AP US Government Practice Test: Political Participation

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Question 1
Questions 1–3 refer to the passage below:

I stand with Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. Others will back Donald J. Trump. But polls suggest that almost one in 10 voters are making a different choice by supporting the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, or another candidate.

And so once again major party backers warn against wasting votes on “spoilers” and criticize minor party candidates for even running. Defenders of third parties assert that there is no difference between the major parties and blame mainstream politicians for keeping them out of debates.

Ranked-choice voting is already used by tens of millions of voters, including in Australia and Ireland’s national elections, London, Minnesota’s twin cities and eight other American cities when electing mayors. It is also used in picking the Oscar nominees for best picture, and in electing student leaders at more than 50 American colleges.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3. Voters have the option to rank the candidates from first to last, and any candidate with a majority of first choices wins, just as in any other election. But if no candidate has a majority, you hold an “instant runoff” tally in order to compare the top two candidates head to head. Candidates in last place are eliminated, and their backers’ votes are counted for their next choice. When it’s down to two, the winner earns a majority of the vote.

—Howard Dean, “How to Move Beyond the Two-Party System”
The New York Times, October 6, 2016
 
Which of the following statements is consistent with the ideas expressed in the passage?

A
Ranked-choice balloting is already used in most American cities.
B
Ranked-choice balloting requires two elections—a general election and a runoff election.
C
On a ranked-choice ballot, voters award different numbers of points to their choices.
D
On a ranked-choice ballot, voters can designate a backup choice if their first choice does not do well in the election.
Question 1 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). The system is explained in the last paragraph. According to the third paragraph, only ten cities use this system, so answer (A) may be eliminated. The “instant runoff” mentioned in the final paragraph does not actually require a second vote, so answer (B) is incorrect. Voters rank their choices; they do not award points, so answer (C) is also wrong.
Question 2
I stand with Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. Others will back Donald J. Trump. But polls suggest that almost one in 10 voters are making a different choice by supporting the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, or another candidate.

And so once again major party backers warn against wasting votes on “spoilers” and criticize minor party candidates for even running. Defenders of third parties assert that there is no difference between the major parties and blame mainstream politicians for keeping them out of debates.

Ranked-choice voting is already used by tens of millions of voters, including in Australia and Ireland’s national elections, London, Minnesota’s twin cities and eight other American cities when electing mayors. It is also used in picking the Oscar nominees for best picture, and in electing student leaders at more than 50 American colleges.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3. Voters have the option to rank the candidates from first to last, and any candidate with a majority of first choices wins, just as in any other election. But if no candidate has a majority, you hold an “instant runoff” tally in order to compare the top two candidates head to head. Candidates in last place are eliminated, and their backers’ votes are counted for their next choice. When it’s down to two, the winner earns a majority of the vote.

—Howard Dean, “How to Move Beyond the Two-Party System”
The New York Times, October 6, 2016
 
What does the author mean by “spoilers” in the second paragraph?

A
Candidates from minor parties use the patronage system.
B
Candidates from minor parties spoil elections by confusing voters.
C
Debates are spoiled because minor party candidates are not allowed to participate in them.
D
Candidates from minor parties draw votes away from a like-minded major party candidate, which allows the other major party candidate to be elected.
Question 2 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). This question is definitional. “Spoiler” should not be confused with the spoils/patronage system (A), which is not an electoral system. Voters may find the presence of minor candidates confusing (B), but that fact has nothing to do with the question. The debates are also unrelated to the question (C).
Question 3
I stand with Hillary Clinton in the presidential race. Others will back Donald J. Trump. But polls suggest that almost one in 10 voters are making a different choice by supporting the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, or another candidate.

And so once again major party backers warn against wasting votes on “spoilers” and criticize minor party candidates for even running. Defenders of third parties assert that there is no difference between the major parties and blame mainstream politicians for keeping them out of debates.

Ranked-choice voting is already used by tens of millions of voters, including in Australia and Ireland’s national elections, London, Minnesota’s twin cities and eight other American cities when electing mayors. It is also used in picking the Oscar nominees for best picture, and in electing student leaders at more than 50 American colleges.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3. Voters have the option to rank the candidates from first to last, and any candidate with a majority of first choices wins, just as in any other election. But if no candidate has a majority, you hold an “instant runoff” tally in order to compare the top two candidates head to head. Candidates in last place are eliminated, and their backers’ votes are counted for their next choice. When it’s down to two, the winner earns a majority of the vote.

—Howard Dean, “How to Move Beyond the Two-Party System”
The New York Times, October 6, 2016
 
What would be a the most likely consequence of ranked-choice voting?

A
More citizens would vote.
B
States could implement proportional representation.
C
More than one candidate could be elected for each office on the ballot.
D
Voters could choose a minor party candidate without fear of “wasting” their votes.
Question 3 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Under the current system used by almost every government in the United States, a voter who chooses a minor party candidate “wastes” their vote because minor party candidates almost never get elected. But when using a ranked-choice system, voters can list a minor party candidate as their first choice. If their candidate is eliminated on the first count, then their vote is reallocated to their second choice. Therefore, voters can vote their conscious, but their votes will probably still be counted toward one of the two major party candidates.

More citizens might vote (A), but that outcome is not guaranteed. Proportional representation (B) requires voters to vote for parties, not individual candidates. Voters do not get multiple votes in a ranked-choice system, so answer (C) is incorrect.
Question 4
Questions 4–5 refer to the graph below:

Which of the following best describes a trend in the line graph?

A
Voter turnout steadily declined in the twentieth century.
B
The year 1920 marked the lowest turnout in midterm elections.
C
The year 1896 marked the highest turnout in presidential elections.
D
Voter turnout in presidential elections was greater than voter turnout in midterm elections in every election of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
Question 4 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). While there were a few periods in which voting increased during the twentieth century, overall, voting declined between the years 1904 and 2000. The lowest midterm turnout was in 1789, so answer (B) is incorrect. The highest presidential turnout was in 1876, so answer (C) is incorrect. Answer (D) is not true at the beginning of the nineteenth century.
Question 5

Which of the following is an accurate conclusion based on a comparison of the trends in the line graph above and your knowledge of voter behavior?

A
More citizens vote in presidential elections because more states have presidential elections than midterm elections.
B
More citizens vote in presidential elections because voters are more aware of presidential candidate than Congressional candidates.
C
More citizens vote in midterm elections because midterm elections are held more frequently than presidential elections.
D
More citizens vote in midterm elections because midterm elections are more important than in presidential elections.
Question 5 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). The graph clearly shows that more people vote is presidential elections than midterm elections. Therefore, answers (C) and (D) are wrong. All states have the same number of presidential and midterm elections. Therefore, answer (A) cannot possibly be correct.
Question 6
Questions 6–7 refer to the cartoon below:

To what Supreme Court case does the cartoon refer?

A
Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (2010)
B
McDonald v. Chicago (2010)
C
Shaw v. Reno (1993)
D
United States v. Lopez (1995)
Question 6 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). The Supreme Court ruled that independent groups can spend unlimited amounts of money on advertising for political candidates in Citizens United.
Question 7

What is the main point of the cartoon?

A
Corporate executives should not be allowed to run for office.
B
Elected officials are taking bribes.
C
Elected officials owe their loyalty to special interests instead of their constituents.
D
The Supreme Court allowed donors and lobbyists to testify in court proceedings.
Question 7 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Elected officials are supposed to represent to their constituents, but the elected official in the cartoon is pledging himself to the special interests who donate money to his campaign. Nothing in the cartoon suggests that he is a corporate executive (A). The cartoon does not show a bribe (B) or court testimony (D).
Question 8
Questions 8–9 refer to the chart below:

According to this pie chart, Hillary Clinton won a

A
majority of the electoral vote.
B
majority of the popular vote.
C
plurality of the electoral vote.
D
plurality of the popular vote.
Question 8 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Hillary Clinton won more votes than anyone else, which is a plurality, but she did not win more than half the vote, which would be a majority. Therefore, answers (A) and (B) may be eliminated. The pie chart is about American voters, not electoral voters, which means answer (C) can also be eliminated.
Question 9

How is it possible that Donald Trump was elected president despite Hillary Clinton winning more votes?

A
Some of the ballots were miscounted.
B
Donald Trump won the runoff election.
C
Some of Hillary Clinton’s electors chose to vote for Donald Trump.
D
Hillary Clinton won a few states with by overwhelming numbers, but Donald Trump beat her in other states by only a comparatively slight number of votes.
Question 9 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Forty-eight states allocate electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis. Therefore, it is more important to win states than votes. A candidate who wins many states by a small margin may win more electoral votes than a candidate who has a lot of support in fewer states and a higher overall number of popular votes. There were no allegations of a miscount (A), and even if there had been, a miscount would not relate to the pie chart. The United States does not use a runoff system (B) in presidential elections. None of Hillary Clinton’s electors voted for Donald Trump (C).
Question 10
Questions 10–11 refer to the infographic below:

Which of the following statements is true based on the infographic?

A
More people vote in Democratic elections than Republican elections.
B
Voters choose delegates to their party’s national convention.
C
Voters choose delegates to state conventions their party’s national convention.
D
Voters choose delegates and parties choose which delegates go to the national convention.
Question 10 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). The infographic shows Democratic voters and Republican voters electing delegates to their respective party conventions. While Democrats elect more delegates, that does not mean that more Democrats vote, so answer (A) may be eliminated. The parties do not use state conventions or any other interim steps in the presidential nomination process, so answers (C) and (D) are wrong.
Question 11

Which of the following is true of a closed primary?

A
They discourage party loyalty.
B
They are limited to registered party members.
C
They are similar to jungle primaries.
D
They are limited to party insiders known as superdelegates.
Question 11 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). A closed primary is limited to registered party members, who are required to declare their party affiliation in order to vote. Closed primaries encourage party unity and prevent other parties from infiltrating the primary to nominate weak candidates.

In an open primary voters are not required to declare party affiliation. In a jungle primary all candidates run in the same primary regardless of political party.
Question 12
A challenger runs against an incumbent during a booming economy. A voter with the economy on her mind votes for the incumbent. The voter has no political affiliation. The voter is most likely a

A
party-line voter.
B
prospective voter.
C
rational-choice voter.
D
retrospective voter.
Question 12 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Retrospective voters make their decisions based on what incumbents of done or their perceptions of what incumbents have done. If the economy is not doing well, then they will probably vote against the incumbent. Party-line voters (A) vote strictly on party label. Prospective voters (B) base their decisions on who they think will do the best job once in office. Rational-choice voters (C) vote based on what is perceived to be in the citizen’s individual interest.
Question 13
With all other things being equal, which of the following is most likely to bring out the highest percentage of party elites relative to other voters?

A
Caucuses
B
Closed primaries
C
General elections
D
Open primaries
Question 13 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). Caucuses are meetings, not elections, and they require a significant investment of time. Therefore, people who are only casually interested in politics do not participate in them. Closed primaries (B) are the next most exclusive electoral contests, because they require membership in a political party but do not require a significant investment of time. Open primaries (D) are the third-most exclusive electoral contests on this list. They do not require membership in a political party, but like all primaries and caucuses, they do not receive as much voter attention as a general election (C). General elections have the highest turnout on this list.
Question 14
What effect has the presence of cable and satellite television had on coverage of presidential elections since 1980?

A
News media entertains viewers more often.
B
News media conducts more watchdog investigations.
C
News media engages less frequently in horserace journalism.
D
News media has decreased its presence in the face of competition.
Question 14 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). Television viewers face more options than ever before. Therefore, answer (D) is wrong. Also, all-news networks report less serious news and more entertainment. Thus, they tend to not engage in watchdog journalism (B), which usually involves reporting on some kind of problem in government or society. Media engages frequently in horserace journalism, essentially turning every election into a reality television contest in which winning is more important than issues. Therefore, answer (C) is wrong.
Question 15
Which of the following accurately describes the difference between primary campaigns and general election campaigns?

A
Campaign finance laws do not apply to primary elections.
B
Fewer candidates run in primary elections than in general elections.
C
Primary election campaigns are more expensive than general election campaigns.
D
Candidates are more likely to take extreme stances in primary elections than in general elections.
Question 15 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Primary elections usually have low turnouts compared to general elections, and candidates in primaries often face several competitors. Therefore, they may go to extremes to get voters to go to the polls and vote for them. Campaign finance laws apply to primaries as well as general elections, so answer (A) is wrong. Primaries have more candidates than general elections, so answer (B) is wrong. General election campaigns are usually more expensive than primaries because they usually require more advertising. Therefore, answer (D) is wrong.
Question 16
Which of the following is an accurate statement about campaign finance laws?

A
Campaign finance laws have decreased party polarization.
B
Campaign finance laws have had bipartisan support.
C
Campaign finance laws do not apply to independent candidates.
D
Campaign finance laws limit the amount that interest groups can spend on television commercials.
Question 16 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). The Bipartisan Campaign Finance Act of 2002—also known as McCain-Feingold—bans soft money and had, as its name implies, bipartisan support. Party polarization has increased in recent years, so answer (A) may be eliminated. Campaign finance laws apply to independent candidates as well as partisan candidates, so answer (C) is incorrect. Interest groups can spend as much money as they want on television commercials according to the Citizens United case.
Question 17
The elections of 1800, 1860, and 1932 are examples of

A
critical elections.
B
Democratic presidential wins.
C
Republican presidential wins.
D
elections in which the winner of the popular vote lost the electoral college.
Question 17 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). Critical elections signify a major realignment of how voters vote. In the cases above, the Federalist party ceased to win national elections after 1800. The Whig Party was destroyed by the election of 1860, and African Americans switched from voting Republican to Democratic in the election of 1932, an alignment that last until today. The Democratic party did not exist in 1800, so answer (B) cannot be correct. The Republicans won in 1860 but lost in 1932, so answer (C) is incorrect. In none of the three elections did the winner of the popular vote lose the electoral college, so answer (D) is wrong.
Question 18
Which of the following Constitutional amendments did NOT expand the right to vote?

A
The Fifteenth Amendment
B
The Nineteenth Amendment
C
The Twenty-Second Amendment
D
The Twenty-Sixth Amendment
Question 18 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). The 22nd Amendment limited the president to two full terms in office. The 15th Amendment gave African American males the right to vote. The 19th Amendment gave women the right to vote. The 26th Amendment gave eighteen-year-olds the right to vote.
Question 19
All of the following are functions of political parties except

A
forming political action committees.
B
mobilizing voters.
C
recruiting candidates.
D
writing platforms.
Question 19 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). Political actions committees are part of some interest groups; they are not part of political parties. All the other options are functions of political parties.
Question 20
All of the following are functions of interest groups except

A
drafting legislative proposals.
B
filing briefs with a court.
C
hiring a campaign staff.
D
providing information to legislators.
Question 20 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Political parties, not interest groups, hire campaign staffs. All other options are functions of interest groups, though most people are unaware that they write legislative proposals (A) or file amicus curiae briefs with courts (B).
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