? Why or why not?

Unit 2 Current Events Challenge   - Activity: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 2 Current Events Challenge” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 2 Current Events Challenge” (PDF)
 
Instructions: Follow the instructions linked above to connect concepts learned in Unit 2 to current political events in American government.
 
Completing this activity should take approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes.

Unit 2 Assessment   - Reading: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 2 Assessment” Link: The Saylor Foundation’s “Unit 2 Assessment” (HTML)
 
Instructions: Complete this assessment. You must be logged into your Saylor Foundation School account in order to access this quiz. If you do not yet have an account, you will be able to create one, free of charge, after clicking the link.
 
Completing this assessment should take approximately 1 hour