Overview

Relevant Court Cases:

  1. Buckley v. Valeo (1976)
  2. Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) (2010)
  3. McCutcheon Et Al. v Federal Election Commission (2014)

Key Terms:

  1. Public opinion
  2. Random Sampling
  3. Sample
  4. Random digit dialing
  5. Margin of error
  6. Sampling error
  7. Opinion poll
  8. Types of polls
  9. Demography
  10. Political socialization
  11. Political culture
  12. Civil disobedience
  13. Political ideology (types)
  14. Forms of political participation
  15. Political efficacy
  16. Civic duty
  17. Political spectrum
  18. Rational choice voting
  19. Retrospective voting
  20. Prospective voting
  21. Public Goods
  22. Politics
  23. Policymaking institutions
  24. Policy agenda
  25. Public Policy
  26. McGovern-Fraser Commission
  27. Primary: open and closed
  28. Caucus
  29. Midterm election
  30. Candidate centered campaigns
  31. Single-member districts
  32. Nomination
  33. Presidential primaries
  34. Super Tuesday
  35. Iowa Caucus
  36. Presidential Coattails
  37. Electoral College (how it  works)
  38. Faithless elector
  39. Electoral Mandate
  40. Legitimacy theory of elections
  41. Candidate-centered campaigns
  42. Voting Rights Act
  43. 12th  Amendment
  44. 15th Amendment
  45. 19th Amendment
  46. 23rd Amendment
  47. 24th Amendment
  48. 26th Amendment
  49. Voter registration
  50. Motor-voter law
  51. Presidential election of 2000
  52. Plurality election
  53. Superdelegate (D)/automatic delegate (R)
  54. New Hampshire primary
  55. Frontloading
  56. Initiative
  57. Petition
  58. Referendum
  59. Census
  60. Recall
  61. Suffrage
  62. Electorate
  63. Incumbent

Key Questions:

  1. Explain the concept of political apathy.
  2. Why is political knowledge important?
  3. What is the incentive for citizens to vote?
  4. Distinguish government from politics.
  5. List and provide an example of the functions of government.
  6. What is public policy? Provide some examples.
  7. How does democracy satisfy the majority while protecting the minority?
  8. What is meant by the idea of representation?
  9. List and define the 3 contemporary theories of American democracy.
  10. What challenges to democracy exist? Why are they challenges?
  11. What is meant by the “scope of government?” Explain the debate that surrounds this concept.
  12. What is the significance of the census to our study of public opinion? Demographics?
  13. What role does the census play in modern day elections?
  14. How has the aging of the Baby Boomers changed the political landscape?
  15. List and describe factors impacting political socialization.
  16. What are some criticisms of the polling process?
  17. Differentiate liberal ideology from conservative ideology. Be sure to give specific examples of issues related positions.
  18. What demographic groups tend to support liberals and which tend to support conservatives?
  19. Identify means of political participation.
  20. What factors affect levels of political participation?
  21. What influence has social conservatism had on the Republican party?
  22. How do the campaigns differ in each stage?
  23. How might a candidate use professional consultants in debate prep?
  24. How might debates hinder a candidate?
  25. What are the 2 stages of the Presidential election process?
  26. What is the purpose and significance of the national party convention?
  27. Differentiate a caucus from a primary. Who governs this process?  Why?
  28. What happened in the 1968 Democratic Convention that led to changes in the election process?
  29. What are some criticisms of the primary/caucus system?
  30. For what reasons are campaigns more democratic today than our founders envisioned? less?
  31. How do campaigns make use of the media?
  32. How do the perceived sources of money in campaigns affect the democratic principle of competitive and fair elections?
  33. What efforts have been made to decrease the influence of money on elections?
  34. What decisions have been made that increased the influence of money in elections?
  35. What advantages are afforded by incumbency?
  36. Why do elections have the tendency of expanding the scope of government?
  37. How do elections serve as a linkage institution?
  38. What is meant by political efficacy?
  39. What is the Motor-Voter Act and how has it impacted voter turnout?
  40. Explain policy voting.
  41. Explain initiative, referendum, and petition

Key Concepts:

  1. As a major source of political information, the media, particularly television, help shape the public’s perceptions and reality.
  2. Public opinion is the population’s attitudes on an issue or question.  It can be measured by a variety of techniques, but with a high degree of accuracy by scientific polling.
  3. To understand the nature of public opinion on an issue, one must understand the various dimensions and characteristics of public opinion.
  4. Political socialization is the process by which people acquire an awareness of the facts about and values concerning politics.  It is a lifelong process.  Among the major agents of socialization are the family, schools, peers, and the mass media.
  5. Political attitudes vary in America depending on such socioeconomic characteristics as education, Income/class, ethnicity and race, religion, region, and gender.
  6. A political ideology is an organized, coherent set of attitudes on government and public policy.
  7. Liberal and conservative ideologies have taken on a multidimensional character, reflecting not only the traditional for government’s role in society but also social and foreign policy concerns.  Most Americans do not approach politics from an ideological perspective.
  8. Public opinion has its greatest impact on government decision making when people feel strongly about clear-cut preferences.  Although government policy tends to coincide with public opinion, this may not always be the case, particularly when a well-organized interest group intervenes or public apathy is evident.
  9. Most Americans are not highly interested or intensely involved in politics.  Level of involvement is strongly influenced by one’s social and economic status, level of education, political attitudes such as party identification and political efficacy, and group affiliation.
  10. There are two types of campaigns in American politics: campaigns for party nominations (nomination campaigns) and campaigns between nominees for public office (election campaigns).
  11. Nominations for offices are made via primaries and caucuses, which severely weaken party organizations’ control over the nomination process and encourage candidates to rely on personal campaign organizations.
  12. Campaigning today is an art and a science, heavily dependent on professional political consultants, polling, and technology.
  13. Candidates need money to build a campaign organization and to get their message out. The Federal Election Campaign Act of 1974, passed in the wake of the Watergate scandal, supposedly tightened reporting requirements and limiting overall expenditures.  It also allows for public funding for presidential candidates.  The law’s loopholes have been exploited by both parties, causing a growing concern for campaign finance reform.  These loopholes and the skyrocketing costs of campaigning have given incumbents a major advantage.
  14. Research has shown that campaigns have three effects on voters: Reinforcement, Activation, and Conversion. Campaigns mostly reinforce and activate, seldom do they convert.
  15. Elections are governed by both the federal and state governments. The federal government is engaged primarily in protecting people from discrimination in their exercise of the right to vote, regulating campaign finance for federal office, and setting uniform dates for federal elections.  With the advent of the Motor Voter Bill, states now basically administer elections.
  16. Elections socialize and institutionalize political activity, by providing a peaceful channel for participation.
  17. To be elected president, a candidate must win a majority of the Electoral College vote. A state’s electoral votes are allocated to candidates on a winner-take-all basis.  Because of this feature, candidates can concentrate their campaign efforts on states with large blocs of electoral votes and on states where the race is tightly contested.
  18. The turnout of eligible voters is approximately 50 percent in presidential elections and normally less than 40 percent in midterm elections. Turnout is affected by such social characteristics as age and education, registration requirements, the amount of publicity a campaign receives, the competitiveness of the election, and personal attitudes such as party identification.
  19. Voter choice on Election Day is influenced by the interaction of party identification, candidate evaluations, and the voter’s policy positions matched with the candidate’s.