Print Friendly and PDF      Site Search and Site Map   



Table of Contents


Political Socialization             Public Opinion                The Media

Interest Groups            Political Parties            Voting Behavior            Campaigns and Elections








Political Socialization

Political socialization is the process by which people acquire a set of political attitudes and form opinions about social issues.


Agents of Political Socialization

Family                       Neighbors

Peer group               Career

School                       Co-Workers

Religion                    Community Organizations

Media                        Life stage

Higher Education

Political values change almost throughout your life. The most important influences on your political values, however, occur during your early life. Your family, school, community (religious organizations, youth groups, civic activities) and your peer groups have the most profound effects. It is your family that gives you that basic attitude toward government that you will carry with you throughout your life.ELEPHANT & DONKEY



% of children who are Democrat

% of children who are Independent

% of children who are Republican


both parents Democrats





both parents Independents





both parents Republicans





-from National Election Study data


Family is the single most important factor in your political socialization. However, throughout your life, your political values are influenced by college, adult peers (workers, friends, neighbors, spouses), political leaders, media and your political experiences. Too, the maturation process alone will affect your political values. Until you have children, you will care little for public school issues. Until you own a home, you will care little for property tax issues. Political socialization, to a greater or lesser degree, will continue throughout your life.




The opinions you form exist at three basic levels.

1.  values and beliefs

most abstract

broad principles

Sam Huntington: liberty equality, individualism, rule of law

2.  political orientation

translation of values and beliefs into a systematic way of assessing the political environment

partisanship: psychological attachment to a party

ideology: consistent set of values and beliefs about the purpose and scope of government

3.  political preferences

attitudes about specific issues / candidates

campaigns have little effect on voting choices ... routine personal contact with family, neighbors, co-workers and other acquaintances is the predominant influence


The Age Gap: Old vs. Young

Do You Live in a Political Bubble?













Public Opinion


GRAFFITI IN INNER CITY MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA – BY KAREN MOLLER... the collected attitudes of citizens on a given issue or question.

Governments tend to react to public opinion. The fact that a public official serves at the pleasure of the voters usually tends to make that official sensitive to public opinion.

American public opinion has some unique characteristics.

The public's attitudes toward a given government policy vary over time.

The majority of American voters stand somewhere near the middle ground on most issues in American politics.


Americans tend to fall into one of four categories based on how knowledgeable they are about politics and government.

opinion leaders       29%

informed public      34%

uninformed public 23%

politically clueless   13%

American citizens are more than willing to express opinions about things of which they are totally ignorant.

American public opinion is pragmatic, rather than ideological.

We may often talk theoretically but we act practically. That does not mean we don’t have political ideologies but it does mean we probably aren’t ideologues in the true sense of the word.

American public opinion is:




Wlezien's Thermostatic Model: Government responds to public opinion but often overshoots it, causing the public to move in the opposite direction.

post-truth: relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief



I. Public Opinion Polls

... the instruments by which we discover the public’s opinion on an issue at a given point in time

The population is the group of people you’re interested in studying.

The sample is that part of the population considered to represent the entire population.

A poll is a type of survey or inquiry into public opinion conducted by interviewing a representative sample of the population.

population vs. sample / target population vs. random sample

A random sample is the result of a process that selects a sample from the larger population entirely by chance.

A poll’s sampling error tells you how much confidence you can have in the findings of the poll. The smaller the sampling error is, the more confidence you can have that the findings are accurate. The larger the sample is in relation to the population, the smaller the error. In general, you should look for a sampling error of ±3% … any poll with an error larger than ±5% is probably not worth the paper it’s printed on. Properly conducted scientific polls are highly accurate and the data generated by an opinion poll are used to measure and analyze public opinion.

SLOPs (self-selected listener opinion polls), CRAPs (computerized response audience polling), intercept polls, FRUG polls (fund raising under the guise of polls) and push polls are neither scientific nor accurate. In fact, push polls only pretend to be polls in order to "push" you into believing something, e.g. "If you found out that the local community college has been overcharging students for their tuition, would you continue to attend your local college?" Push polls don't really care about your opinion ... they're trying to get you to believe their opinion.


Survey USA FAQs

Polling Report






II. Qualities of Public Opinion

A. Shape
  1. normal curve

  2. bimodal

  3. skewed

  4. U-curve

   1 normal

2 bimodal

3 skewed

4 U-curve

B. Direction (skewness)
  1. positive

  2. negative

C. Intensity
  1. strong

  2. mild

  3. neutral

Fox News (April 2004) asked the following question of 900 registered voters:

Do you support or oppose the US having taken military action to disarm Iraq and remove Iraqi President Saddam Hussein? Is that strongly support/oppose or only somewhat support/oppose?

Support strongly


Support somewhat


Oppose somewhat


Oppose strongly


Not sure


In this example had the question only offered the response options, support and oppose, the results would have yielded only that 65% were in support and 31% opposed. The strength of opinion at the two extremes would not have been ascertained along with the knowledge that the conviction at either end — the strongly held views — was more than triple the more mildly held views.

D. Stability / Continuity

amount of change over time




relatively stable




The Folly of the Modern Political Poll (PDF)

Misleading Statistics Examples in Advertising and in the News

Misleading Graphs: Real Life Examples

Who in the World Is Still Answering Pollsters’ Phone Calls?

What To Make Of Polls That Show Americans Are Trending Toward The GOP

Previewing Our Wisconsin Polling Experiment

Frustrated With Polling? Pollsters Are, Too



Be a Critical Observer of Polls



Generally speaking, the accuracy of a poll depends upon the degree to which the characteristics of the people being interviewed is really similar to those of the group they are supposed to represent. For example, the polling of sixteen-year-olds to predict the outcome of an election would be very questionable since they cannot vote.

Also, as a general rule, the greater the number of people interviewed, the more likely the prediction will be accurate. Everything else being equal, an election poll of 100,000 out of two million voters is more likely to produce accurate results than a poll of 1,000 out of the same number. It is important to point out that large, national polling organizations have small national samples of under 2,000 that predict quite accurately for the entire electorate.

Lastly, those interviewed should have been selected in a random fashion. This is usually done to avoid or lessen the possibility of allowing any "unaccounted for" bias or characteristics ... of those being interviewed ... to influence the results. The accuracy of a poll designed to sample the views of all registered Republicans, for example, would definitely be suspect and have a conservative bias if it interviewed only contributors to Barry Goldwater's unsuccessful presidential campaign of 1964.


2. Under What Conditions Were The Interviews Conducted?

Generally speaking, unclear, biased, or emotionally charged questions will produce misleading answers and weaken the accuracy of the results of a poll. Questions such as ... How do you feel about candidate X? or, You are planning to vote for candidate Y, are you not? would be suspect.

Also, if the people being polled are asked to choose from a given set of responses in answering a question, there must be an acceptable number of alternatives from which to choose. For example, suppose those being polled are required to respond to a question ... either "yes" or "no." This practice would eliminate the possibility that some of the people may truly be "undecided" and consequently distort the accuracy of the poll's results.

Finally, polls conducted by telephone or through the mails generally do not tend to be as reliable as personal interviews. This is largely due to the fact that the former measures are not as likely to be able to control for who really participates in the poll, the number who respond, and possible misinterpretation of the questions.


3. When Was the Poll Conducted?

It should also be noted that the results of a poll are representative ... however accurate ... of the preferences, views and feelings of a particular group of people at a particular point in time. As a general rule, the more current the poll, the more likely it is to produce meaningful and useful results. A summer poll regarding who should be elected president in 2004, for example, is not likely to be as accurate as a poll taken during election week of the actual election.


4. Who Conducted the Poll?

Past reputation and performance can also help an individual determine the validity of the results of a poll. Generally speaking, "novice" pollsters are not likely to be able to compete with professional polling organizations with their large staff's, seemingly unlimited resources, and sophisticated computer equipment. In addition, polls conducted by groups with an obvious interest in the results should be held suspect until proven otherwise. Finally, past performance records of a polling group might be useful in determining the organization's credibility and reliability.


5. What was the Percentage of Error?

Polling organizations should also indicate what the potential for error of their poll is. Based on the size of their sample it is statistically possible to do so and indicates reliability to the reader.


Public Opinion Polls Do Not Always Report Public Opinion

The Folly of the Modern Political Poll (PDF)

Misleading Statistics Examples in Advertising and in the News

Misleading Graphs: Real Life Examples

Who in the World Is Still Answering Pollsters’ Phone Calls?

20 Questions a Journalist (and You, too!) Should Ask About Poll Results.













The Media


I. Media-Politics Process

o   Information seldom full or complete.

o   Candidates exploit issues in advertisements.

o   Information becomes altered.

o   Information becomes short, simple and highly thematic.

o   Leads to the increasing importance of political advertising.


Media Effect on Politics



Increased knowledge

Increased voter skepticism

Agenda setting

Reduced choice of candidates

Candidate orientation

Politics as a game for the financial elite

Candidate issue positions


Media technology gives candidates tools


Media help candidates identify "hot" issues


5 Ways New Media Are Changing PoliticsHow to Be a Smart News Consumer

Video: Segment of VP Spiro Agnew’s Speech Attacking the Press, 1969 (1:11)

Video: Gov. Bill and Hillary Clinton Discussing Accusations of his Infidelity, 1992 (6:24)



II. News Coverage

More negative than ads

One-third of candidate messages are negative

Two-thirds of news coverage is negative

Structural bias in media

Early negative coverage is hard to shake

News organizations shape sound bites from stories

Emphasize the dramatic

No meaningful context

Truth or Fiction: A non-partisan website where internet users can quickly and easily get information about eRumors, fake news, disinformation, warnings, offers, requests for help, myths, hoaxes, virus warnings and humorous or inspirational stories that are circulated by email.

PolitiFact: Staffers research statements and rate their accuracy on the Truth-O-Meter, from True to False. The most ridiculous falsehoods get the lowest rating, Pants on Fire. This highly regarded rumor analyzing site has been researching rumors since 1995.

Media Bias/Fact Check: An independent media outlet dedicated to educating the public on media bias and deceptive news practices. They maintain a database of 900+ news sources.

AllSides: News and issues from multiple perspectives. The site clearly identifies each news story's position (left, center or right).

How to Recognize a Fake News Story (Huffington Post)

Fake or Real? How To Self-Check The News And Get The Facts: A news item from NPR, with tips on how to self-check the news to ensure you're getting a real news story.

What are Confirmation Bias Examples?: Confirmation bias is the tendency for people to selectively search for and consider information that confirms already held beliefs. People also tend to reject evidence that contradicts their opinions. This page has some examples of confirmation bias.

The Fact Checker’s guide for detecting fake news: Clear and quick tips for how to detect fake news, from the Fact Checker section of the Washington Post.

How to Recognize a Fake News Story
Spot Fake News


It's more important than ever to be critical online. Why Fact Check?

A world with or without fact checking? We know what we prefer. (1:33)



III. Political Advertising

Convey information that will evoke positive feelings about the candidate

Information can be positive or negative

Define candidate and issue positions

Define opponents

Candidate controls content

Candidate controls the appeal

Stress image and issues

Measure citizens’ responses

Reinforce long-held predispositions about issues, personalities, political parties

Increasingly negative

Positive ads have to run again and again and again to stick

Negative ads move poll numbers in three or four days

System rewards those who win ... more important than voter turnoutCARTOON ABOUT NEGATIVE ADVERTISING


What does the research say about negative advertising?

Negative ads do not increase participation.

Negative ads reduce positive attitudes toward candidates and races.

Attack advertising extracts a toll on participation: voting drops by 2.5% with negative ads and increases by the same amount with a positive ad. It's strongest effect is on independents.

Provides valuable information.

Reveals information about candidate's strengths or weaknesses.

Stimulates the base into action.

More knowledgeable voters are most likely to pay attention to ads.

Negative ads are given more weight.

Negative ads produce stronger emotional effects than positive ads.

The Negative Consequences of Uncivil Political Discourse (PDF)

Behind the Scenes of a Presidential Primary (3:41): Ever wondered what goes into covering a Presidential campaign? Here is an inside look at C-SPAN's efforts around the New Hampshire Primary.

Political TV Ad Archive

TED Talk: How does news shape the way we see the world? (4:19)

The Shocking Campaign Ad That Put a Third-Party Candidate on the Political Map

The Science of Political Advertising

Video: Eisenhower Answers America Ad, 1952 (3:19)

Video: The Daisy Ad for LBJ, 1964 (1:01)

Video: Morning in America Ad, 1984 (1:02)

Video: Revolving Door Ad, 1988 (0:31)

Video: Harry and Louise Ads, 1993-94 (2:06)

Video: If Parents Acted Like Bush Ad, 2004 (0:30)

Video: Child’s Play Ad, 2004 (0:32)

Video: John Kerry, International Man of Mystery Ad, 2004 (1:02)


Political Advertising Strategies

  1. Appeal to Authority
    1. cite an authority who is not qualified to have an expert opinion

    2. cite an expert when other experts disagree on the issue

    3. cite an expert by hearsay only

  2. Appeal to Force
    1. predict dangerous outcomes if follow a course other than yours

  3. Appeal to Popularity / Bandwagon
    1. hold an opinion to be valuable because large numbers of people support it

  4. Attacking the Person
    1. attack the person making the argument, not the argument

    2. attack the person making the argument because of those with whom he associates

    3. insinuate that the person making the argument would stand to gain by it

  5. False Dilemma
    1. offer a limited number of options — usually two — when there are really more choices

  6. Hasty Generalization
    1. use a sample too small to support the conclusion

  7. Slippery Slope
    1. threaten a series of increasingly dire consequences if taking a different course of action

A Primer on Persuasion and Influence    DANCING STAR TO DENOTE GOOD SITE

Propaganda Critic

Ad Critic

The 30 Second Candidate

The Living Room Candidate

Media in the United States

Covering elections, governance and the democratic process: some excellent linksAverage number of Trump's tweets per day, by month


IV. Trends

o   Fragmentation of audiences and outlets

o   Shift from networks toward more diverse sources, such as radio, local TV, Internet

o   Tabloidization of news

o   Fierce commercial pressures

o   Permanent campaigns: leading to constant polls, focus groups, electronic town meetings

o   Rapid rise in the importance of social media

Why Do Americans Distrust the Media?

Are You Getting The Truth From Cable News Channels ?

Trust In The Media Has Declined In Last 15 Years

Why can’t a generation that grew up online spot the misinformation in front of them?

You can use a search tool on your phone or desktop in a clever way to separate fact from fiction -- before you share a link or meme.

Have we reshaped Middle East politics or started to mimic it?

The best podcasts on conspiracy theories and disinformation

When Americans Lost Faith in the News

Special Bulletin (NBC, 1983, 1:40:00): A perfectly typical broadcast evening on a major network is interrupted by a shocking special news bulletin. A group of scientists have threatened to detonate a nuclear bomb off of the coast of South Carolina if the US Navy refuses to agree to their demands - the disarmament of a key nuclear weapons facility. The movie is dated but it provides a good look at the role of the media and an interesting examination of the media's treatment of dramatic events, calling out the role of TV news in thriving on fear and conflict and illustrating how the US government works (or doesn't). Caution: The movie is shot as if it is real broadcast news and many people were convinced it was when it was first aired.













Interest Groups organization of individuals with similar views that tries to influence government to respond favorably to those views.

The principal purpose of interest group activity is to influence government to respond to the group’s objectives.





I. Types of Interest Groups

            A. Membership Organizations

                  1. business (dominant)

                  2. agriculture

                  3. professional organizations (doctors, lawyers, teachers)

                  4. labor unions (weak in Texas, a right-to-work state)

                  5. ethnic (NAACP, LULAC)

                  6. religious organizations

            B. Non-Membership Organizations

                  1. individual businesses not part of a membership organization

            C. Local Governments
            D. Functions of Interest Groups

                  1. They provide a vehicle for grassroots political participation.

                  2. They channel information on key issues to the general public.

                  3. They monitor the performance of federal officials and programs.




II. Techniques Used by Interest Groups

  1. lobbying

    Interest Group cartoon

    ...communication by a representative of an interest group directed at a government official to influence the official’s decisions

    1. legislature: providing information, communications with constituents, filing bills

    2. executive agencies: influence implementation of laws

    3. types of lobbyists

      1. contract

      2. in-house

      3. government (local)

      4. citizen

      5. private individual

  2. electioneering
    1. donate $ to campaign

    2. media strategy (TV ads, newspaper ads)

    3. raise $ for candidates

    4. campaign volunteers

  3. grassroots lobbying: shape public opinion




  1. Money: oil and gas industry

  2. Membership: strength in numbers, teachers

  3. Hire former legislators: former members know system and the current members

  4. Distribution across state

    1. wide distribution: strong

    2. narrow or limited distribution: weaker



IV. Comparing Interest Group Power Across States

  1. economic diversity
    1. more diverse economy: more groups, less influence

    2. less diverse economy: few dominant groups, more influence

  2. party strength
    1. weak two-party competition: strong groups

    2. strong two-party system: weak groups

  3. structure of state government
    1. decentralized executive structure: strong groups 

      1. iron triangle (legislative committee, executive agency, interest group)

    2. centralized executive structure: weaker groups


Open Secrets














Political Parties


 Political party: a broadly based coalition that attempts to gain control of the government by winning electionsDONKEY & ELEPHANT SPARRING

The principal purpose of political party activity is to gain control of government by winning elections.



I. 50 Two-Party Systems

A. state parties are independent of national organizations

1. few national offices, many state offices

2. common goals and similar issues, but separate organizations

Party Affiliation by State


B. state party ideologyPARTY SIGNPOSTS

1. competitive vs. noncompetitive states

2. policy-relevant vs. non-policy-relevant states

3. Texas

a. not competitive, Republican dominance

b. not policy relevant: old southern Democrats similar to new Republicans

c. traditional culture, small government, low taxes


The majority of American voters stand somewhere near the middle ground on many issues of American politics.




II. Party Realignment in TexasThe Six Kinds of Republican Voters

A. One-party Democratic

1. end of Reconstruction through 1970s

2. southern Democratic hostility to party of Lincoln, Reconstruction, Yankees

3. conservative Democrats dominate party — landowners and merchants

4. no competition for almost a century

5. Yellow Dog Democrats

B. A very gradual realignment from top to bottom

1. 1950s presidential elections: Eisenhower over Stevenson

2. 1961: first Republican senator since Reconstruction (Tower)

3. 1970s: first Republican governor since Reconstruction (Clements)

4. 1980s: Democratic defectors (Gramm)

5. 1990s: Republican dominance ushered in by Bush

6. 21st century Republicans taking traditional Democratic county offices

7. Probably the single factor most responsible for Republican growth in Texas after WWII was the increased size and prosperity of the Texas middle and upper classes.


The Typology Quiz

Discover which typology group you fit into.


C. voter profilesThe Increasing Partisan Divide




urban areas



new Texans

old and native Texans





Historic polling results for successful third party candidates

D. de-alignment and the declining influence of parties

1. more independent voters

2. party outsiders win party nominations

3. media, not party leaders, weed out candidates

4. raise $ from individuals and interest groups, not just parties

5. well-funded candidates have upper hand, not party organizations

E. third-party movements in Texas

1. Raza Unida (1970s)

2. Libertarians (1990s)

3. Ross Perot


Seven Third-Party Ideas Ahead of Their Time



III. The State Party OrganizationSTATE PARTY STRUCTURE

  1. Permanent Party
    1. continuity between elections

    2. precinct chair: basic level in the party organization in Texas

    3. county chair and executive committee

    4. state chair and executive committee

  2. Temporary Party
    1. only during election years

    2. precinct convention: held on primary election day, must vote in primary to attend

      select delegates to county or district convention

    3. county or district convention

      select delegates to county or district convention

    4. state convention

      select national convention delegates

      nominate electors for electoral college (presidential election years only)

      write party platform

  3. Delegate selection systems
    1. primary elections used in Texas

    2. caucus used in Iowa


Directory of US Political Parties

National and State Political Parties

Does the Red-State/Blue-State Model of US Electoral Politics Still Work?

Party Symbols

How the Republican and Democratic Parties Got Their Animal Symbols

The State of the Modern Political Logo

Video: Ronald Reagan’s A Time for Choosing Speech on behalf of Goldwater, 1964 (15:11)

Video: Sen. Barry Goldwater’s Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech at the Republican Convention, 1964 (11:50)

Video: Confrontations at Chicago’s Democratic Convention, 1968 (4:21)

Video: Clip from VP George HW Bush’s Presidential Nomination Acceptance Speech at the Republican Convention, 1988 (0:25)

Video: TX State Treasurer Ann Richards’ Keynote Address at the Democratic Convention, 1988 (5:15)

It Didn’t Start with Trump: The Decades-Long Saga of How the GOP Went Crazy

Detailed new Times maps show how often Democrats and Republicans live in separate neighborhoods.

Labor? Liberal? Patriot? If America had six political parties, which would be yours?

Are we really facing a second Civil War?

Political Parties Playbook: A Guide for Digitizing Party Operations



US Political Parties

[This is by no means a complete list of political parties in the US.]

America First Party
1630 A 30th Street #111
Boulder, CO 80301
Phone: 866-767-8721
Fax: 662-453-7787

American Party
Post Office Box 612
Tooele, UT 84074
Phone: 800-456-8683

American Fascist Party

American Heritage Party
Post Office Box 241
Leavenworth, WA 98826-0241
Phone: 509-548-2319
Other Phone: 888-396-6247
Fax: 509-548-8709

American Nazi Party
Post Office Box 85942
Westland, MI 48185

American Patriot Party

American Reform Party
10 Aida Court
Lodi, NJ 07644
Phone: 973-777-3838

American Synthesis Party
Post Office Box 40099
Augusta, GA 30909


American Solidarity Party

824 Whitmer Rd

Sligo PA 16255

Phone: 202-854-1112


Autonomy Party
6282 12th Street North, Apartment 102
Oakdale, MN 55128


Being Human Party
Attn: Ron Wilde, CPA
330 North Main Street #120
Kaysville, UT 94037
Phone: 801-367-1761

Christian Falangist Party of America}cfpa.html
Post Office Box 1106
Newton, NC 28658


Citizens Party

Philadelphia PA

Common Good Party
Mail: Human Progress Network
610 Ethan Allen Avenue
Takoma Park, MD 20912
Phone: 301-891-2996

Commonwealth Party

Communist Party USA
235 West 23rd Street
New York, NY 10011
Phone: 212-989-4994
Fax: 212-229-1713


Constitution Party
23 North Lime Street
Lancaster, PA 17602
Phone: 717-390-1933
Other Phone: 800-283-8647
Fax: 717-299-5115

Constitution Action Party
Post Office Box 5705
Arlington, VA 22205-5705

Constitutionalist Party

Democratic National Committee
430 South Capitol Street, South East
Washington, DC 20003
Phone: 202-863-8000

Democratic Socialists Party
Phone: 212-727-8610
Fax: 212-608-6955

Freedom Party


Freedom Socialist Party
4710 University Way North East, #100
Seattle, WA 98105
Phone: 206-985-4621
Fax: 206-985-8965

Green Party
1711 18th Street Northwest
Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202-319-7191
Other Phone: 202-319-7192
Fax: 202-319-7193

Independence Party of America
Post Office Box 40495
Saint Paul, MN 55104
Phone: 651-487-9700
Fax: 651-789-0307

Independent American Party
679 Rancho Circle
Mesquite, NV 89027-2565


Jeffersonian Party


Justice Party USA

PO Box 193

Washington DC 20006

Phone: 202-365-6786


Labor Party
Post Office Box 53177
Washington, DC 20009
Phone: 202-234-5190
Fax: 202-234-5266

Libertarian Party
2600 Virginia Avenue, Northwest
Suite 200
Washington, DC 20037
Phone: 800-353-2887

Light Party
20 Sunnyside Avenue
Suite A-156
Mill Valley, CA 94941
Phone: 415-381-4061
Fax: 415-381-2084


Modern Whig Party

1207 Delaware Ave

Buffalo NY 14209

Phone: 202-759-4282


National Socialist Movement
Post Office Box 580669
Minneapolis, MN 55458
Phone: 651-659-6307

Native American Party


Neo Whig Party
Post Office Box 910786
St. George, UT 84791
Phone: 702-250-5040

New American Independent Party

Party X

Party Y


Peace and Freedom Party

PO Box 24764
Oakland CA 94623

Phone: 951-787-0318



Populist Party of America
123 South Figueroa Street
Suite 1614
Los Angeles, CA 90012


Progressive ProAction Party
114 Caroline Street
Plymouth, WI 53073


Prohibition Party
Post Office Box 2635
Denver, CO 80201
Phone: 303-237-4947

Reform Party
Post Office Box 3236
Abilene, TX 79604
Phone: 325-672-2575

Republican National Committee
310 First Street, South East
Washington, DC 20003
Phone: 202-863-8500
Fax: 202-863-8820

Social Democrats
815 15th Street, North West
Washington, DC 20005
Phone: 202-467-0028
Other Phone: 202-638-1515
Fax: 202-457-0029

Socialist Action
298 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94103
Phone: 415-255-1080

Socialist Equality Party

Socialist Labor Party
Post Office Box 218
Mountain View, CA 94042-0218
Phone: 408-280-7266
Fax: 408-280-6964

Socialist Party
339 Lafayette Street # 303
New York, NY 10012
Phone: 212-982-4586
Other Phone: 201-803-7574

Southern Independence Party
1402 Carol Avenue
Lancaster, TX 75134

The Forever Party
Phone: 541-606-4306

Thermodynamic Law Party

United Fascist Union

US Marijuana Party
1022 Collins Ct
Bartonville, IL 61607-1714
Phone: 309-648-1714

US Pacifist Party
Phone: 773-324-0654
Fax: 773-324-6426

We The People Party
Post Office Box 253
Jackson, NH 03846

Worker's Socialist Party
1205 Thomas Palmer Court
Lawrenceville, GA 30043

Workers World Party
55 West 17 Street
New York, NY 10011
Phone: 212-627-2994
Fax: 212-675-7869



IV. Parties vs. Movements

  1. Political Party
    1. organized group of people with at least roughly similar political aims and opinions, and with the goal of influencing public policy by getting its candidates elected to public office

    2. Some theorists state that third/minor parties are not really parties because in a winner-take-all system they know they can never win elections. However, third/minor parties frequently win elections for local and even state-wide offices. Even if they didn’t, their goal is to win elections as demonstrated by their continued selection of and campaigning for nominees.

  2. Movement
    1. ...a sense of belonging and of solidarity generated through active participation

    2. does not have one over-all formal organization but may include many organized groups (for example, the labor movement, which includes trade unions, political parties, consumer cooperatives and many other organizations)

    3. implies the creation of an entirely new political order and so develops a more or less elaborate, more or less consistent set of ideas which its members must accept BUT a given movement’s ideas, and therefore its goals, may be more or less defined

    4. examples of recent movements:

neoreaction (NRx or Dark Enlightenment) (c 2007): an anti-democratic and reactionary movement that favors a return to older societal constructs and forms of government, including support for monarchism and traditional gender roles, coupled with a libertarian or otherwise conservative approach to economics … a loosely-defined cluster of Internet-based political thinkers with no interest in appealing to a wider audience … an early school of thought in the alt-right

Tea Party (2009): despite its name, conservative movement (mixture of libertarian, populist and conservative activism) with a specific set of goals and objectives (reduction of the US national debt and federal budget deficit by reducing government spending, supports lower taxes, opposes government-sponsored programs), has aligned itself with Republican Party

Coffee Party (2010): despite its name, initially founded as an alternative to the Tea Party movement, grassroots organization with specific goals (cooperation and civility in government and removal of corporate influence from politics … government is not the enemy of the people, but the expression of our collective will, and we must participate in the democratic process in order to address the challenges we face)

Alt-right (new right) (2010): loose movement of people with far-right ideologies who reject mainstream conservatism in the US and whose leaders seek to take their ideas mainstream, mostly an online movement that uses websites, chat boards, social media and memes to spread its message

Occupy Wall Street (2011): movement with no specific centralized platform (against social and economic inequality, greed, corruption and the perceived undue influence of corporations on government particularly from the financial services sector) other than a broad call for change and so attracts a variety of ideological perspectives

  1. Political violence occurs when groups of people have very separate worldviews. Some members of these groups and those who back them really believe they are carrying out legitimate acts of revolution when they engage in illegal activity.

Right-wing militias such as Oath Keepers and Three Percenters, whose Roman numeral III can be seen on patches and flags, are anti-government, pro-guns and currently pro-Trump. Others on the right who share the militias’ anti-government views often signal their beliefs with the Gadsden flag, a yellow banner dating to the American Revolution with a rattlesnake and the phrase Don’t Tread on Me.

Pepé the FrogBoogaloos, who wear their signature Hawaiian shirts, and Proud Boys, who often wear orange hats, include racists and anti-Semites, though the outright white supremacists tend to keep a lower profile. Some wear Crusader crosses or Germanic pagan imagery that has become popular on the racist and anti-Semitic fringes. Others have adopted an OK hand-gesture as their own. Pepé the Frog, the smirking cartoon amphibian that has become a widely recognized symbol of the alt-right crowd, is a common sight.

You will often see the green-and-white flags of Kekistan, the fictional country that is home to the deity “Kek.” In theKekistan flag meme-driven culture of the alt-right, a satirical religion has sprouted up around Kek “as a way to troll liberals and self-righteous conservatives,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups. “He is a god of chaos and darkness, with the head of a frog, the source of their mimetic ‘magic,’ to whom the alt-right and Donald Trump owe their success.” The skull-like symbol of the Punisher, a crime-fighting Marvel comic book antihero, is also a common sight. It has become a popular emblem on the far right in recent years and is sometimes used by police officers to signal one another without having to wear badges.

The QAnon conspiracy theory falsely claims that there is a cabal of Democrats, deep-state bureaucrats and international financiers who use their power to rape and kill children, and that Donald Trump was elected to vanquish them. The canard is convoluted and confusing, but its iconography is clear and plentiful: shirts with the letter Q or slogans like Trust the Plan; signs saying Save the Children; and flags with the abbreviation WWG1WGA, which stands for Where We Go One, We Go All.

Occupy Wall Street (OWS) vs The Tea Party

The Tea Party vs. Occupy Wall Street

What You Need To Know About The Alt-Right Movement

Geeks for Monarchy: The Rise of the Neoreactionaries

Jan. 6 Was Just the Beginning for the Proud Boys

How ‘Stop the Steal’ Captured the American Right

Conspiracy theorists want to run America’s elections. These are the candidates standing in their way.

Two Americas Index: Democracy deniers

Where will this political violence lead? Look to the 1850s.













Voting Behavior


I. Forms of Political Participation

Who participates in politics is an important issue. Those who participate are likely to have more political influence than those who do not. Higher education is the single most important factor in producing a high degree of participation. Older persons and men are also likely to be active. Blacks participate more than whites of equal socioeconomic status.

Although voter turnout has decreased over the past twenty years, it seems that other forms of participation, such as writing letters to public officials and engaging in demonstrations, have increased. There are many ways in which Americans can participate in politics-ranging from voting, which a majority do with some regularity, to belonging to a political club or organization, which only a few do. In an elaborate analysis of the ways people participate, Verba and Nie discovered six different kinds of citizens.

Inactives participate little if at all (22%).

Parochial participants neither vote nor engage in campaigns or community activity, but they do contact officials about specific, often personal, problems (4%).

Communalists engage in community activities of a nonpartisan nature (20%).

Voting specialists regularly vote but do little else (21%).

Campaigners vote and also participate in conflictual political activities, such as campaigns (15%).

Complete activists participate in all forms of political activity (11%).

Americans are less likely to vote than are Europeans. The reasons for this difference are complex. First, the US has an almost bewildering number of elective offices, an estimated 521,000 positions. Voters' enthusiasm for elections is surely deflated by the sheer volume of names with which they must familiarize themselves. In Europe, in contrast, each voter generally is confronted with only one or two offices to fill per election, so that electoral decisions do not impose a burden on the voter. Even in Europe, however, voter apathy increases with the number of elections. Too much democracy, in terms of either selecting government offices or making policy, is exhausting.

A second explanation for the poor turnout rate involves the mechanics of voting procedures. It is common in other countries for voting to be compulsory by law and for registration to be carried out automatically by the government. Mandatory voting would probably fail to survive a constitutional challenge in this country on First Amendment grounds. Just as people have a right not to speak (like refusing to salute the flag), it would seem to follow that they have a right to refrain from voting as well.Why Many Americans Don't Vote - Election 2020 Simplifying registration is a different matter. Republicans in particular have tended to resist any easing of registration standards. Even during the 2020 coronavirus pandemic, many office holders fought against making registration and voting easier, citing concerns about voter fraud even though widespread fraud has never occurred during modern times.

Over the past decade civil rights advocates have witnessed and litigated against systematic campaigns to impede voters at every step of the electoral process. In 2011, 38 states introduced legislation to constrain and obstruct universal suffrage. Although state officials claim that voter ID laws and related constraints are necessary to prevent voter fraud, one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject found only 31 individual cases of voter fraud out of 1 billion votes cast since the year 2000. The state campaigns to impede universal voter participation seem to reflect a fear and resentment of multiethnic democratic participation as voters of color are strategically targeted for discrimination and intimidation. A federal court struck down North Carolina’s voter ID law, concluding that its primary purpose wasn’t to stop voter fraud, but rather to disenfranchise minority voters.

The weakness of political parties must also be considered. Unlike in the past, parties today lack the patronage and welfare incentives to mobilize voting blocs. Moreover, the impact of progressive reforms, such as the Australian ballot and stricter registration requirements for voting, have contributed to the loss of party influence over the electorate.

All these factors combine to explain why people do not vote in large numbers in the US. Yet it is equally important to comprehend the other side of the issue, namely, the factors that lead people to vote. Research underscores the significance of personal characteristics in motivating a person's decision to participate on election day. Education is the most critical variable. As their educational level increases, individuals develop a stronger sense of civic duty and a greater interest in, and knowledge of, politics. But education alone is not a sufficient explanation, since voting rates have continued to decline despite the proliferation of college degrees in recent decades. Another characteristic that correlates with voting is age; older voters are more likely to participate. But here again, overall voting rates have diminished while the population has aged. Something other than personal characteristics therefore seem to play a role in election turnout: the characteristics of the election itself. Most recent elections have presented voters with uninspiring candidates who failed to stimulate interest or excitement. The lack of a realigning issue has made politics boring. However, turnout reaches notable peaks in certain elections, as in 1964 (a sharp ideological choice between candidates) and 1992 (an economy in recession and the charismatic candidate H. Ross Perot). Voters participate when aroused to do so.

Considering how few tangible rewards participation produces, it is not surprising that over 40% of Americans either do not participate at all or limit their participation to voting. Compared to citizens of other democracies, Americans vote less but engage more in other forms of activity. Despite the comments above, the number of Americans who voted in the 2020 November election was an eye-opening: 66.7% of the voting-eligible population. Whether or not that was an exception or the beginning of a new trend in voter turnout remains to be seen.

How to Participate in Politics

Video: The Impact of Protests on Political Change (3:39)




II. Voter Turnout Data

A. regional patterns

1. northern and middle states: higher

2. western and southern states: lower

3. link turnout to political culture

B. calculating turnout

1. voting age population (VAP): all adults over 18

2. registered voters: citizens registered to vote

3. turnout based on registered voters higher than turnout based on VAP


Voting is the principal means of political participation for most Texans.

Years of formal schooling is the single best socioeconomic predictor of the likelihood of an individual to vote.

The primary source of campaign news in the US is television.

In a pivotal state (a large, populous state with many electoral votes that a candidate must win to be elected), presidential candidates are almost forced to rely on advertising.

Candidates try to sell themselves and their ideas on television since it is the surest means of reaching the largest number of people.

In an effort to affect large numbers of voters, candidates often rely on personal attacks on opponents ... negative campaigning. We complain about negative campaigning, but it works!

Texans are most likely to learn political information about candidates from advertising materials prepared by the candidates.


I AM THE 53%


III. Types of US Voters

A.   ideologue: can articulate a personal political ideology and connect it to specific candidate or party positions (12%)

B.   group beneficiary: vote based solely on groups they like or groups they dislike (42%)

C.   fair / foul weather: vote only when they believe times are very good or very bad (24%)

D.  no issue content: votes are totally disconnected from any ideological or issue content but rather are based either on habitually voting for a specific party or person or based on candidate’s personality, appearance or etc.



IV. Low Voter Turnout in Texas

A. current registration laws

1. citizen: many immigrants in Texas cannot vote12 Reasons Why Women Should Vote

2. 18 years old

3. 30-day registration deadline (longer than most states)

B. historical barriers

1. $1.75 poll tax: a device used in Texas to prevent lower income persons from voting during the 20th century

2. annual registration required

3. white primaries: in one-party state the primary determines winner of general election

4. property requirements for local elections

5. women’s suffrage

'VOTE HERE' SIGNC. unique social factors in Texas that keep turnout low

1. higher poverty rates

2. large minority population

3. large immigrant population

4. lower than average educational levels

5. lower than average age

D. lack of two-party competition

1. one-party Democratic from end of Reconstruction until 1970s

2. same case in most former Confederate states

3. reapportionment

E. traditional/individual culture
F. staggered local elections


Project Vote Smart

Vote: The Machinery of Democracy

Projected Congressional Seats by State

Can anything change Americans’ minds about Donald Trump? And what does that say about our basic theory of responsive democracy?

Commonsense Solidarity: How a Working-Class Coalition Can Be Built, and Maintained - A creative new poll asks working-class respondents - defined as people without a bachelor’s degree - to choose between two hypothetical candidates. The candidates are described both personally (their gender, race and job category) and politically (including a sound bite in which they talk about their views). The poll finds that working-class swing voters hold a swirl of progressive and conservative views.

How College Towns Are Decimating the GOP

Beyond Red vs. Blue: The Political Typology

Americans Vote Too Much














Campaigns and ElectionsTurnover is pushing the GOP further to the right.


General Election: an election to fill public offices

Primary Election: an election prior to the general election in which party voters select the candidates who will run on each party's ticket. Primaries are also used to choose convention delegates and party leaders.

Electoral College: group of representatives that formally elects the President and the Vice President. (elector: a person who elects someone else, college: a decision-making group such as the College of Cardinals, which elects the pope) The number of electors from each state is equal to the sum of the state's Senators and Representatives in the Congress. The District of Columbia received the right to be represented by electors in 1961 with the ratification of the 23rd Amendment. Today, the Electoral College has 538 representatives. The Founding Fathers rejected the idea of direct elections. This was, of course, a time when communication and travel were difficult and there were no national parties. In the first presidential election, George Washington and John Adams were elected President and Vice President respectively by the Electoral College. There was no popular vote. The power to determine the method of choosing electors belongs to the states. Generally, the parties select the slate of electors, who are then chosen by popular vote. The electors assemble in their respective state capitals on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. According to the Constitution, the electors may exercise their own discretion in voting, but in practice all the votes in a given state go to the presidential candidate who has received the plurality of the popular vote. The candidate who becomes the President must win at least 270 electoral votes. Some have proposed replacing the Electoral College with a system of direct elections. Such proposals would require amending the Constitution. A system of direct elections would not only reduce the power of the two major political parties, but would also reduce the importance of the states in the electoral process.


Fair Vote

270 To Win

Atlas of US Presidential Elections

Electoral College

Presidential  Election

PBS Government & Civics

Frontline Government / Elections / Politics

Don’t blame the electoral college.

Federalist #68 (Alexander Hamilton): explains the mode of electing the President

About the Electors

Faithless Electors

A tied electoral college would hand the election to the House of Representatives, since neither candidate would have a majority.

Advantage, GOP: Why Democrats have to win large majorities in order to govern while Republicans don’t need majorities at all

What does it mean if Republicans won’t debate?


I. Ballot Rules


types of ballots

A. types of ballots

1. party column: lists all candidates of a party under the party name

also called Indiana ballot

more straight ticket voting

voting for candidates who are all from the same party

2. office block / office group: lists all candidates for an office under the office

also called Massachusetts ballot

more split ticket voting

voting for candidates of different parties for various offices in the same election

3. hybrid ballot

B. access

1. independent candidate: petition signed by 1% of number of voters in last governor election

2. petition signers must be registered voters who did not vote in a primary

3. write-in candidates: must declare candidacy for votes to count

C. minor parties

1. between 5% and 19% of vote for statewide office

2. must hold nominating conventions, but not primary elections

3. if slip below 5% for statewide office, lose ballot status



II. Primary Elections

...for parties receiving more than 20% of vote for statewide office

A. types of primaries

1. open

2. closed: Texas primaries are classified as closed where the voter signifies party membership by voting in a primary

3. nonpartisan

4. blanket

B. open vs. closed primaries

1. raiding or crossover voting: more common in open primary

C. runoff primary

1. for a primary nomination in TX, candidate must receive majority of popular vote

2. mostly in south, vestige of one-party Democratic rule

3. no crossover voting from primary to runoff primaryContested Conventions

D. presidential primary

1. primary picks delegates to the presidential nominating conventions



III General Elections

Other than those things stated in the US Constitution regarding federal elections (date), states have control over the administration of general elections, including those for federal offices.

A. drawing legislative districts

1. reapportionment

2. redistricting

3. malapportionment: rural areas overrepresented in House and small states overrepresented in Senate

4. Baker vs. Carr: one man, one vote

5. Reynolds vs. Sims: applies Baker decision to both houses of legislatureGerrymandering Cartoon

6. majority-minority districts

7. gerrymandering

a. party-based: easier to do

b. race-based: more difficult constitutionally

A Breathtaking Contempt for the People of Wisconsin

American Democracy Was Never Designed to Be Democratic

The roots of today's authoritarianism come from a 19th century Supreme Court ruling.



IV. Miscellaneous

A. 1965 Voting Rights Act

1. preclearance

2. Spanish ballots for areas with more than 20% Spanish speakers

B. absentee ballot: originally soldiers mostly but greatly expanded in recent years

C. early voting 22 days before election, open to all voters

D. upper-class bias in early voting?



V. Modern Campaigns

A. old system

1. local campaigns, limited statewide media

2. tell each county what they want to hear, suit message to each venue

B. new system

1. mass media, same message

2. speak in sound bites

3. campaign ads

Political Consultant cartoona. feel good spots: associate the candidate with good times (family eating together, sun coming up), good times for this state or country are ahead with this candidate in office

b. sainthood: present candidate with his family, ideal father, little league coach, creating the perfect candidate

c. good old boy: Voters identify with the candidate as being one of them. Create a link between candidate and average people. One version is to have average citizens talking in campaign ads about the candidate, not famous people, politicians or celebrities. Other version is when you make candidate seem a little bit more common, to identify them as someone like them, someone who really cares about people.

d. NOOTs (No One's Opposed To This): The candidate takes a courageous stand on an issue (broad not detailed because that's when you start getting opposition). Looks into the camera and tells us he's against crime, in favor of making schools better. (Nobody is against these things.)

e. basher spots: negative campaigning

4. wave election: the president’s party suffers big losses, major surprises are possible, often happens in midterm general elections

C. role of consultants

1. sell candidate as a product, package the candidate

2. image and message, not the issues

Payments to consultants by firm type


The Cost of Defeating an Incumbent

D. role of money

1. Any citizen can contribute to a campaign except those with federal government contracts.

2. Foreigners with no permanent US residency are prohibited from contributing to any campaign.

3. Cash contributions over $100 are prohibited, no matter what their origin.

4. No candidate can accept an anonymous contribution that is more than $50.

5. Corporations, labor unions, national banks and federally chartered corporations are prohibited from contributing to federal campaigns.

6. PACs operated by foreign-owned corporations may contribute as long as Americans are the only contributors to the PAC.

7. Minors are prohibited from contributing to federal candidates and committees of political parties.

E. role of the PAC

1. political action committee: common term for a committee set up to raise and spend money to elect and defeat candidates

2. most PACs represent ideological, business or labor interests

3. can’t buy an election

4. can buy access

5. late train financing: post election fund-raising especially if PAC supported loser

Video: First Televised Presidential Debate, VP Richard Nixon and Senator John Kennedy, 1960 (16:22) [This clip shows just the opening statements of the two candidates.]

Video: Presidential Debate, Pres. Gerald Ford and Gov. Jimmy Carter, 1976 (6:41) [This clip shows just the opening statements of the two candidates.]

Video: Presidential Debate, Pres. Ronald Reagan and Sen. Walter Mondale, 1984 (1:12) [This clip shows just one exchange between the two candidates.]

Video: Vice Presidential Debate, VP George HW Bush and Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, 1984 (4:04) [This clip shows just one exchange between the two candidates.]

Video: Vice Presidential Debate, Sen. Dan Quayle and Sen. Lloyd Bentsen, 1988 (1:24) [This clip shows just one exchange between the two candidates.]

Video: VP Al Gore’s Concession Speech, 2000 (6:45)

Video: Vote for Me: Politics in America (CNAM, 1996): Vote for Me is a series that travels all over America visiting with people who are involved in politics. The saga of Maggie Lauterer, folksinger - turned TV reporter - turned congressional candidate, is especially interesting as Lauterer learns what she has to do to try to get a majority of her district to vote for her. From the smallest local precincts to the White House, the series explores what it really takes to run for public office in the US and ends up being a warm, understanding and surprisingly uplifting view of American democracy. I’m only posting a couple of episodes but if you’re interested in seeing the entire series, you can probably find the other episodes online. [You can probably also find better recordings than mine online but it may cost you money to watch them.]

Vote for Me Part I (1:51:41)

Vote for Me Part II (1:51:46)

Video: POV: A Perfect Candidate (PBS, 1996, 1:45:39): In 1994 former Marine Oliver North emerged from the Iran-Contra scandal to run for the US Senate. In the hotly contested race between North and incumbent Virginia Senator Chuck Robb the filmmakers were granted astonishing access to the back room games played by the candidates, their handlers and the press. Horrifying and hilarious, the film is a twisted journey into American politics.. It’s a revealing, chilling and darkly funny look into the modern American political process. [The recording I have here is 25-years-old and a little rough in spots, mainly the first few minutes of the show. You can very occasionally find it online so I will continue to look for a better recording.]

F. presidential transition

What does it take to transition the most powerful office in the world? Presidential transitions are big, complicated and dangerous. The peaceful, orderly transition of executive power from one leader to another is an American practice. When President George Washington first transferred power to his successor, John Adams, in 1796, it was a radical idea, unprecedented in world history. Over the next two centuries (until the 2020 election), the practice has continued unbroken by the shadow of war, the stain of scandal or the wake of sudden tragedy, and remains a signature achievement of our constitution.


Super Tuesday Results (03/02/2016 - 3:47): A look at voting results and analysis from Super Tuesday, with Republican Candidate Donald Trump and Democratic Candidate Hillary Clinton winning the most states.

Contested Convention Scenarios (02/25/2016 - 1:50): A look at the rules and possible scenarios if there is a contested GOP convention, including backroom deals and delegates trading favors.

Podcast: How the Media Projects the Winner of an Election (32:55)

Center for Presidential Transition

The Most Important Takeover of Any Organization in History

A Short History of Awkward Presidential Transitions

Perspective on Presidential Transitions

Welcome to the Presidential Transition from Hell

Presidential Transition Guide



VI. Bipartisan Campaign Finance Act of 2002


... to candidate or candidate committee

... to national party committee

... to PAC or other political committee

... a total amount

Time Period

per primary election and
per general election

per calendar year

per calendar year

per calendar year

Individual can give ...
(indexed for inflation)


limits higher for candidates facing wealthy opponents financing their own elections

per party committee

limits higher to candidates facing wealthy opponents financing their own elections

per each state or local party committee

per each PAC or other political committee

limits higher to candidates facing wealthy opponents financing their own elections

$95,000 per two year election cycle as follows:

per cycle to candidates

per cycle to all national party committees and PAC
($20,000 to $57,500
to all national party committees and maximum $37,500 to PACs)

Multi-Candidate Committee can give ...

(committee with over 50 contributors, registered for a minimum of 6 months and (with exception of state party committees) has made contributions to 5 or more federal candidates)




No limit

Other Political Committees can give ...




No limit


Super PACs in 2012

Campaign Finance Reform: A Libertarian Primer a game about political money











Useful Websites

History of Campaign Commercials

Museum of the Moving Image

Truth or Fiction

Annenberg Political Fact Check

Project Vote Smart

Cost of Voting in the American States


A complete list of candidates as well as all voting rules and regulations - and probably a list of polling places - is at





Copyright © 1996 Amy S Glenn
Last updated:   11/13/2023 0330

Creative Commons License