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Political Behavior
Overview, Key Understandings & Questions

Theme Key Understandings

  • A government's structure determines how political parties will form and operate
  • Political parties strongly influence the operation of democratic governments
  • Media, public opinion, and policy are interrelated in a democracy
  • The type of media a public consumes influences their understanding of policy and government action
  • Interest groups can be both an effective citizen tool for expression and, if too powerful, a threat to democracy
  • Voting rules and regulations affect election outcomes
  • Interpreting campaign contributions as free speech allows those with money greater access to lawmakers

Key Questions

Why Political Parties?

  • How did the emphasis on majority rule and the need for allies in a democracy contribute to the creation of political parties in the United States?
  • Political candidates have traditionally needed the support of an influential political party to gain high-profile elected positions, but the Internet now allows candidates to raise a significant amount of money without the help of a party. How do you think this will affect the role of political parties in elections in the long run?

Origins of U.S. Political Parties

  • How did the structure of the American political system lead to the quick development of two major parties in the country?
  • How do party coalitions reflect a variety of viewpoints? What is one key reason it is difficult to maintain a coalition?

Two-Party System

  • What are three key ways that American history shaped the development of political parties in the United States?
  • How does the American winner-take-all system make it so difficult for third parties to gain momentum?

Origins of Political Opinion

  • Identify two key factors that are likely to shape an individual's views of public policy. How do those factors drive public opinion?
  • U.S. government is meant to be of, for, and by the people; in light of this, to what extent do you think legislators should take public opinion into account when making laws and running the government? Explain your answer.

Defining and Measuring Public Opinion

  • Why is it important for politicians to try to measure public opinion?
  • What dangers are created by labeling people a certain way when measuring public opinion?

Mass Media and Politics

  • How does the media people consume impact their political views and, ultimately, public opinion?
  • Unlike such early forms of mass media as newspapers and radio, television and the Internet allow people today to see political figures speak and interact. In what ways do you think the introduction of these media forms changed the way we view and evaluate political figures or politics?

Interest Groups at Work

  • In what specific ways do interest groups help individual American citizens better express their policy priorities?
  • What are two drawbacks of the presence of interest groups in our political system?

Elections and Voting

  • Identify three different types of elections and explain how each type of election specifically influences the American political process.
  • What are two things that negatively impact political participation in the United States? Do you believe these problems can be addressed?


  • Explain how the election controversy of 2000 is a prime example of the need for ballot reform and universal voting practices in the United States.
  • Do you think that e-voting should be an option? Why or why not?
  • Would you support uniform national requirements for ballots and voting machines? Why or why not?

Political Campaigns

  • What are the common characteristics of successful political campaigns?
  • How do presidential campaigns differ from congressional campaigns?

Campaign Financing

  • Identify three ways in which American history has shaped campaign finance rules in the United States.
  • Why has political spending increased dramatically over the last 25 years? What are the implications of this for American democracy?

MLA Citation

"Political Behavior." History Hub, ABC-CLIO, 2019, historyhub.abc-clio.com/Support/Display/2142497?cid=246. Accessed 6 Dec. 2019.

Entry ID: 2142497

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