Student View


Common Core: RH.6-8.4, RH.6-8.10, RI.6-8.4, RI.6-8.10, L.6-8.4, L.6-8.5, L.6-8.6

NCSS: Individuals, Groups, and Institutions • Power, Authority, and Governance • Civic Ideals and Practices

Just the Facts

Election Lingo

U.S. elections have a language all their own. Learn to talk the talk with these quick definitions of key words and phrases you’ll likely be hearing this fall.

Illustration by Tomasz Walenta; iStockPhoto/Getty Images (swing set)

Swing Voters

Voters who aren’t loyal to a political party and may be persuaded to vote for either a Democrat or a Republican. (Their turnout often determines who wins a presidential election, especially in states where the race is tight.)

Tomasz Walenta (Superman symbol); iStockPhoto/Getty images (wallet)

Super PACs

Political action committees (PACs) are groups that can collect up to $5,000 per donor per year to support a candidate. Super PACs are different—they can accept unlimited amounts from donors (including corporations) as long as they don’t coordinate efforts with a candidate’s campaign. Critics say super PACs allow wealthy donors to have too much political influence.

Red & Blue States

Election maps are often color coded, with states that tend to vote Republican in red and ones that tend to vote Democratic in blue. Less predictable states are purple.

Vote by Mail

Typically, most voters go to polling stations to cast ballots in person. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, many states are giving people the option of voting by mail instead. That way, Americans don’t have to risk their health by visiting crowded polling places. Five states now conduct elections entirely by mail. In many other states, voters must request mail-in ballots.

Tetra Images/Getty Images (tv); Liam Norris/Cultura/Getty Images (boxing gloves)

Attack Ads

Many political ads present reasons to vote for a particular candidate. Attack (or negative) ads tell you why you shouldn’t vote for someone—and they can get nasty. Such ads are common even though candidates and voters say they don’t like them.

Mike Kemp/Tetra Images/Getty Images (baby); Image source/Getty Images (baby face)

Youth Vote

This term refers to the youngest group of voters, 18- to 29-year-olds, and their voting habits. Over the past few decades, young voters haven’t had an impressive voting record. Just 46 percent reported voting for president in the 2016 election—the lowest turnout of any age group.

Conservatives & Liberals

Conservatives generally think government should take a limited role in regulating business and making social reforms and tend to vote Republican. Liberals generally think government should actively regulate business and address social issues. They tend to vote Democratic.

Write About It! After reading "America's Choice," write a paragraph about the election using at least three terms on this page.

Click here to learn more about the 2020 election!

Back to top
Skills Sheets (1)
Lesson Plan (1)