Ap free Response Analysis Questions, Answers, & Trends noticeable trends

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As part of Civil Rights question, state voting restrictions (1 - 2008)

Poll taxes:

Literacy Tests:

Grandfather Clauses:

White primaries:

As part of Expansion of Voting Rights (1 – 2010)

Civil Rights Act of 1964 (ends literacy tests in federal elections)

Voting Rights Act of 1965

As part of Federalism question, environmental policy, gun control, disability

access (1 – 2000)

Gun control is a reserved state power, but the federal government has

often created federal regulations of their own. Ex. The Brady Bills – required a 5 day waiting period before buying a gun. Ex. The Assault Weapons Ban – banned automatic weapons.
(Heavy emphasis on 1/3rd of AP tests, but need to know specifics as part of

questions on at least 66% of the AP tests, with many occurrences on some exams, like 2007) (Simply, you need to know examples of key legislation to support other concepts that make connections to other aspects of this course.)
- Executive Branch (9)

Electoral College (1 – 2007)

Required in the Constitution

Winner take all for all states except Maine and Nebraska

(Plurality vote in states)

Helps major parties and small states

Hurts 3rd Parties – nothing for less than first place (Except above)

Focus on large, swing states (ex. Florida, Ohio, Missouri)

Need majority vote to determine the ultimate winner, (270 or above)

If no majority, House decides – 1 vote per state (choose between top 3

vote getters)

Distorts popular votes

Problem, popular vote winner doesn’t always win (Gore in 2000)

Electoral college votes = # in House + # in Senate

Executive Power – war making limited by War Powers Resolution (1 – 2007)

See Specific Legislation

Foreign Policy powers (formal & informal) (1 – 2004)

Formal: Chief Diplomat – meet foreign leaders, treaties, appoint


Commander in Chief

Proposing foreign aid for other countries (ex. Israel,


Informal: Executive Agreement

Crisis Manager

Presidential approval ratings (1 – 2003)

Typically, highest at the beginning of a presidency (Honeymoon period) –

electorate is willing to give new president the benefit of the doubt on his policies, greater sense of hope. (i.e. Bill Clinton, Obama)

Also high during times of crisis (crisis manager) – After Sept 11th for

George W., after Persian Gulf War for George H.W.

Lowest during economic down turns (i.e. Hoover going into 1932 election)

Lowest when poorly handling a crisis (i.e. Hoover with Bonus Army, Bush

handling Hurricane Katrina)

Presidential election turnout rates (1 – 2002)

(1896 – greater than 80%, 1996 – less than 50%)

Presidential election turnouts are Higher than Congressional Midterm


Campaigns have Get Out the Vote programs

Phone banks (Unions – like the Teamsters or the Teacher’s Unions

will make phone calls to registered Democrats and members of their union to encourage them to go vote). Now have “Robocalls”, computer calls targeted people.

Bus services (Organize free bus service from specific communities

like elderly communities to get them to the polls)

During primaries/caucuses, also might shovel walkways (i.e.

Hillary Clinton had several thousand volunteers prepared to shovel in Iowa before the 2004 caucus)

Canvassing – volunteers will go door to door to explain the

positive attributes of their candidates and remind people to vote.

Text Message – first utilized by Obama to announce his VP choise,

then used to remind people to go out and vote (emails from the campaign and messages through Face Book and MySpace also did the same thing)

Before 2004, turnout had been on the general decline – 1996 worst year.

Why? Era of Divided Government, Distrust of government (Watergate & Vietnam), less people following the news, more pessimistic – vote doesn’t matter.

2008 election – Greater than 60% turnout, a lot of newly registered &

young voters, high turnout of black voters (group consciousness – think Colin Powell endorsing Obama)

Presidential election and its coverage (1 – 1999)

Presidential election voting patterns – regions dominated by one party (1 – 2000)

Democrats – not including 2008, solid Democrat region is the North East

(every member of the House from New England is a Democrat in 2009)

Why? Large # of urban areas with higher concentration of

minority voters, especially blacks. Blacks vote for Democrats more than 90% of the time. (Didn’t finish yet)

Presidential control over fiscal policy (budget) (1 – 2008)

Appoints the head of the OMB

Directs OMB to create a budget proposal

Signs final budget passed by congress/making it to law

Use bully pulpit to gain support, influences congressmen to follow the

direction of a popular president

Checks & Balances with Congress over Domestic policy (1 – 2008)

President affects domestic policy

Appoints heads of bureaucracy (example: head of EPA)

Uses his bully pulpit to gain public support

Sets agenda by creating a budget (i.e. Obama wanted to reduce the

United States’ reliance upon foreign oil by developing alternative energies so he allocated more than $100 billion toward this in his budget over a period of years)

Legislative powers (example: proposes legislation, has veto

powers, and signs bills into laws)

Provides the State of the Union Address (required by the

(2005, 2006, & 2010 were the only 3 tests that did not have an Executive question

on them) (In other words, 70% of the time there is at least one essay related to the presidency)
- Federalism (7)

Examples of how state power has increased (Welfare Reform Act, block grants,

Tenth Amendments) vs. how federal power has increased (due to categorical grants, federal mandates, selective incorporation) (1 – 2007)

Welfare Reform Act 1996 - See specific legislation above

Grants provided from the federal government to the states as part of fiscal

and cooperative federalism

10th amendment reserves power to the states (examples: marriage laws,

gun laws, intrastate comers, education)

Categorical grants: grants from the federal government with

specific requirements (ex. Money for highway development)

Federal Mandates: mandates can but do not have to be tied to categorical

grants. They are requirements placed upon the states by the federal government (example: Cross cutting, unfunded mandates)

Selective Incorporation makes the states follow the same rules the federal

government must follow (Example: The exclusionary rule, Mapp vs Ohio.)

Expansion of federal power (tax and spend, elastic clause, commerce clause)

(Americans with Disabilities Act, Civil Rights Act of 1964, Clean Air Act) (1 – 2005)

Related to the Bureaucracy (block grants, federal mandates) (1 – 2003)

Define, Describe feature, Example of how helped & hindered minorities (1 –


State voting restrictions (1 – 2008)

Compare Articles and Constitution & modern tensions (1 – 2000)

Articles: States have the most power, Federal govt is limited (only

legislative branch, fed could not raise taxes, cannot tell states what to do, cannot regulate trade, cannot coin money)

Constitution: corrects these weaknesses

Modern Federalism tensions: Examples: Gun control laws, Gay marriage,

abortion, death penalty)

As a way that Madison limits the power of factions (Federalist Paper No. 10)

(1 – 2010)
(70% of the time there is at least one essay related to Federalism)
- Checks and Balances (8)

Congress v. President over Domestic policy (1 – 2008)

Congress v. President over Fiscal/Budgetary policy (1 -2008)

Congress v. President over War Powers Resolution (1 -2007)

Inside of Congress (Bi-cameralism) (1 -2006, 1 -2010)

purposely slows down legislative process

Congress v President over Foreign Policy (1 – 2004)

Congress v. President over Judicial Appointments during Era of Divided

Government (1 – 2002)

As part of the Madisonian Model, written about in Federalist Paper No. 10

Limits the power of factions over our government
(Appears on HALF the AP exams)

- Interest Groups (5)

Fundamental goal & how work with political parties (1 – 2006)

Fundamental Goal: to get their policy positions made into policy

How they work with political parties:

Campaign contributions


Providing expertise on policy issues

Techniques used to achieve goals (litigation, campaign contributions, grassroots

lobbying/mass mobilization) & specific methods of groups and why (AMA, NRA, NAACP, Sierra Club) (1 – 2004)

Litigation: bringing lawsuits. Ex. NAACP with NAACP v.

Alabama. Acting as a counsel in other cases – Thurgood Marshall was chief counsel that helped defend the rights of Linda Brown in Brown v. Board of Educ. The NAACP also files amicus curiae briefs in many other cases – ex. Univ of Ca. v. Bakke

Campaign Contributions: Interest groups provide hard money

directly to candidates and to the parties at all levels, and soft money to the state parties. They provide money to politicians that represent their views to assist them in getting them elected or re-elected. They heavily contribute to members on committees and sub-committees, and especially the chairmen, that have authority over their policy issues. Ex. NRA, business interests (Ex. FNMA/AIG donated heavily to Senator Christopher Dodd who is the Chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee.)

As a method of political participation (1 – 2003)

What national policy makers they influence & how (1 – 1999)
(Appears on 40% of the AP exams)
- Supreme Court cases (4)

First Amendment cases related to religion clauses (1 – 2007)

All of the following cases expanded First Amendment rights:

Engel v. Vitale (1962):

In 1961 the Board of Regents of New York recommended a nondenominational prayer be recited each day voluntarily in school. The New Hyde Park Board of Education demanded the prayer be said out loud daily in front of a teacher. Ten students’ parents stated this violated the separation of church and state under the First Amendment. The issue was whether or not the two boards of educations were in violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition of laws involving the establishment of religion. The Supreme Court ruled to get rid of the Regent’s prayer. The formation of a prayer and the distribution throughout an institution of the state violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment that was applied to the states through the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. (Earl Warren case)

Tinker v. Des Moines (1969):

In 1965 John and Marybeth Tinker wanted to wear black armbands in protest to the Vietnam War. The school officials became aware of their intentions and adopted a regulation against wearing armbands, and if one wore an armband they would be suspended until they returned to school without the armbands. The Tinkers wore the armbands anyway, and were punished accordingly. The Tinkers claimed this violated their First Amendment right of freedom of speech. The Court decided that students did have a right to wear the armbands. They believed that wearing the armbands was signified a student’s right to free, silent, and symbolic protest protected under the First Amendment. Students can express their opinions and views in school as long as it does not disrupt the classroom. “Schools are not enclaves of totalitarianism.” “Students and teachers do not shed their rights at the schoolhouse gate.” The 14th Amendment’s due process clause applied these protections against the states. (Earl Warren case)

NY Times v. US (1971):

Secretary of Defense, Robert McNamara, ordered a top-secret paper be written to discuss the United States role in Vietnam. This document became known as “The Pentagon Papers.” In 1971, after the United States has been in war with North Vietnam for six years, the New York Times acquired the classified paper. They immediately began publishing their findings beginning on June 13th, 1971. The Times got an order to discontinue publication from a District Court Judge that the Government requested, believing the publication would wound the United Sates’ defense interests. Eventually the Times and Government appealed to the Supreme Court. The issue was whether or not there was enough justification to restrain the New York Times publication, and attacking the newspaper’s First Amendment right of freedom of the press. During the 20th century several cases have created precedents creating exceptions to the freedom of press. In Dennis v. the United States the wording was altered so that any message published that may cause a “grave and irreparable” danger to America then the restraint would be acceptable. Nonetheless, the Supreme Court upheld that both the Washington Post and the New York Times had the right to publish the classified material. Prior restraint is normally not allowed. (Near v Minnesota established the limited prior restraint precedent)

Texas v. Johnson (1989): During a protest, Greg Lee Johnson

burned an American flag. He was charged with vandalizing a respected object. The Supreme Court found that the First Amendment protected a person’s right to burn the American flag because it is symbolic speech.

NAACP v. Alabama (1958): This Supreme Court case occurred

when Alabama’s Attorney General brought a case against the NAACP for conducting business without qualifying with the state, which went against the state statute. The state subpoenaed information from the NAACP which included a list of its members. The NAACP refused to give its records to the state. The Court found that the First Amendment protected the NAACP from having to hand over its membership lists. (Freedom of assembly)

Supporting selective incorporation (2 – 2007 & 2005)

See Selective Incorporation below

Buckley v Valeo (1 – 2000)

Opponents of the 1971/74 Federal Election Campaign Act sought to

repeal its restrictions through the courts. The Supreme Court ultimately ruled that two provisions of the FECA were unconstitutional. Specifically, the limiting of how much individuals could give to their own campaigns was deemed a violation of the First Amendment’s Freedom of Expression. In addition, the FECA had attempted to limit the maximum amount that a campaign could spend, but again, this was deemed a violation of the freedom of expression. The only way that the federal government CAN limit the maximum amount spent by a campaign is if the candidate accepts matching federal funds.

- Entitlement Programs & Mandatory Spending (4)

Social Security, demographic trends, raising age of eligibility (1 – 2006)

Social Security: Created by FDR, a New Deal program

Provides money to the elderly, sick, those that lost parents

Paid for by a dedicated payroll tax (employee pays 6.2% of his

income and employer pays the same 6.2%. Money goes into the Social Security Trust Fund)

What is wrong with Social Security?

It is going to go bankrupt in the next 20 years unless

something changes


Fiscal Mismanagement. Congress has covered many of its

budgetary shortfalls by borrowing from the Trust Fund over the last couple of decades with the promise of paying it back, which it hasn’t.

Retirement of the Baby Boomers. The babies that were

born after WWII are now beginning to retire. This increase in births was a big bubble and it will now place a large strain on the system that the Boomers have paid into their entire lives.

Elderly are living longer. Now add in the fact that the life

expectancy of Americans has increased tremendously since the program was first created, Americans are taking out of the system for many more years than it was designed to accommodate.

How can Social Security be saved?

Since it is mandatory spending, meaning required by law,

this entitlement program will have to have its laws written in a way to increase the contribution amounts by individuals and/or employers, decrease the pay outs, and/or increase the age when an individual can start taking money from the system. All of these answers are political poison because no one wants to pay more and get less. Something will have to get done, though, because retired Americans are the most likely to vote and they are supported by a very strong special interest group, AARP. (FYI, as a candidate for the Democratic nomination for president in 2008, Hillary Clinton proposed the creation of a bi-partisan commission to find the solutions to fix Social Security)

Distribution of benefits (elderly versus children) (1 - 2002)

Budgetary & non-budgetary barriers to creating more (1 – 1999)

President’s ability to influence domestic policy making in Congress (1 – 2008)

- Amendments (4)

First Amendment – religion clauses & Supreme Court cases (1 – 2007)

Establishment clause:

The Establishment Clause in the First Amendment states that Congress can not make a law involving the establishment of religion. Thomas Jefferson referred to this as a “Wall of Separation” that had to exist between church and state.

Engel v. Vitale (1962):

In 1961 the Board of Regents of New York recommended a nondenominational prayer be recited each day voluntarily in school. The New Hyde Park Board of Education demanded the prayer be said out loud daily in front of a teacher. Ten students’ parents stated this violated the separation of church and state under the First Amendment. The issue was whether or not the two boards of educations were in violation of the First Amendment’s prohibition of laws involving the establishment of religion. The Supreme Court ruled to get rid of the Regent’s prayer. The formation of a prayer and the distribution throughout an institution of the state violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment that was applied to the states through the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. (Earl Warren case)

Free Exercise clause:

The Free Exercise in the First Amendment states that Congress cannot prohibit the exercise of a religion, or the belief in a particular religion. Together with the Establishment Clause, these two clauses make up the freedom of religion aspects of the First Amendment.

Employment Division v. Smith (1990): (peyote case) Supreme

Court Case found that an employer could fire an employee for using peyote, an illegal substance, regardless of the fact that it was used in a religious ritual. Two men, Alfred Smith and Galen Black, had been fired from a drug rehabilitation clinic for consuming the substance and denied unemployment benefits. They were living and working in Oregon, a state where possession of peyote is illegal. The state’s ban on peyote was not targeted toward a certain religious group, so the Oregon law did NOT violate the First Amendment’s Free Exercise Clause. (The case that dealt with Santeria in Florida had the opposite decision because the law that had outlawed animal sacrifice was targeted at the Santeria practice; therefore, it violated the free exercise clause.)

As part of selective incorporation – any First Amendment rights (1 – 2005)

See Selective Incorporation below

As part of Federalism – how used to expand state powers (Tenth Amendment) &

expand federal powers 14th due process clause (1 – 2007)

See Federalism above

Changes in voting (expansion of democracy) (1- 2010)

15th Amendment, 17th Amendment, 19th Amendment, 23rd Amendment,

24th Amendment
- Political Participation (4)

Two forms other than voting, advantages of each (1 – 2003)

1) Conventional Participation - voting; petition; political party affiliation;

running for office or assisting someone else; discussing issue / persuading others to think a certain way; donating to parties, lobbyists, candidates; canvassing

2) Unconventional Participation - violence /assassination; protest; civil


Voter participation, why decline, why more during presidential election year

(1 – 2002)

Elderly vote most often

Younger vote the least

Group consciousness of blacks leads them to vote more than whites

(assuming all else is equal, which in reality it is not)

Other factors that increase an individual’s likelihood to vote:

Higher economic status

More education completed

Owning a home

Living longer in a community

More religious affiliation

Those that follow current events

During primaries, the extremes within the party are more likely to vote

(conservatives in Republican primary, liberals in Democratic)

Why decrease in voter turnout? (1896 – greater than 80%, 1996 – less

than 50%)

Disinterested young

Less interested in current events

Too many media sources now (inundated by other media)

Distrust of the Government

Era of Divided Government since 1968



Complex Registration

Lack of strength of party system

- must know each candidate’s viewpoint, not just one

unified party (i.e. England)

Less of a difference between parties

- inability to create viable third parties

- less differences between parties than in Europe, Latin


Why higher turnout in presidential elections than any other?

Huge media attention focused on presidential primaries

Easier to know & identify candidates in presidential elections than

in Congressional elections

Greater importance of the position, more at stake

Differences between older & younger voter turnout (1 – 2010)

Government requirements that decrease voter turnout (1 – 2010)

prior registration, citizenship, disenfranchisement due to incarceration
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