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Teaching Guide

Teaching Political Parties

Shmoop's least favorite theme party.

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You can probably count on one hand the number of students who would turn down an invitation to a party. But a political party? That's different. While our only suggestion for party décor is a red, white, and blue color scheme, we go quite a bit deeper on the academic end of things.

In this guide you will find

  • lessons analyzing political party stereotypes.
  • an activity interpreting the messages of political cartoons.
  • tons of modern resources from PBS to NPR to the WSJ and other publications not defined by their initials…because people will never stop arguing about political parties. Ever.

We'll be sure to keep it bipartisan so no one ends up throwing drinks on anyone else at this party.

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Shmoop is a labor of love from folks who love to teach. Our teaching guides will help you supplement in-classroom learning with fun, engaging, and relatable learning materials that bring civics to life.

Inside each guide you'll find quizzes, activity ideas, discussion questions, and more—all written by experts and designed to save you time. Here are the deets on what you get with your teaching guide:

  • 4-10 Common Core-aligned activities (including quotation, image, and document analysis) to complete in class with your students, with detailed instructions for you and your students. 
  • Discussion and essay questions for all levels of students.
  • Reading quizzes to be sure students are looking at the material through various lenses.
  • Resources to help make the topic feel more relevant to your 21st-century students.
  • A note from Shmoop's teachers to you, telling you what to expect from teaching the topic and how you can overcome the hurdles.

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Instructions for You

Barack Obama’s election suggested to some a realignment of the core constituencies of the two political parties. (You and your students can read more about that here.) In this exercise your students will analyze exit polling data from the 2008 election.

Ask them to respond on paper, individually or in groups, to the following questions based on data drawn from New York Times exit polls. After they have answered the questions, lead a discussion on the stability of the “Obama Coalition” and the prospects for Republican electoral recovery in the near future.

Questions

  • With what types/groups of voters does the Democratic Party enjoy significant advantages?
  • Which of these types/groups might be the “softest” in their support for the Democratic Party?
  • If you were Democratic strategist, what problems would you foresee with the “Obama Coalition?”
  • What information might suggest to you that the Democratic Party will enjoy continued electoral success in the future?
  • With what types/groups of voters does the Republican Party enjoy significant advantages?
  • Which of these types/groups might be the “softest” in their support for the Republican Party?
  • If you were a Republican strategist, what would worry you about the coalition of voters that supported the McCain/Palin ticket in 2008?
  • With what types/groups of voters must the Republicans make gains if it is to reverse the 2008 electoral results?
  • With which of these types/groups does this seem most and least likely? Explain.

(Lesson aligned with CA 12th grade American government standards 12.6.1, 12.6.6)

TEKS Standards: §113.41. United States History Studies Since 1877 b1, b2, c11E, c24A

Instructions for Your Students

How significant was Barack Obama’s election in 2008 for the Democratic Party? Many political analysts believe that now-President Obama forged a new coalition of voters during the 2008 election and that the Democrats are likely to enjoy electoral success for the next several years.

You are going to analyze some polling data and consider if this is likely.

The polling data is available here.

Consider the following questions:

  • With what types/groups of voters does the Democratic Party enjoy significant advantages?
  • Which of these types/groups might be the “softest” in their support for the Democratic Party?
  • If you were Democratic strategist, what problems would you foresee with the “Obama Coalition?”
  • What information might suggest to you that the Democratic Party will enjoy continued electoral success in the future?
  • With what types/groups of voters does the Republican Party enjoy significant advantages?
  • Which of these types/groups might be the “softest” in their support for the Republican Party?
  • If you were a Republican strategist, what would worry you about the coalition of voters that supported the McCain/Palin ticket in 2008?
  • With what types/groups of voters must the Republicans make gains if it is to reverse the 2008 electoral results?
  • With which of these types/groups does this seem most and least likely? Explain.

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