» Additional Lesson Ideas:
Candidate Character Traits
Invite students to generate a list of traits of the "ideal" presidential candidate, then to compare their list with the following "ideal candidate attributes"*:
- Talks about nation's problems
- Moral character
- Forceful public speaker
- Remains calm and cautious
- Has experience in office
- Faithful to spouse
- Has solutions to problems
- Energetic and aggressive leader
- Younger than 60/65 years of age
*Source: Judith S. Trent, Cady Short-Thompson, Paul A. Mongeau, Andrew K. Nusz, and Jimmie D. Trent. (2001). "Image, media bias and voter characteristics: The ideal candidate from 1988-2000," American Behavioral Scientist, 44, 2101-2123.
Candidate Character Traits and Campaign Messages
Break students into small groups and invite them to create a campaign message (a speech, a positive political advertisement, or a Web page) for either George W. Bush or John Kerry that emphasizes one of the candidate's character traits in a positive way. When completed, ask students:
- What types of information do you convey when you focus on this character trait?
- What do voters learn from this message?
- How might voters react to your campaign message?
- Does your message accurately reflect your candidate or issue?
Ask students whether any of the character traits stand out as more or less important than others? If so, what are they and why? [Note: See the "Internet Resources" section at the end of this guide for additional sources on campaign messages.]
Analyzing Campaign Web Sites
Ask students to make observations about the images and messages they see on the candidates' campaign Web sites. What is the first visual image that they see? What message does the visual image convey? What impression do the words on the site convey? What do students notice about the way the candidate's opponent is featured or not featured on the Web site? What do students think the goals of the Web site are? How effectively are the goals being achieved?
Exploring Political Action Groups
Invite students to research political action groups and consider their impact on the 2004 presidential campaign. First, direct them to the Center for Responsive Politics' Web site to learn more about basic vocabulary terms such as "527 committees," "industries and interest groups," "PACs," "soft money" and "lobbying". Then, ask them to investigate the major advocacy groups in campaign 2004. (Note: A list can be found at: http://www.opensecrets.org/527s/527grps.asp). Ask students the following questions: What are these groups trying to do? What type of influence will they have on campaign 2004?
The Youth Vote
Since 18 year olds were first given the chance to vote in the 1972 elections, their turnout rate has steadily declined. In the past four years, non-profit organizations, funding agencies and academics have allocated unprecedented resources in order to curb this trend. To encourage students to learn more about young voters, pose the following questions:
Encourage students to generate a list of 10 reasons why young voters can make a difference in politics. Have them share their lists with the class. If desired, have students create a master list of 10 reasons from the individual lists.
To complete the assignment, have students review the following Web sites:
Research on Youth and Voting
CIRCLE (Center for Information and Research on Civic Learning and Engagement)
"CIRCLE is based in the University of Maryland's School of Public Policy and is funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts and Carnegie Corporation of New York. Since 2001, CIRCLE has conducted, collected, and funded research on the civic and political participation of young Americans."
Statistics on the youth voting posted to the CIRCLE Site:
What a Difference One Vote Makes
This Web site, sponsored by PBS, offers an interactive timeline that students can use to explore how one vote has made an important difference in elections over the years.
Groups Working to Encourage Youth to Vote
"Founded by entertainer Sean 'P. Diddy' Combs, Citizen Change has one mission: to make voting hot, sexy and relevant to a generation that hasn't reached full participation in the political process. This organization was created to educate, motivate, and empower the more than 42 million Americans aged 18 to 30 that are eligible to vote on November 2nd -- also known as the 'forgotten ones.'"
Rock the Vote
"Rock the Vote is a non-profit, non-partisan organization, founded in 1990 in response to a wave of attacks on freedom of speech and artistic expression. Rock the Vote engages youth in the political process by incorporating the entertainment community and youth culture into its activities, and works to harness cutting-edge trends and pop culture to make political participation cool."
Youth Vote Coalition
"The Youth Vote Coalition is a national nonpartisan coalition of diverse organizations dedicated to increasing political and civic participation among young people; building an inclusive, accountable, and responsive government; and increasing public awareness about the value of participation in democracy through the electoral process. The Youth Vote Coalition has over 100 national members who represent youth in the USA."
Kids Voting USA
"Kids Voting USA (KVUSA) is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that teaches students about the concepts of citizenship, civic responsibility, democracy and the importance of political participation."