Key Terms:

  1. Political party
  2. Party eras
  3. Critical elections
  4. Party realignment
  5. Coalition
  6. Party de-alignment
  7. Divided Government
  8. Minor/Third parties (types, roles)
  9. Patronage
  10. Decline of parties (reasons)
  11. Party-in-government
  12. Party-in-the-electorate
  13. Party organization
  14. Two-party system (reasons in U.S.)
  15. Multi-party systems
  16. Party-line voting/straight-ticket voting
  17. Split-ticket voting/ticket splitting
  18. Party machine
  19. Party polarization
  20. Interest group
  21. Lobbying
  22. Iron triangle / Issue network
  23. Sub-governments
  24. Groups and democratic theory
  25. Pluralism
  26. Elite theory
  27. Hyperpluralism
  28. Class action lawsuit
  29. Free rider
  30. Grassroots lobbying/mass mobilization
  31. Amicus curiae
  32. Going Public
  33. Electioneering
  34. Litigation
  35. Mass media
  36. Whistle blower
  37. Media bias
  38. Sound bites
  39. Press conference
  40. Investigative journalism
  41. Censorship
  42. Trial balloons
  43. Selective Perception
  44. Political Pundit (experts)
  45. Media Event
  46. Nixon-Kennedy debate
  47. Talking head
  48. Media effects
  49. Infotainment
  50. Narrowcasting

Key Questions:

  1. If more voters identify as Independent today, how then can party polarization be such a significant presence in American politics?
  2. What are the functions of parties?
  3. Why are American parties described as decentralized?
  4. Why is the national convention significant to the party? Why is it less influential today than in the past?
  5. Provide a historic example of a party realignment. Describe the factors that contributed to the shift.
  6. What is the role of 3rd parties in American politics?
  7. What is the difference in an interest group and a political party?
  8. How do interest groups impact the election process?
  9. What is the advantage to interest groups donating to incumbents?
  10. With the different types of interest groups.
  11. Why does “strength in numbers” not necessarily describe interest group influence?
  12. Why do certain interest groups rely on one influence tool over another tool?
  13. Be familiar with the different types of interest groups. Specifically know the goals and tactics of AARP, NRA, NAACP, Chamber of Commerce, and the AFL-CIO.
  14. Who was the first President to successfully use media politics? How?
  15. How does choice of news source affect ones political views?
  16. How did the perception of government change as a result of Watergate and Vietnam? What was the media’s role?
  17. How does the term “horse-race” journalism relate to modern media coverage of campaigns?
  18. How is media coverage different for the different policy making institutions?
  19. How does the media help to manipulate the policy agenda?
  20. Describe how technology has altered the relationship of the media and politics.

Key Concepts:

  1. Parties are complex social structures composed of what is known as the “three-headed giant”: the party in the electorate, the party organization, and the party in government.
  2. Parties seek to control the governing apparatus by gaining office in a duly constituted election.  They are factions.
  3. Parties developed as a result of response to government policy.  In addition, as suffrage was extended, The need for institutions to mobilized voters developed.  Parties were these institutions.
  4. Parties are vital linkage institutions between the citizens and government, performing several important functions: nominating candidates, contesting elections, serving as agents for holding public officials accountable for their actions, and managing social conflicts.
  5. American political parties are characterized by decentralized power structure, broad-based electoral support, and relatively non-programmatic policy orientations.
  6. Ours is a two party system and always has been.  There have always been minor parties, but they rarely have a chance to win major offices.  Consequently, America has witnessed long periods during which one party has been the dominant majority party (Party Eras).
  7. Many experts believe that American political parties are in a state of decline due to primaries, party reforms, campaigning, technology, and the media.  Americans need not rely on parties to serve the important functions they once did.
  8. The media have a strong voice in deciding which issues will be placed on the public’s agenda, but when they cover election campaigns, they tend to focus on the “horse race” aspects of the contest and not on substantive issues.
  9. The standards of newsworthiness include audience appeal and impact, uniqueness, and timeliness. The nature of media coverage also is affected by time and space constraints and accessibility of news sources.
  10. Political leaders and news people are mutually dependent. Politicians rely on the media to provide them with information and to convey their message to the public. The media in turn rely heavily on public officials for the information on which to base their reporting.  The relationship is characterized by tension, however, as politicians seek to use the media to achieve their objectives and the media seek to perform their news-gathering functions.
  11. The vast majority of social science research has found that the media is not systematically biased toward a particular ideology or party. Because news is a business, the overriding bias is toward stories that will draw the largest audience.  These tend to be stories focusing on conflict, violence, disaster, or scandal.  Television is biased towards stories that will generate good pictures as well.
  12. An interest group is an organized body of individuals with shared goals who try to influence government policy.  Their activities, for the most part, receive protection from the Constitution.
  13. American society contains a vast array of interest groups which have grown dramatically in number since the 1960’s.  Traditional occupational groups have been supplemented by an increase in public interest groups and lobbying operations sponsored by corporations and state and local government bodies.  Moreover, policy takes place in an often more complex and conflictual group environment than in the recent past.
  14. The influence of individual interest groups depends on such factors as the nature of a group’s membership, its financial and leadership resources, its prestige and status, and its governing structure, rules, and procedures.
  15. Groups try to influence any branch or level of government that they believe will respond to their concerns.  The tactics used by interest groups include direct and grass roots lobbying, PAC contributions and other forms of electoral support, efforts to help shape public opinion, and demonstrations and protests.
  16. Interest groups are linkage institutions as they supplement the formal and geographic concerns of congressional representation by providing citizens with an informal means of influencing government.
  17. Not all Americans are equally represented by the interest group system.  Although every American is free to organize and participate in interest activity, the people most likely to participate in interest activity are the better educated and those with better financial resources.
  18. As a major source of political information, the media, particularly television, help shape the public’s perceptions and reality. As a vital linkage institution, the media is able to mobilize citizens to take political action and influence the behavior of government officials.