With the 2016 Presidential Election quickly approaching, your students may have questions about many of the key terms they’ve heard through social media or on TV. While most students know that we elect our president by voting every 4 years, many may not understand why or how that process actually works. One thing that often confuses students is the notion of a swing or battleground state. In our last election blog, we focused on how the Electoral College works, but it’s also important to understand that in any given presidential election, there are some states that are relatively more important than others.
With less than 3 weeks to go until Election Day, there will be a lot of news stories that focus on the key battleground states. To teach about this topic and to help answer your students’ questions, try some of our ideas below:
Teaching about Battleground States
Battleground states can change each election, so ask your students to research and identify the 11 battleground states for the 2016 Presidential Election. Once they’ve identified these states, pass out a blank map of the US. Ask students to color the Democratic states blue, the Republican states red, and the battleground states purple. You may also ask your students to include the number of electoral votes each state has.
Once students know the battleground states, ask them to use a site like Five Thirty Eight to research the current poll information and make a prediction about the voting results. If there is time, ask students to explain why they believe the battleground state will lean either Democrat or Republican.
Ask students to read the following PBS article about the big three battleground states: Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. Lead a discussion about the issues that are most important to the voters in these states. Then, ask your students to pick a position on one of these issues and write a short speech to sway voters in one of the battleground states to side with them.
Ask students to read and analyze the current polling trends in the 2016 Presidential Election. After students complete their analysis, ask them to write a summary and explain, based on the data, which swing states each candidate should focus on. Then, ask students to choose a party and a swing state. Have them do some research about important topics in that state and write a letter to the campaign manager with ideas about how to strengthen the candidate’s strategy.