Lesson Plan: Political Polarization

Partisan Divide Grows Wider

A look at the results of a new Pew Research poll showing that the political divide between Americans had grown wider on a variety of issues.

Description

According to Pew Research during the past decades, the level of political polarization has grown in the United States. Reasons for this growing division has been debated by academics, the media and elected officials. This lesson looks at the contributing factors for this political polarization such as media consumption, demographic changes, levels of economic inequality and geography. It also has student analyze the impacts of this polarization in their own lives.

Procedures

  • WARM-UP:

    Before beginning class, have the students answer the following questions.

    • To what extent are Americans divided politically?
    • Why do you think this is?
  • VOCABULARY INTRODUCTION:

    Before viewing the video clips, ensure that students understand the following vocabulary terms. This can be done by either reviewing these with them or having them define the terms on their own.

    • Polarization
    • Partisan
    • Urban
    • Rural
    • Ideology
    • Homogeneous
    • Demographic
  • INTRODUCTION:

    As a class have the students view the following video and describe the findings from the Pew Research poll about the partisan divide. Review the students' responses to address any misconceptions.

    Video Clip: Pew Research: Partisan Divide Grows Wider

  • EXPLORATION:

    Using the Political Polarization handout (Google Doc) have the students view the following video clips and answer the questions associated with each clip.

    Video Clip: The History of Political Polarization in Congress (3:10)

    Video Clip: The Polarization of Political Parties (3:03)

    Video Clip: Changing Political Demographic and Geographic Trends (3:50)

    Video Clip: The Rise of Ideological News Outlets (2:21)

    Video Clip: Political Polarization, Race and Immigration (2:12)

    Video Clip: Economic Inequality and Political Polarization (1:24)

  • APPLICATION:

    After reviewing the questions on the Political Polarization handout have the students use the chart on that handout to summarize how each of the factors listed contribute to political polarization and provide examples of each from either the videos or your own experiences. Feel free to have them add additional factors to the chart not included in the chart that they see as contributing.

  • CONCLUSION:

    Review the students' responses and correct any misconceptions. Have the students answer the following writing prompt. Review the students' responses as a class.

    • In your opinion, are American more polarized than before? Why do you think this is? What are ways to fix this?
  • EXTENSION ACTIVITIES:

    Application Outside of Politics- Come up with an example (other than the ones mentioned in the videos) of how political polarization impacts aspects of life outside of politics. This can include religion, entertainment, sports, education or others.

    Additional Writing Prompts-

    • Explain the ways that you see political polarization in your own life.
    • Do you think this level of political polarization can be changed? Explain your reasons why or why not?
    • How would you describe your political ideology?

Additional Resources

Vocabulary

  • Campaign Finance
  • Demographic
  • Discrimination
  • Economic Inequality
  • Heterogeneity
  • Homogenous
  • Ideology
  • Partisan
  • Polarization
  • Political Extremism
  • Political Party
  • Rural
  • Suburban
  • Urban

Topics

Campaigns & ElectionsPolitical Parties

Grades

High SchoolUniversity