||Background, Activities and Critical Analysis
|By Shannon Sullivan
|SubjectList: Civics/Government, Current Events
|EstimatedTime: One class
|Students will use multiple sources of data (polls, maps, written reports, video interviews) to analyze the outcome of the 2012 Presidential Race.
While the presidential race appeared to be just about tied the night before the election, 24-hours later, the United States would find that President Obama won both the popular vote (62,176,163 to 58,825,667) and the Electoral College (332 to 206).
There were several groups that the campaigns targeted in their advertising, messaging during debates and their grass roots outreach efforts. Looking at the support of women, whites (male and female), Hispanics, and youth helps us to understand where each candidate did succeeded.
Share with students the graphics at:
How Obama Won Re-election
After comparing the shift from 2008 to 2012, examine the other headers on the infographic. Ask students to make observations about
Each of the following areas:
- Women voters
- White voters
- Hispanic voters
- Youth voters
Show students the video from the day after election day about the Shifting Demographic on PBS NewsHour, with a special focus on the first three minutes (transcript is also available online): http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/politics/july-dec12/shieldsbrooks_11-07.html
After students have heard the points of view of Shields and Brooks, present the following questions about the election. They will work in teams to respond to them on a separate sheet of paper.
- Many areas among the shoreline have shifted from red to blue, or have become “bluer” since 2008. Name some of these towns or cities.
- Romney had more success in rural areas than cities, and in the suburbs, he had more success in the outer suburbs (ex-burbs) than towns closer in. If so much of the map appears red, why did the blue areas have such an impact on the outcome, based on your observations and opinions? Consider the population density of bluer areas on the maps.
- Polling questions tell us a lot about the priorities of voters. For each of the following, mark those that appear to be strengths of Romney’s with an R and those that appear to be strengths of Obama’s with an O, for you or your family. How do you think those in the groups on which the campaigns focused would answer each of these questions? Consider how Americans perceived the character of each candidate, and what they, or their running mates, did to shape this impression.
- Are you financially better off now than 4 years ago?
- Do you think your candidate will do a better job at handling the economy?
- Which candidate better understands the problems of people like you?
- Many more single women voted for President Obama in 2012 than voted for Al Gore in 2000-an increase of about 4%. How does this compare to the data for married women? Does it make sense to poll women as one group of voters, or divide their vote this way? To what could one attribute the difference?
- President Obama won the support of 93% of black voters, and 71% of Hispanic voters. If the number of black voters increased from 12% of the voting population to 13%, and the number of Hispanic voters went from 7% to 10%, how critical is it that candidates understand the concerns of these voters?
- In many “swing states” voter turnout was so high that voters waited in line over two hours, even after the polling places were technically slated to close. A motto of campaign managers was “If you are in line, stay in line and vote,” and was spread via social media well into the night. Volunteers worked to prevent voter suppression on both sides. Which issues do you think mobilized voters to get to the polls, and stay there when there were challenges?
- According to a Washington Post survey, 57% of Americans favor creating a path to citizenship. How could this issue have impacted the election results? What impact could a more direct path to citizen for immigrants have on future elections, if 82% of Hispanic voters, specifically, support this measure?
After reviewing the questions as a class, have the students work in pairs using all of the resources available, including maps, polling data, videos, charts, and articles to respond to the questions. Students should use the facts that they find to inform their opinions. Their partner may choose to try to research the response using one type of media, like a map, while another reviews one of the video transcripts, for example. Stress to students that one strategy candidates use to strengthen their own campaigns is to try to engage voters by making their a part of the campaign in some capacity as a volunteer, so working in pairs or small groups simulates political life.
As the demographics shift in America, voters may demand a different style of leadership, but will certainly come to expect candidates who understand their unique concerns. Social media and other outlets make connecting with voters in new ways, even up to 5 minutes before they cast their ballots, critical to success, but also provide candidates with many ways to get their message out to the public. Certainly, they are listening, and expect to be listened to.
A question that was not asked in formal surveys was how each candidate would handle a zombie apocalypse. An application created PBS NewsHour and Mozilla allows users to create mock campaign ads, linked to a Facebook account. Use the app to see how simple it can be to make the argument that a competitor is a brain-eater! Notice that the trends in how attack ads are created have been consistent across many generations, and the templated nature of such ads, including using stock footage that has little to do with a candidate’s actual work or accomplishments, is likely to have a lot to do with the quantity of ads we see in the months leading up to the election.
Encourage students to make more than one ad and try to achieve a different tone each time, but remind students only to include photos they have permission to use. Is it easy or difficult to alter messaging to appeal to shifting demographics and new polling data?
|Last Updated: November 15, 2012
McRel Compendium of K-12 Standards Addressed:
Standard 17: Understands issues concerning the relationship between state and local governments and the national government and issues pertaining to representation at all three levels of government
Standard 27: Understands how certain character traits enhance citizens' ability to fulfill personal and civic responsibilities
Standard 1: Uses the general skills and strategies of the writing process
Standard 4: Gathers and uses information for research purposes
Standard 5: Uses the general skills and strategies of the reading process
Standard 7: Uses reading skills and strategies to understand and interpret a variety of informational texts
Listening and Speaking
Standard 8: Uses listening and speaking strategies for different purposes
Standard 9: Uses viewing skills and strategies to understand and interpret visual media