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Election 2012 Discussion Starters

With President Barack Obama confirmed for a second term, teachers across the country are taking time to reflect on the race and discuss what the results mean for the country going forward. EducationWorld presents the following discussion starter for educators to use in the classroom.

Also, don't miss EducationWorld's other election resources:

NEW! - Election 2012 Timeline
Election Lessons and Activities

Teaching the Election
Election Archive
Electoral College Lesson Plan

Teachers may want to spark interest by beginning with these questions:

  • What did you like/remember about President Barack Obama’s victory speech? Students can read a transcript here.
  • What did you like/remember about former Governor Mitt Romney’s concession speech? Students can read a transcript here.

Want to have a bit of fun? Students will enjoy this video of President Obama "singing" the song "Can't Touch This."


Additional Factual Questions:

1. During the presidential campaign, what were some differences between President Obama’s and former Governor Mitt Romney’s visions for our country?

Answer – This question has a very diverse answer, and The Wall Street Journal offers a helpful interactive chart displaying each man’s stance on headline issues.

2. What percentage of registered voters voted in the 2012 presidential election? How does this compare to their participation in past years?

Answer – Seventy-nine percent, or 119 million out the 150 million registered voters, participated. Initial statistics indicate that this is slightly down from 2008, when over 131 million people cast a ballot.

3. What was the participation of young voters in the 2012 election? How does this compare to their participation in past years?

Answer – Nearly 50 percent of young people (ages 18-29) voted in the 2012 election, which translates into 19 percent of the total voters. This figure represents an increase of one point from the 2008 election.

4. What is the Electoral College? What is its purpose? Why does the United States not elect presidents by popular vote?

Answer – The Electoral College is a mechanism by which states award “votes” or points to the candidate who wins the state in question. The “votes” each state awards the winner vary depending on population, so it is possible that a candidate could receive the most votes overall, but lose the election if s/he doesn’t win enough states. Without the Electoral College, states with larger populations would have an unfair advantage; the Electoral College system aims to give smaller states more influence over the process.

5. How many/which states (how many Electoral College votes) did President Barack Obama win?

Answer – President Obama won 303 Electoral votes and states such as Massachusetts, New York and California. (Florida had not yet reported a winner.) NBC News offers an interactive Electoral College map here.

6. How many/which states (how many Electoral College votes) did former Governor Mitt Romney win?

Answer – Former Governor Romney won 206 Electoral votes and states such as Texas, Louisiana and Oklahoma. (Florida had not yet reported a winner.) NBC News offers an interactive Electoral College map here.

7. What is a “swing state”? Which states were considered “swing states” in the 2012 election, and which candidate won each of these states?

Answer – A swing state is a state whose electorate is unpredictable. Some states like New York almost always vote Democratic, while others like Texas almost always vote Republican. States, like Ohio, that vary in their party leanings are known as swing states because they may “swing” in either direction.

8. In what states or voting districts did problems occur with polling locations? How were these problems handled, and did these problems impact the election?

Answer – Florida had the most prominent voting issues. These issues resulted in that state being the only one not reporting a winner as of early November 7. Other states that faced issues include Connecticut and Virginia.

9. At what time did the news media “call” the results of the election? Under what circumstances does a news outlet feel confident enough to call results?

Answer – Most of the major news outlets called the election before midnight on Election Day. After the mishandling of the 2000 Presidential Election, the networks have instituted stringent criteria for calling a race. The Wall Street Journal has a good breakdown of those policies here.

10. How close was the 2012 presidential election, in terms of (1) popular vote and (2) Electoral College votes?

Answer – The race was relatively close, with President Obama receiving 50% of the popular vote and winning by 97 Electoral votes. NBC News has a full breakdown of the election here.

11. What is the balance of Republicans vs. Democrats in the U.S. Senate? How will this balance impact President Obama, who is a Democrat?

Answer – The Democrats retained control of the Senate, and the Republicans retained control of the House. NBC News has a full breakdown of the results here. President Obama will need to continue to compromise in order to work effectively with Republican lawmakers.

Article by Jason Tomaszewski, EducationWorld Associate Editor
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