POLS 1101: Intro to American Government
Study Guide for Unit 2 Exam
Understanding American Democracy
Make sure to know and understand the three general ways and ten specific ways that Americans citizens are legally and institutionally enabled to exert control over government.
The three general ways:
1. Helping to elect who serves in the government
2. working outside the normal democratic process in order to improve it
3. seeking to influence the behavior of those serving in the governmentWe also discuss several other topics like Differentiate variable costing and absorption costing.
The ten specific ways:
1. Working for and/ or donating money to a political party 2. openly advocating for a candidate running for elected office (and perhaps thereby persuading others to vote for that candidate) 3. voting in free elections
4. working for and or donating money to a candidate’s campaign 5. running for public office
6. suing government in court
7. directly voicing views and needs to government officials 8. donating money to an interest group that engages in lobbying 9. starting an interest group that seeks to influence the behavior of government official
10. you can serve on a jury
11. engage in activities outside the normal democratic process to create changes to the normal democratic process itself
Make sure to know and understand the advantages democratic governments have over nondemocratic / authoritarian governments.
1. Democracies are more likely than authoritarian governments to do good things for the people Don't forget about the age old question of What is binary search algorithm?
2. stable democratic governments are more likely than authoritarian governments to promote the education and physical health of citizens
3. stable democratic governments are more likely than authoritarian governments to intervene to prevent or relatively quickly address famines
4. people who live in democracies are on average happier than those who live under authoritarian governments
∙ Authoritarian Government (or Nondemocratic Government) The label used in this textbook for referring to all nondemocratic
governments—that is, governments that are in no meaningful sense by the people because the people do not have the legal rights and freedoms necessary for exercising ongoing Don't forget about the age old question of Define manifest destiny.
Don't forget about the age old question of The immigration act of 1924 is also known as?
significant control over government.
∙ Civil Disobedience protesting, demonstrating, producing political art and music, boycotting, writing books, producing
documentaries, and engaging in sitins
∙ Democracy (or Democratic Government) Form of government that is by the people in the sense that the people, understood as all adult citizens, are enabled to exercise ongoing significant control over the government by exercising legal rights and Don't forget about the age old question of What are the 3 ways concerns over slavery shaped the u.s. constitution in 1787
freedoms designed to give them that control.
∙ Free Elections Elections in which (1) more than one candidate runs for office, (2) the candidates present real alternatives by promising to promote different public policies (or stand for different values or principles) if elected, (3) no adult citizen is unjustly denied the right to vote, (4) all who have the right to
vote have reasonable opportunity to exercise that right, and (5) everyone’s vote is counted.
Chapter 5: Public Opinion
∙ Understand and discuss the concept of public opinion. Public opinion matters for three reasons: (1) citizens’ political
actions are driven by their opinions, (2) public opinion helps explain the behavior of candidates, political parties, and other political actors; politicians look to public opinion to determine what citizens want them to do, (3) public opinion can also shed Don't forget about the age old question of Define reaction rate.
light on the reasons for specific policy outcomes.
∙ What factors influence public opinion?
Political knowledge and political values. Political values are based on views about the purpose and scope of government. Political knowledge is limited among the general public.
Politically knowledgeable—including a hefty investment of time, energy, and resources—ability to carry on a political
conversation or cast an informed vote.
∙ Know how political values are shaped.
Political values are shaped by the process of political socialization. Political socialization influences your political opinion. Political socialization can consist of family, religion, schooling, friends, coworkers, and members of his or her
∙ How does group identity influence a person’s political opinions?
People learn about politics from the people around them. People may rely on others who “look like” them as a source of opinions. Candidates and political consultants often formulate their campaign strategies in terms of groups.
∙ Discuss how the public influences the government and why the
government would/should listen to public opinion.
1. In a representative democracy, national leaders represent the will of the people.
2. Provides accurate and timely information on
the people’s preferences for public policy. 3.When leaders do not reflect public opinion in
the decisions they make, it leads to lower
levels of trust in government.
4. The political system permits leaders to ignore
public opinion and skirt accountability.
5. Changes in technology have open up new avenues for informing the decision making of elected officials and holding them accountable
for those decisions.
∙ How is public opinion measured? When can polls be trusted? Public opinion is measured through opinion polls. For public
opinion polls to be trusted, they must be conducted in a scientific manner and carefully worded to capture valid and
∙ Discuss the concept of sampling. What is random sampling? Surveys are composed of random samples, small subsets of the
population being studied, in which every member of the population has an equal chance of being studied. Because
samples of populations are surveyed rather than every member, the survey results may not be completely accurate.
∙ Public Opinion the population’s collective attitudes and beliefs
about politics and government
∙ Primacy Principle what is learned first tends to leave a strong and lasting impression that remains with a person throughout
∙ Gender Gap a term that refers to the regular patterns by which women are more likely to support Democratic candidates. Women tend to be significantly less conservative than men and are more likely to support spending on social services and to
oppose higher levels of military spending.
∙ Straw Poll an informal poll that does not employ scientific
methods like random sampling
∙ Party Identification Children are likely to identify with the same political party as their parents
∙ Political Ideology A coherent set of beliefs about the role of government. How broad should government’s reach be? For what services should the government be responsible? What are the rights and duties of citizens, and what are the duties of the
∙ Random sampling a method of selecting survey participants in which each member of the population has an equal chance of
∙ Sample – relatively small proportion of people who are
chosen in a survey so as to be representative of the whole ∙
∙ Honeymoon Period the first several months of a new presidential administration, during which the newly elected
president generally faces little public criticism
∙ Margin of error a statistic related to the sample size of a survey that suggests the numerical degree to which the survey results may or may not reflect the opinions of the broader public.
∙ Political socialization family, religion, and schooling, an individual’s political socialization can be influenced by friends,
coworkers, and members of his or her community ∙ RallyAroundtheFlag effect the increased popular support
given to the president in times of crisis.
∙ Chapter 6: The Media
∙ Key Concepts:
∙ Explain the relationship between the media, the public, and the
∙ The media help citizens to hold their government accountable for political decisions and lead individuals to change their attitudes about public policy. Media serves the public by providing information that both educates audiences on political affairs and oversees the everyday workings of
∙ Identify the role that media plays in informing the public about
politics and government.
∙ The issues the media choose to present and the way they
present them do affect how people think about politics. ∙ Compare and contrast the different types of media and how they
affect public opinion and knowledge
∙ Television: Broadcasts range from simple, factbased reporting as on NBC, CBS, and ABC to radical, onesided, and
humorous as on The O’Reilly Factor, The Daily Show with John
Stewart, and The Colbert Report.
∙ Radio: Programs are often centered on a single, strongly opinionated individual who fields questions and comments from listeners and offers his or her own insights. The majority
of politically based radio programs are conservatively oriented. ∙ Internet: Offers every kind of previously mentioned media,
though usually in limited fashion. There are many blogs that report on politics, but they tend to rely on information collected by outside sources, rather than doing their own reporting. The Internet also provides a forum for the average citizen with a connection to voice his or her opinion for the
world to hear.
∙ Discuss trends in media viewer and readership
∙ Viewership of network news has steadily declined since the advent of cable television. Newspaper circulation and readership are on the decline.
∙ Discuss the business model of the media and how it affects what is
consumed by the public
∙ Media operates on marketdriven journalism. Therefore, story coverage is driven by audience appeal rather than by
educational, social, or political value.
∙ Discuss the different mechanisms and laws that regulate the media ∙ Media are compelled to increase the entertainment value of
their content in order to attract audiences and increase advertising revenues. Market driven journalism. Soft news or infotainment. If a market is dominated by a single media provider, then the information available to the public is limited to that offered by the provider. The FCC regulates broadcast
media (radio, TV, telephone, cable) enforcing federal laws. ∙ Know how the media in the U.S. differs from the media in other
∙ In most other democracies, government organizations are involved to some extent in the ownership and operation of broadcast news sources. Although publicly owned broadcast
sources in these countries are generally free from political interference, they are usually required by law to provide basic levels of public affairs coverage. In the system of commercial ownership in the U.S., media outlets are free to cover whatever
∙ Compare and contrast the concepts of agenda setting, priming and framing (and give examples of each).
∙ Agenda setting the process of getting issues on the political agenda, or those issues to which the public and decisionmakers are paying attention and on which there is active political debate.
∙ Example: The media attention devoted to the efforts by President Obama and Democrats in Congress to reform the nation’s health care system. In September of 2009, newspaper coverage of health care policy peaked. In the same month, concern about health care also peaked, with 26 percent of Americans saying that the issue was the most important problem
facing the country. As newspaper coverage declined, so did the public perception that health care was the most important problem facing the country.
∙ Priming the process by which the media influence the way people think about an issue or event. Through its presentation of information, the media shape how people consider issues and events and interpret related information.
∙ Example: In the months leading up to the 2004 presidential election, news outlets focused a great deal of coverage on the Iraq War, priming voters to think about which presidential candidate would be best able to handle national security issues.
∙ Framing the process by which media encourages viewers to interpret journalistic stories in a particular way. Media can frame stories for the public using selective presentation of facts or specific descriptive language.
∙ Example: The day after the White House Health Care Summit in February of 2010, two different media outlets posted the following headlines:
∙ “Ready to go it alone, Dems push on health care”24 ∙ —MSNBC, February 26, 2010
∙ “In Gamble, Obama and Dems Prepare to Ram Health Care Through”
∙ —Fox News, February 26, 2010
∙ Though logically similar, the terms “ram” and “push” evoke different interpretations of the Democratic plan to move forward with the proposed reforms.
∙ Know the concepts of Yellow Journalism and Muckraking, and
know the difference between them.
∙ Muckraking journalism focused on exposing corruption in government or industry.
∙ Example: The Progressives utilized the print media in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to expose government corruption
and promote political and social reform
∙ Yellow Journalism a style of reporting in which journalists exaggerate or even fabricate news stories to increase
∙ Example: New York newspapers helped to provoke the SpanishAmerican War by publishing articles falsely charging
that the Spanish had destroyed the U.S.S. Maine. ∙ Know how Watergate affected the way the media covers issues ∙ The Watergate scandal caused a fundamental change in the
relationship between the president and the press, with the media adopting a much more aggressive and critical posture toward government. Increasingly, the press came to view its role as providing not just neutral coverage but adversarial
∙ How does persuasion occur?
∙ This persuasion can indirectly result from agenda setting, priming, and framing, but it can also directly result from persuasion. Three factors determine the likelihood of persuasion: source characteristics, message characteristics, and audience characteristics. In other words, persuasion depends on who says what to whom.
∙ Television Media Leading source of news for U.S. public. ∙ Televised speeches and news conferences
give President ability to communicate directly
∙ Televised candidate debates important,
especially in presidential rage
∙ Radio Media Led to immediate reporting of news ∙ Allowed President to speak directly to
∙ Franklin Roosevelt successfully used
radio to influence public opinion in "Fireside
∙ Continues as important news delivery
∙ Print Media newspapers and magazines
∙ Newspapers started in colonial times and
reached peak influence in early 20th century; in
decline since 1950s.
∙ Magazines devoted to public affairs started in mid 19th century, attracted mass readership in 20th
century, but also now in decline.
∙ New Media sources of political information that are not a part of traditional print or broadcast media. Primarily found in digital sources like the Internet, new media are characterized by their interactivity, or the consumer’s role in defining and shaping the information
∙ Infotainment also called soft news, infotainment combines information and entertainment. This form of media emphasizes stories that are entertaining even if they are
lacking in seriousness, significance, or timeliness.
∙ FCC Regulates broadcast media (radio, TV, telephone, cable)
enforcing federal laws.
∙ Independent regulatory agency insulated from
direct control by President or Congress.
∙ MarketDriven Journalism a market in which private ownership of media encourages journalistic practices driven by increasing advertising revenue, circulation, and profit margins. This type of market leads to story coverage driven by audience appeal
rather than by educational, social, or political value ∙ Muckraking journalism focused on exposing corruption in
government or industry. Muckraking was prevalent in the U.S. from the 1890s to the 1930s and influenced many legislative reforms of the period.
∙ Yellow Journalism a style of reporting in which journalists exaggerate or even fabricate news stories to increase circulation. This sensationalistic mode of journalism was
prevalent in the U.S. at the turn of the 19th century. ∙ Agenda Setting the process of getting issues on the political
agenda, or those issues to which the public and decision makers are paying attention and on which there is active
∙ Priming the process by which the media influence the way people think about an issue or event. Through its presentation of information, the media shape how people consider issues
and events and interpret related information.
∙ Framing the process by which media encourages viewers to interpret journalistic stories in a particular way. Media can frame stories for the public using selective presentation of facts
or specific descriptive language.
∙ Persuasion source characteristics, message
∙ characteristics, and audience characteristics
∙ lead individuals to change their attitudes about public policy
∙ Chapter 7: Voting and Political Participation
∙ Key Concepts:
∙ Define political participation and give examples of different kinds.
Which kinds of participation are most common and why? ∙ Political participation simply refers to any kind of action that
is aimed at changing or supporting government policy or officials. Conventional participation refers to common actions, considered culturally acceptable at a given time in history, that
communicate preferences through established institutions. modern forms of conventional participation include contacting elected officials, working on election campaigns, voting, associating with political parties or interest groups, and signing petitions. Unconventional participation refers to actions that are less common, take place outside of established institutions, and/or challenge cultural norms. Such actions can include participation in demonstrations, protests, strikes, boycotts, sit
ins, or terrorist activities aimed at sending a political message. ∙ Identify why political participation matter and identify the key role
that individuals play in the government
∙ Political participation, whether conventional or unconventional, plays an important role in a democracy because it allows citizens to communicate their will to public officials. Forms of political participation also provide channels of expression for those seeking to influence government.
∙ When are people most likely to vote or participate in politics?
∙ People with more education, higher incomes, and whitecollar jobs are more likely to participate politically than people of a
lower socioeconomic status.
∙ Be able to identify other factors that affect the likelihood of voting
and for whom someone will vote.
∙ A combination of specific forces—partisan loyalty, policy issues, candidate characteristics, and economic conditions—
can help explain the vote choices that Americans make. ∙ What trends do we observe concerning voter turnout? ∙ The first is that voter turnout has generally declined since the
1960s. The second is that voter turnout in the U.S. remains
lower than in other industrialized countries.
∙ How does the U.S.’s voter turnout compare to that of other
∙ Voter turnout in the United States is lower than in a number of other countries with regular elections.
∙ Conventional Participation culturally acceptable political activity that communicates preferences through established
∙ Unconventional Participation political activity that takes place outside of established institutions and challenges cultural
∙ Prospective Voting voter behavior that evaluates candidates
based on forecasts of their future political behavior. ∙ Retrospective Voting voter behavior that evaluates candidates
based on their experience or past performance.
∙ Socioeconomic Status the combination of education, occupation, and income that can be used to gauge one’s
position in society.
∙ Balancing the ticket the practice of presidential nominees selecting a running mate who broadens the public appeal of the
∙ Social capital the degree of civic connectedness within a
∙ Franchise the right to vote
∙ Chapter 8: Political Parties
∙ Key Concepts:
∙ Identify and define what a political party is and how they influence
∙ A political party consists of three separate components: the party organization, the party in government, and the party in the electorate. Parties help to informally structure elections by
running candidates for office under specific party labels. ∙ What three components make up a political party? Explain each
∙ A political party consists of three separate components: the party organization, the party in government, and the party in
∙ Which parties are dominant in the United States? What are the origins of our current parties? How and why have parties in the United States changed over time? (Be specific about each
∙ The U.S. political system has been dominated by the Republican and Democratic parties. When the House voted in favor of Adams, Jackson turned his attention to the formation of a new party focused on the expansion of political participation, expansion of the nation’s territory, and opposition to government economic regulation In 1828, Jackson was elected president under the banner of the newly formed Democratic Party. The old DemocraticRepublicans who did not favor Jackson or his laissezfaire economic policies soon formed the Whig Party.
∙ Explain the advantages and disadvantages of a two party system (chart in your book)
∙ The Advantages and Disadvantages of the American TwoParty System
∙ Advantages ∙ Disadvantages
Reflects median of public opinion Checks and balances political power Guarantees a legislative majority Simplifies vote choice
Ensures a clear winner
Offers few new ideas
Tends to be slow to change Engenders little difference in party ∙ platforms
Limits access to minor parties Restricts vote choice
Discourages coalition building Leads to polarized and adversarial ∙ politics
∙ Know how and why third parties function in political systems such
as the one we have in the United States.
∙ Third parties may introduce important issues and pressure the
system for needed reform.
∙ What is polarization? Has it been increasing or decreasing in recent
years according to your textbook?
∙ Political polarization refers to cases in which an individual's stance on a given issue, policy, or person is more likely to be
strictly defined by their identification with a particular political party or ideology. The two parties have become increasingly polarized since the 1950s, with fewer Republicans
and Democrats taking moderate positions.
∙ How has party identification changed since the 1950s among
∙ More people are independent instead of identifying with the Democratic or Republican party. The decline in American party identification indicates that the power of parties in the
electorate has diminished over time.
∙ What are critical elections?
∙ A critical election is one in which groups of voters change their
loyalty from one party to another.
∙ Know the differences between a referendum, an initiative, and a
∙ Initiative a means by which voters consider measures to change local ordinances, state statutes, or constitutions.
∙ Referendum a means for citizens to participate in policymaking by voting directly on a variety of measures,
including initiatives or recalls.
∙ Recall a means for voters to remove an elected official before the expiration of the officeholder’s term
∙ Know how parties are organized. Are they centralized or
∙ The party organization refers to a set of structures at the national, state, and local levels. n this organizational system, power is centralized under a national committee; the two largest such organizations are the Democratic National Committee (DNC) and the Republican National Committee
∙ How did the founding fathers feel about political parties? What
does the Constitution say about them?
∙ The Federalists believed that the survival of the young nation required a stronger central government. The antiFederalists
feared that a strong central government would threaten individual rights and state sovereignty. The entire Constitution was written to structure a government independent of political parties.
∙ Key Terms:
∙ Open Primary A primary in which voters can vote for the
candidates of either the Democratic or the Republican party ∙ Closed Primary A primary election in which voters must first
declare to which party they belong
∙ Political Parties an organized coalition of interests that seeks to influence government and policy by getting members elected to public office and by coordinating the actions of elected
∙ Party Platform the document or statement developed by a political party to include its official positions on issues of public concern.
∙ Party organization national office, staff, rules, bylaws, budget, includes state and local headquarters, keep the party running
∙ Duverger’s Law the principle by which political systems with singlemember plurality districts are likely to have a twoparty
∙ Political machine a party organization at the state or local level that sought political influence by offering rewards, in the form of government jobs and services, to sympathetic voters and
∙ Initiative a means by which voters consider measures to
change local ordinances, state statutes, or constitutions. ∙ Referendum a means for citizens to participate in
policymaking by voting directly on a variety of measures,
including initiatives or recalls.
∙ Recall a means for voters to remove an elected official before the expiration of the officeholder’s term.
∙ Chapter 9: Interest Groups
∙ Key Concepts:
∙ What is an interest group, and how does it differ from a party? ∙ Interest groups are organizations of people seeking to influence
government and public policy. Unlike the two major political parties, interest groups in the U.S. are relatively small and typically organized around a discrete set of issues. While parties structure the institutions of government, such as the committee system in Congress, interest groups petition government as outsiders. While parties structure the electoral system through candidate recruitment, control over the nomination process, and influence over the rules of the electoral game, interest groups work at the grassroots level to
educate voters, raise money, and increase awareness. ∙ Know how interest groups are formed and maintained. ∙ What is the “free rider” problem? How does it apply to interest
groups and what can they do to overcome this obstacle?
∙ What is the function of a lobbyist?
∙ Whom do interest groups represent? Be sure to know what factors cause a person or an entity’s interests to be more or less
represented by an interest group.
∙ Be able to discuss the different types of interest groups and their
roles in government
∙ Discuss the function of the Iron Triangle and the role interest
groups play in it
∙ Be able to explain how interest groups influence government. Be
specific and be sure to include each branch of government. ∙ Be able to compare and contrast the advantages and disadvantages
of interest groups and their effect on government
∙ Know the difference between pluralist and elitist theories of interest groups.
∙ Key Terms
∙ Interest Groups Any group that seeks to influence public policy ∙ Grassroots advocacy the act of asking the general public to
contact legislators and government officials concerning the issue at hand
∙ Direct Lobbying direct interaction with public officials for the
purpose of influencing policy decisions
∙ Lobbyists provide current and meaningful information to
∙ Private interests those interests that benefit individuals or select
groups without benefiting the whole
∙ Public interests those interests that benefit the whole as
opposed to benefiting a select group of private interests ∙ Lobbying political activity that aims to influence government
policymaking. Those who engage in lobbying are known as
∙ Amicus Curiae briefs a type of brief filed by a “friend of the court,” or someone who is not directly involved in the case at hand. Interest groups often file this type of brief to provide information to the Court to assist in its decisionmaking
∙ Political Action Committee organizations established by individuals or private groups with the aim of raising money to
contribute to candidates for elective office. PACs are regulated by the Federal Election Commission