Lesson Plans

Government in America: People, Politics, and Policy

by Edwards, Wattenberg, and Lineberry ©2000 by Addison-Wesley Longman Publishers, Inc.

Chapter 10 Focus Lesson: "Elections and Voting Behavior"


AP Course Description

  1. Political Parties, Interest Groups, and Mass Media
    1. Political parties and elections
      1. Effects on the political process
      2. Electoral laws and systems
    2. Interest groups, including political action committees (PACs)
      1. The effects of interest groups on the political process
    3. The mass media
      1. The impacts of media on politics

Key Components

  • Instructor's Manual: pp. 180–196
  • Study Guide: pp. 179–194
  • Test Bank: pp. 327–360

Key Web Sites

Given the changing nature of the Internet, you may wish to preview these sites. Always check the Online Companion Web site for updated Web references.

Key Words and Terms

  • legitimacy
  • civic duty
  • policy voting
  • referendum
  • voter registration
  • electoral college
  • initiative petition
  • Motor Voter Law
  • retrospective voting
  • suffrage
  • political efficacy
  • mandate theory of elections

Suggested Pacing

Allow two class periods on a 45-minute traditional bell schedule and one class period on a 90-minute block schedule.

Test Strategy

When taking the multiple-choice portion of the AP exam, students need to make efficient use of time. If a student gets stuck on a question, he/she should scratch out any answer choices they know to be incorrect, circle or star the question in the question booklet—not on the answer sheet—and move on, returning to the question later. Students need to be aware of the number of the question they skip so they can skip the answer row on the answer sheet.

Key Concepts

  • Voting as a democratic principle
    All citizens over the age of 18, regardless of race, ethnic background, and gender, may vote in any election for which they are registered. This expansion of voting power and, therefore, influence on the government works against the elite and class theory. As they read, students should make connections between the three theories of democracy they studied in Chapter 1—pluralist, elite and class, and hyperpluralism—and information on political action and voting behavior.

  • Retrospective voting
    The theory of retrospective voting posits the idea that when people vote, they think about the candidate and ask themselves, "What have you done for me lately?" Incumbents who provide desired results get re-elected; those who do not are replaced. Service to constituents is just one of the factors that influences the re-election of incumbents. Students will need to keep this information in mind as they study Chapter 14 on the election of Congress.

  • Political efficacy and who votes
    Often there is a question on the AP U.S. Government and Politics test about why voter turnout in the United States is relatively low. Students should be able to discuss the concept of political efficacy, recent revisions in voter registration laws, and the demographic factors that affect turnout rates.

Summing Up Student Understanding

Continue the work with cartoons that began in Chapter 7. Ask students to analyze the cartoons on pp. 310, 320, and 325. Each cartoon addresses an aspect of elections. Among the questions you might ask are:

  • What facts are given or implied?
  • What do the people represent?
  • How is caricature or exaggeration used?
  • What stereotype is used?
  • What symbol is used?
  • Does the cartoonist have a point of view? What is it?
  • Does the cartoon reflect your point of view?
  • Can you suggest an alternative medium to present the message?

After students have analyzed the cartoons, ask them to summarize in a phrase or two what each cartoon is about. Or ask students to suggest a title for each cartoon. For example:

  • p. 310: the media's reporting of polls and their effect on elections
  • p. 320: high rate of re-election for incumbents
  • p. 325: candidates don't answer questions about issues

As an alternative to a class discussion, use these cartoons and this series of questions for a timed essay to simulate the essay-writing portion of the AP test.