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Vocabulary and important terms or cases from the American Government & Politics Today 2010-2011 Brief Edition

Interest Group

An organized group of individuals sharing common objectives who actively attempt to influence policymakers.

Political Party

a group of political activists who organize to win elections, operate the government, and determine public policy


an organization or individual who attempts to influence legislation and the administrative decisions of government

Social Movement

A movement that represents the demands of a large segment of the public for political, economic, or social change

Labor Movement

Generally, the full range of economic and political expression of working-class interests; politically, the organization of working-class interests.

Service Sector

The sector of the economy that provides services--such as health care, banking, and education--contrast to the sector that produces goods.

Public Interest

the best interests of the overall community; the national good, rather than the narrow interests of a particular group

Direct Technique

An interest group activity that involves interaction with government officials to further the group's goals.

Indirect Technique

A strategy employed by interest groups that uses third parties to influence government officials.


a voter or candidate who does not identify with a political party


a group or bloc in a legislature or political party acting in pursuit of some special interest or position

Two-Party System

A political system in which only two parties have a reasonable chance of winning.

Era of Good Feelings

The years from 1817 to 1825, when James Monroe was president and there was, in effect, no political opposition.

Democratic Party

One of the two major American political parties evolving out of the Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson

Whig Party

A major party in the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century, formally established in 1836. This party was anti-Jackson and represented a variety of regional interests.

Republican Party

One of the two major American political parties. It emerged in the 1850s as an antislavery party and consisted of former northern Whigs and antislavery Democrats.

Party Organization

The formal structure and leadership of a political party, including election committees local, state, and national executives and paid professional staff.

National Convention

the meeting held every four years by each major party to select presidential and vice-presidential candidates, write a platform, choose a national committee, and conduct party business

Party Platform

A document drawn up at each national convention, outlining the policies, positions, and principles of the party.

National Committee

A standing committee of a national political party established to direct and coordinate party activities between national party conventions

State Central Committee

The principal organized structure of each political party within each state. This committee is responsible for carrying out policy decisions of the party's state convention.


The practice of rewarding faithful party workers and followers with government employment and contracts

Divided Government

A situation in which one major political party controls the presidency and the other controls the chambers of Congress, or in which one party controls a state governorship and the other controls the state legislature.

Ticket Splitting

voting for candidates of 2 or more parties for different offices. For example, a voter is ________ if she votes for a Republican presidential candidate and a Democratic Congressional candidate


A number of votes cast for a candidate that is greater than the number of votes for any other candidate but not necessarily a majority.

Electoral College

a group selected by the states to elect the president and the vice-president, in which each state's number of electors is equal to the number of its senators and representatives in Congress

Unit Rule

A rule by which all of a state's electoral votes are cast for the presidential candidate receiving a plurality of the popular vote in that state.

Third Party

a political party other than the two major political parties

Splinter Party

A new party formed by a dissident faction within a major political party. Often, emerge when a particular personality was at odds with the major party.

Party Identification

Linking oneself to a particular political party.

Strait-Ticket Voting

voting for candidates of the same party for all the offices at the same election

Interest Group Strategies

Direct techniques: meet with government officials, provide information to law makers, testify before congressional committees.
Indirect techniques: generate public pressure, use constituents as lobbyists.

Functions of Political Parties

1. recruiting candidates for public office 2. organizing and running elections 3. Preseenting alternative policies to the electorate 4. Accepting responsibility for operating the government 5. acting as the organized opposition to the party in power.

Importance of Third parties

spoiler effect - costs the party most closely associated with the third party votes. Promoting Issues - if they get a decent amount of votes, causes both parties to take on the issues that appealed to the public.

Economic Interest Group

Group which primary purpose is to promote financial interest of its members; secure benefit through public policies

Political Parties v Interest Groups

Similar - both mechanisms for representing the people. Differ - PP wants to run government where IG do not want to. PP organize to win elections, IG support candidates who promote their interests.

Causes of Social Movements

usually the first expression of latent discontent of the system. ie. women's movement, civil rights.

Types of Interest Groups

economic, environmenal, public interest, single interest, common characteristics, and foreign governments


federal money that is funneled into a specific legislative district. A member of Congress will usually insert this into a bill in order to win votes back home or to make a bill more attractive for votes.

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