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United States Political Systems Final


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Why does the US basically have a two-party system?
Because of:
-Election Laws
-Single Member Districts
-Ballot requirements (hard to get a third party on the ballot)
What factors influence Interest Group strategies and tactics?
-Larger: Congress
-Smaller: Courts (civil rights leaders had very little power, but helped change racial discrimination through sympathetic courts)
Are interest groups good for Democracy?
-educate citizens about what govt. is doing/ and about what citizens want
-induce participation
-express views of public that might not otherwise be heard
-good competition for improving public policy

-Elite dominance- there are no IG's for weaker parts of society
-weaken the party system- people often want to support only 1 issue instead of many
Who Participates in politics?
mostly the educated participate
Depends on:
Socioeconomic Status
Age (older you are the more you participate--until 60's)
Race and Ethnicity(Whites more than AA's or hispanics)
Religion(jews-higher part. rate)
What are the important characteristics of public opinion?
Direction: What does the majority prefer?
Stability: How often does public opinion change?
Intensity: How strong are the opinions?
Salience: How important is the issue? How much do they care about it?
How do IG's affect Policy?
The Inside Game-using a small number of people to pressure policy makers
The Outside Game- using a large number of people to pressure govt (ex: letter writing)
Why do people join Interest Groups?
-Material: something physical you will receive for your contribution ex: public radio sends you a mug
-Solidarity: being with like-minded people
How does socialization typically change over a person's life?
*Childhood- Look up to leaders: sympathetic view of politics, vote w/ parents
*Adolescence- politics is a matter of conflict, begin to identify issues with parties, keener sense of cynicism
*Young adults- views are set for life, generally
*Major Political Events- ex: depression, war, new deal coalition, vietnam (mistrust)
What are the major functions of the media in American Politics
-Connects citizens and the government
-Provides information
-serves as a watchdog
-Agenda setter (decides which issues are important)
-expose wrong-doings in the govt.
-media can influence public officials
What factors affect interest group influence?
External Game:
*Interest groups are constitutionally protected; free speech, freedom of assembly, freedom of petition
*Campaign Finance laws restrict their power
*Political Environment:
Fragmentation: separation of powers--- interest groups have a lot of different bodies to affect--utilize presidential veto, congressional committees
Growth of Govt-- Every new committee forms a policy that attracts Interest Groups
The larger the govt. grows-- more interest at stake

Internal Game: Membership
*Breadth- AARP (elderly members)
*Intensity- NRA (gun rights)
*location- broad is better
*mobilization- labor unions are very strong
Internal Factors
-legal representation
*Ability to Cause trouble
-green peace is effective
*Lack of Opposition
-other groups: no one opposes research for breast cancer
-Public opinion
Who Has power??
Guys: These are all of the notes I have gathered from everyone's notes on 'who has power'

-Multiple pieces of govt. have power at different times
-constitution is the ultimate power, however it has been ignored (civil rights, abortion)
-The public has power through votes
-Interest groups have power, however, they often fight w/ each other
-Political parties are powerful in organization and motivation but weak by intl standards
What is efficacy?
If you believe that your participation matters
Is Political news biased?
Yes, it is biased.
-news ranges in opinion (conservatives vs. liberals)
-choice presentation (slant)
-comes in when determining certain issues in certain ways
What are interest groups?
Individuals that come together to influence policy
What are the impacts of the media on politics?
Media has impact on
-Candidates- (how we percieve them)
What is Political Socialization?
The Complex process by which people acquire values, attitudes, and beliefs about politics.
What is the inevitable dillemma of journalism in a democracy?
The media's role is to inform and critique, so it must be free from governmental control.

--If the media is free, it can act in its own interest.
--Therefore, the media's interests might not serve public interest---making it less democratic
What are the three important functions of Political Conventions?
1. Meet with donors--raise $$$

2. Television--first way the U.S. gets a look at the candidates

3. Rallying supporters
What are the major elements of socialization?
Media, "sets the agenda"
What influences voting behavior?
Party Identification
Group Orientation- ex: christian coalition(republican), African Americans (Democrat)
Issues- gun control, abortion etc
Campaigns-mobilize your supporters, demobilize opponents supporters--negative campaigning will demobilize
Retrospective voting (looks to the past to guide what will happen in the future, they ask "am i better off now than i was 4 years ago??")
Prospective Voting- (looks to the future to see how one will help you)
What are the three main elements of Public Opinion?
Values- core of who we are and what we stand for

Attitudes- Broad orientations toward public policy; based on values

Opinions- depends on specific issues of the day (more flexible, it can change); based on attitudes

More Notes on Presidential Campaigns
*The Primary system forces candidates to pick positions that they can win in.

Presidential campaigns involve difficult strategic choices to be made-- how far right or left should they lean-- or should they stay in the middle?
Why do people participate in politics?
What are the purposes of Political Parties in the US?
*To define roles and purposes of the Govt.
*To simplify voter choice
*To win elections
*To run the government
How representative are elections?
Political equality (voting and resources)
Extent of Franchise
Ease of Voting- registration--how available and easy is it
Meaningful choice-often times voters aren't given any options that they want--- ex: VA voters were only given John Warner b/c he is so popular, democrats did not even run a challenger
*incumbents spend more on reelections, it makes it harder for challengers to win
*more money---better chance for winning--therefore making elections less representative
What are the two types of presidential campaigns?
Announcements, fundraising, retail campaigning (personal/direct appeals to the voters), caucuses and elections

Electoral strategies, voter mobilization (and demobilization) , voting and the electoral college
What are the major forms of participation?
*Persuading others
*Community work- Change your community, young people are more skeptical of electoral politics, and more supportive of volunteerism
*Group activities- AARP, group of like-minded people working towards a common goal
- interest groups spend more than politicians on advertisements
*Personal Contact w/ officials
*Campaign Activity- 1/10 of people do this, amount of volunteers is gradually getting smaller, they rely on paid staff and the media
*Unconventional Participation- Illegal activities
*Non-Participation- People think they can't change anything, some affluent people are satisfied--see no need to change anything, felon disenfranchisement
Who votes?
Depends on:
What are the three main 'publics'?
Mass Public- The mass public is 75%-80% of the public
-they are apathetic, uninformed, unstable about opinions
Attentive Public: 15%-20% Better informed, more involved, more stable opinions
Opinion makers: actively engaged, make the opinions, newspapers

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