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LOOKING THROUGH THE PRESIDENTIAL LOOKING GLASS: AN


INQUIRY-BASED ACTIVITY ON PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS
Eric Steven Neal
Wake Forest University
Introduction
The United States just experienced one of the most monumental events in recent memory. The
Presidential Election of 2016 was an unprecedented event of wide-ranging historical
significance. Pitting the untrustworthy but experienced candidate in Hillary Clinton against the
inexperienced bad boy in Donald Trump, the debates and events surrounding this most recent
election captured the attention of the American public in ways no previous election had ever
seen. Whether you are a lawyer in Seattle, Washington, or a factory worker in Erie,
Pennsylvania, you had an opinion on these two candidates and were not afraid to voice them.
While the events leading up to the election were nothing short of entertaining, the election
outcome highlights important characteristics of the voting public. Every expert over predicted
the number of voters supporting Clinton while the persuasive power of the blue-collar voter in
the northern states was drastically overlooked. Both factors contributed significantly to Trumps
victory, but his victory also highlighted the emotional propensities of voters. More than any other
election, campaign advertisements hit on the emotion of voters by highlighting the negative
character traits and actions of the opposing candidate. Overall, Clinton voters passionately hated
Trump and vice versa without really understanding why.
For an American voter, it is important to not only know what political party you support but why.
Many individuals like to use the terms liberal, conservative, Democrat, and Republican
without fully understanding the issues that differentiate people along party lines. The following
online inquiry activity will guide the learner as he or she learns:
1. What political party best suits them based on their political preferences on various issues
2. What political stances define that political party as well as the demographic traits that typically
characterize voters of candidates from that party
3. The method those political stances have been addressed in previous campaign commercials
throughout the 20th Century
At the end, the learner will apply what he or she has learned by designing and completing a
presidential campaign commercial addressing at least two of the primary social or economic
issues addressed above.

SECTION 1: POLITICAL AFFILIATION QUIZ

Directions
Using a computer with internet access, go to the website I Side With
(https://www.isidewith.com/)
Click on Take the Quiz
Complete all questions honestly. Note - For each question, do not forget to click to the left
how important that issue is to you
After you have answered all questions, click SUBMIT
Questions
After you submit your quiz, you should be brought to a results page displaying a wide variety of
information. Use this information to answer the following questions:
1. What political party and presidential candidate do you most side with?
2. Where do you stand on the following issues? (on the page displaying presidential information,
scroll down to Your Political Themes)
- Traditional vs Progressive
- Small Government vs Big Government
- Regulation vs Deregulation
- Multiculturalism vs Assimilation
3. Were these results surprising to you? What political stances are you surprised you support? Do
you agree with these results?

SECTION 2: VOTER DEMOGRAPHICS INVESTIGATION


Now that you know your political party affiliation, lets learn some more about the political
stances of your party and the demographic characteristics of its voters.

Political Party Stances


Using a computer with internet access, review the major political stances for both Democratic
and Republican Parties
Democratic Party - http://www.issues2000.org/Democratic_Party.htm
Republican Party - http://www.issues2000.org/Republican_Party.htm
Comparison of Both Parties - http://us-political-parties.insidegov.com/
- Directions - under both Democratic and Republican Party, click the box saying Add
to Compare then click Compare Now.
Questions
1. What major differences do you notice between the two parties?

2. What appear to be the most important political issues to the Democratic Party? What
about the Republican Party?
3. Do any of these political stances surprise you? Do any appear to run contrary to what you
learned from the Political Affiliation Quiz?

Voter Demographics
Using a computer with internet access, review the following voter demographic information
provided by the Pew Research Foundation:
http://www.people-press.org/2015/04/07/a-deep-dive-into-party-affiliation/

Questions
1. How would you describe the average voter in support of the Democratic Party? How you
describe Republican voters?
2. What does this demographic information add to your understanding of party affiliation?
3. How does this information help explain the surprising outcome of the Presidential Election of
2016?

SECTION 3: POLITICAL CAMPAIGN ADVERTISEMENTS


One of the most important aspects of a political campaign are television advertisements. As you
will see, many of these commercials are influenced by the political stances of the party and the
likely demographics of their voters. In our current political climate, campaign advertisements are
the best way to catch a quick glimpse of the political philosophy of a party at a particular time.
Reviewing Presidential Campaign Commercials
Directions
Go to the following website: http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1952
Choose four (4) election years and watch a campaign advertisement from each party. For each
campaign advertisement, record the following information:
Year of campaign
Political Party
Presidential Candidate
Style of Commercial
Issues Addressed
How effective was this advertisement?

Any additional observations


Questions
1. How have the political stances of Democratic Party candidates changed over time? How have
they remained the same?
2. What was the most common issues raised in these campaign advertisements?
3. Which aspects of these commercials were the most effective?

CUMULATIVE ASSESSMENT: DESIGN AN EFFECTIVE CAMPAIGN


COMMERCIAL
As you have seen, potential voters select candidates for president based on their affinity for
political parties that define themselves by important political stances. As an educated young
voter, or soon-to-be voter, it is important that you fully understand the issues that these political
parties stand for. With greater understanding, you will make better voting decisions in future
elections, while more fully understanding the results of our prior election outcomes. Based on
what you learned from the previous activities, you should know what party you more closely
associate with, as well as the major political stances and demographic characteristics of that
party. Using the information you have learned, your assignment is to create a 30 second
campaign commercial supporting the candidate from your political party affiliation.
Directions
Using any digital technology of your choosing, write, organize, and complete a short campaign
commercial supporting the candidate from your political party affiliation based on the quiz
completed earlier.
Edited and completed commercial should be saved in a readable format and uploaded to Sakai
under a course by 11:00pm on November, 22th, 2016
Any commercials submitted after that date will receive an automatic 10% penalty everyday it is
late
Length of commercial should be approximately 30 Seconds
Guidelines

Can be recorded and edited using any digital means available


Must contain your spoken dialogue and background music of some kind
Commercial must be logically constructed, with a coherent story
Commercial should also address at least two important issues relevant to your political
party
Position presented must be accurate of your political party