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someone who strongly advocates their political views

Ballot Initiative

citizens can petition to propose or change a law, and if the petition is successful, the law can be voted on at the polls


a local meeting of people from the same political party to choose candidates

Campaign Finance Reform

efforts to limit the amount of money that an individual or group can donate to political campaigns


a candidate who is running against the incumbent

Closed Primary

a primary that only allows voters who are registered with a party to vote

Coattail Effect

when people vote for a lesser-known candidate because of a popular candidate (ie. the President)

Crossover voting

when a voter who normally supports a particular party votes in the primary of the other party

Direct Democracy

a form of democracy where an assembly of all citizens meets to discuss and vote on matters related to government

Democratic Party

one of the two main American political parties. it tends to be more liberal and puts more trust in the government to solve problems in society

Direct Primary

a preliminary election that decides each party's nominee through a direct vote

Electoral College

a body of electors who elect the president and vice president

527 Campaign Committees

a committee that supports a particular candidate or interest. it raises soft money from individuals and corporations to fund issue ads, but it can't coordinate its activities with a particular candidate.

Fairness doctrine

said that broadcasters had the responsibility to present all issues fairly and to show both sides of controversial issues

"Favorite Son"

A politician who is supported because of where (s)he is from instead of for his/her views


right to market certain goods or services in a certain area

Front loading

when states move their primaries or caucuses earlier so that they will be more influential

Front runner

the candidate who is leading in a political race

Gender Gap

difference between men and women's attitudes and voting preferences

General Election

a national or state election that decides who will hold a particular office


changing boundaries of electoral districts

Hard Money

a direct monetary contribution from a donor to a candidate


the current holder of an office


the power or right to introduce a new legislative measure

Interest Group

a group of people with a common view/interest who work to influence policy

Literacy Test

a test to determine whether someone can read or write, often used to determine whether someone is eligible to vote


an attempt to influence public officials


someone who works to influence politicians so that they will support a particular group on a particular issue

McCain-Feingold Act (Shays-Meehan)

banned soft money contributions to political parties

Media bias

the intentional or unintentional tendency of the media to report a story in a way that is not objective

Motor Voter Act of 1993

required state governments to allow people to register to vote when they applied for their driver's liscence

National Nominating Conventions

used to choose a party's presidential nominee, but now it is just a gathering of people from a party to hear speeches and write the party platform

Negative Spot/ad

a short advertisement that attacks another candidate's position or character

Nonprobability Sampling

when a poll uses a sampling that is not "random" and therefore data from this sampling can't be used to infer anything about the whole population


a person who doesn't vote or isn't eligible to vote

Open primary

a primary where any voter can vote in either party's primary -- you don't need to be registered with that party

Open seat

when no incumbent is running for reelection

"Pack Journalism"

describes the tendency of news reporting to become homogeneous

Party Dealignment

when voters abandon their previous political party and become independents or realign with a different political party

Party Identification

which political party voters identify with -- often predisposes voters to vote for their party

Party Platform

states the party's beliefs and vision for America. it is drafted at the national convention and it guides the party for the next four years

Party Realignment

after dealignment, voters join a different political party

Personal Following

when people support a candidate based on popularity and networks

Plurality System

(aka winner-takes-all system) -- a party wins if they receive the plurality of votes, they don't necessarily need a majority

Political Action Committee (PAC)

an organization formed to collect money and donate it to candidate or political parties

Political Machine

a group that controls the activities of a political party

Political Party

a group that seeks to elect candidate to public office by supplying them with a label (party ID) by which they are known to the electorate

Poll Tax

a tax levied as a requirement for voting

Primary Election

a preliminary election that chooses nominees for the general election

Prior Restraint

press is guaranteed freedom from censorship: no rules telling it in advance what it can or can't publish

Public Interest Group

a group of individuals with common goals who attempt to influence policymakers and legislation

Random Sampling

everyone has an equal chance of being selected to be in the sample

Reagan Democrats

the name comes from traditionally democratic voters who voted for republican Ronald Reagan. now it is used to describe democrats who often vote republican because of conservative social views.


periodic changes in the congressional districts because of changes in census figures


the procedure by which a public official can be removed from office through a vote


a legislative act is voted on by the public for approval

Reform Party

a third party that was created by Ross Perot that focuses on reforms in taxes, budget, and campaign finance

Religious Right

religious citizens who advocate political and social conservatism

Republican Party

one of the two main American political parties. it tends to be more conservative and wants less government intervention

Runoff Primary

a second primary designed to give the winner a majority of votes, instead of the plurality

Safe Seat

a seat in Congress that is viewed as fully secured by a political party or candidate

Sampling Error

an error caused by observing a small sample instead of the whole population

Soft Money

contributions that avoid government regulation, often used for issue ads, voter registration, and voter turnout activities

Split-ticket voting

when there are multiple offices chooses by one election, a voter might vote for a candidate from one party for one office and a candidate from another party for another office


a party or government official that is selected as a delegate to a national convention on the basis of their position

Super Tuesday

the Tuesday in March of a presidential election year when the greatest number of states hold primary elections

Term Limits

a limit on the number of terms that a person may serve in a particular elected office

Third Parties

a political party that is not one of the two main political parties and often focuses on a particular interest. often unsuccessful because of the winner-take-all system

Two-Party System

a party system where two major political parties dominate voting in nearly all elections

Sampling Universe

the body of people from which you can select a random sample

Valence Issue

an issue that most people have the same opinion about

Voter Turnout

the number of voters who turn up to the polls

Winner-Take-All System

the candidate that receives the most votes in his or her district wins that seat in congress, often causing third parties to have little success in elections

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