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April 17, 2020

Super Civics 2020: Gauging The Importance of Political Endorsements

Explore this PBS NewsHour Extra lesson with your students on gauging the importance of political endorsements, if they matter, and how they make an impact.


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Political Endorsements: What Drives Change in An Election?

For this activity, read the timeline of endorsements for former Vice President Joe Biden, learn more about the significance of political endorsements, watch the video below (watch just the first 48 seconds on endorsements) and answer the discussion questions.

Timeline of Recent Political Endorsements

  1. April 8: Sen. Bernie Sanders suspends his 2020 Democratic presidential campaign.
  2. April 13: Sanders endorses former Vice President Joe Biden for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
  3. April 14: Former President Barack Obama ended months of neutrality and endorses his vice president, Joe Biden, for the Democratic presidential nomination.
  4. April 15: Sen. Elizabeth Warren endorses Biden to be the Democratic nominee.

Political Endorsements: Discussion Questions

  1. Essential question: How important are presidential endorsements? (If time allows, watch this PBS WGBY segment on endorsements.)
  2. Why do individuals (i.e. lawmakers, celebrities, mayors, etc.) and groups (i.e. trade unions) endorse political candidates?
  3. Are you swayed by a political endorsement of a particular candidate? Why or why not?
  4. The Pew Research Foundation found that endorsements do not cause direct changes in people’s voting preferences, according to Hartford University’s Rebecca Townsend in a WGBY segmentabout the significance of endorsements. However, Townsend also said that endorsements by someone at the local level, or an activist they know, may affect voters’ decisions.
    • If endorsements by well-known voices don’t make a difference to voters, why do you think people continue to make them?
    • What is down-ballot voting? (check out this fun lesson and video on down-ballot voting hereon Extra!) Why might endorsements by local elected officials or advocates a voter is familiar with make a difference in how that person votes?
  5. Do you think Sen. Sanders should have endorsed Joe Biden? Why or why not?
  6. Why did President Obama wait until Joe Biden was the only candidate left in the Democratic presidential race to endorse him? What do you think was behind Obama’s strategy?
  7. During the 2016 Democratic presidential primaries, Sen. Warren did not endorse rivals former Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sanders. Why do you think this was the case?
  8. Media literacy: Check out a few different news outlets (CNN, New York Times, The Young Turks, BuzzFeed, Fox, The Hill, Wall Street Journal, etc.) as to how news outlets covered Sanders’s endorsement of Biden. What similarities or differences did you find in their coverage?

Interested in talking to students about how the Census impacts elections? Check out this free, on-demand webinar: 

Shape the Future for Your Students: Teaching About the 2020 Census

political endorsements: how does the census affect elections?

Political Endorsements: Extension Activities

Check out this video in which Sen. Bernie Sanders weighed in on what former Vice President Joe Biden, the likely Democratic nominee, should look for in a running mate that would appeal to Sanders supporters.

This article was originally published by PBS NewsHour Extra and can be found here.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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