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Special interests:
How would a legislator vote?


Election 2002

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Arts & Humanities
Language Arts
Social Studies

  • Civics
  • Economics
  • Government


  • 3-5
  • 6-8
  • 9-12
  • Advanced

Brief description

In these role-plays, students act as elected officials who must vote on five bills that relate to special interests of groups that financed their campaigns. How will they vote?


Students will
  • act as elected officials who must make decisions that will make someone unhappy.
  • consider five bills that are up for vote in light of the contributions that many special-interest groups made to their campaigns.
  • justify their vote on each bill.
  • write a brief essay in which they share what they learned from doing this role-play activity.


vote, campaign, election, law, bill, legislation, representative, senator, governor, contribution, citizenship, government, civics

Materials needed[shop materials]

Interest groups: How would a legislator vote? student work sheet

Lesson plan

In this role-play activity from, students act as elected legislators who have accepted significant campaign contributions from a list of companies and special-interest groups. Fourteen of those special interests and their contribution amounts are listed at the start of the activity. The student-legislators must react to five scenarios in which bills have been proposed; all of those bills relate directly to the special interests that supported their campaign. How will student/legislators respond to each bill? How do they justify their responses? This activity puts kids in the place of politicians who must often make these kinds of decisions -- and who are often criticized for the decisions they make. How do they react when the shoe is on the other foot and they must justify their decisions about a bill? Do they go with their conscience? with the prevailing sentiment among their constituents? with the special interests who helped them get elected?

For the complete lesson see the student work sheet, Interest groups: How would a legislator vote? on the Web site.


The teacher will monitor the discussion/debate over each of the questions. Students will write a brief essay to describe what lessons they learned from this role-play activity.

Lesson plan source

Social Studies School Service


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Last updated 02/28/2016