AP Government

Vocabulary & Notes

Chapter 1 Vocabulary


  1. democracy- government by the people, both directly and indirectly, with free and frequent elections

  2. direct democracy- gov in which citizens vote on laws and select officials directly

  3. direct primary- an election in which voters choose party nominees

  4. initiative- a procedure whereby a certain number of voters may, by petition, propose a law or constitutional amendment and have it submitted to the voters

  5. referendum- procedure for submitting to popular vote measures passed by the legislature or proposed amendments to a state constitution

  6. recall- a procedure for submitting to popular vote the removal of officials from office before the end of their term

  7. representative democracy- gov in which the people elect those who govern and pass laws; also called a republic

  8. constitutional democracy- gov that enforces recognized limits on those who govern and allows the voice of the people to be heard through free and fair elections

  9. constitutionalism- the set of arrangements, including checks and balances, federalism, separation of powers, rule of law, due process, and a bill of rights, that require our leaders to listen, think, bargain, and explain before they act or make laws. We then hold them politically and legally accountable for how they exercise their powers

  10. natural rights- the rights of all people to dignity and worth

  11. political culture- the widely shared beliefs, values, and norms citizens hold about their relationship to gov and to one another

  12. statism- the idea that the rights of the nation are supreme over the rights of the individuals that make up the nation

  13. American dream- a complex set of ideas that holds that the US is a land of opportunity where individual initiative and hard work can bring economic success

  14. capitalism- an economic system based on private property, competitive markets, economic incentives, and limited gov involvement in the production, pricing, and distribution of goods and services

  15. popular consent- the idea that a just gov must derive its powers from the consent of the people it governs

  16. majority rule- governance according to the expressed preferences of the majority

  17. majority- the candidate or party that wins more than half the votes cast in an election

  18. plurality- the candidate or party with the most votes cast in an election, doesn’t have to be majority

  19. democratic consensus- a condition for democracy is that the people widely share a set of attitudes and beliefs about gov procedures, institutions, core documents, and fundamental values

  20. theocracy- gov by religious leaders, who claim divine guidance

  21. Articles of Confederation- the first governing document of the confederated states, drafted in 1777, ratified in 1781, and replaced by the current Constitution in 1789

  22. Annapolis Convention- a convention held in Sept 1786 to consider problems of trade and navigation, attended by 5 states and important because it issued the call to Congress and the states for what became the Constitutional Convention

  23. Constitutional Convention- the convention in Philadelphia, from May 25 to Sept 17, 1787, that debated and agreed on the Constitution of the US

  24. Shays’ Rebellion- a rebellion led by Daniel Shays of farmers in western Mass. in 1786-77 protesting mortgage foreclosures. It highlighted the need for a strong central gov

  25. bicameralism- the principle of a two-house legislature

  26. Virginia Plan- the initial proposal at the Const. Conv. made by the VA delegation for a strong central gov with a bicameral legislature dominated by the big states

  27. New Jersey Plan- the proposal at the Const. Conv. made by William Paterson of NJ for a central gov with a single-house legislature in which each state was represented equally

  28. Connecticut Compromise- bicameral legislature

  29. ⅗ compromise- ⅗ of the slave pop would be counted for determining taxation and representation

  30. Electoral College- voters vote for electors pledged to cast their ballots for a particular candidate’s party

  31. Federalists- supporters of the ratification of the Const. and a strong central gov

  32. Antifederalists- opponents of federalists

  33. The Federalist- essays promoting federalist ideas; by John Jay, Alexander Hamilton, and James Madison

Chapter 2 Vocabulary

  1. natural law- God’s law that defines right from wrong and is superior to human law

  2. sep. of powers- division of legislative, executive, and judicial branches

  3. checks and balances- enables each branch to check each other’s power so that no one branch gains too much power

  4. autocracy- type of gov in which one person with unlimited power rules

  5. partisanship- strong allegiance to one's’ own party

  6. divided gov- gov divided between the parties, esp between Pres and Congress

  7. unified gov- both Pres and Congress are same party

  8. Electoral College- electoral system in electing the Pres and VP- voters vote for the voters

  9. judicial review- power of the judicial branch to test the constitutionality of a law

  10. Federalists- a group that argued for the ratification of the Const. and wanted a strong central gov.

  11. writ of mandamus- court order directing an official to perform an official duty

  12. congressional elaboration- congressional legislation that gives further meaning to the Const. dealing with the powers of Congress

  13. impeachment- formal accusation against a public official and the first step in removing said official from office

  14. executive order- directive issued by the Pres that has the force of law

  15. executive privilege- power to keep exec. comms. confidential, esp related to nat’l security

  16. impoundment- Pres. refusal to allow an agency to spend funds that Congress authorizes and appropriates

  17. originalist approach- an approach to const. interpretation that envisions the doc. as having a fixed meaning that might be determined by a strict reading of the text

  18. adaptive approach- method used to interpret the Const. that understands the doc. to be flexible and responsive to the changing needs of the times

Chapter 3 Vocabulary

  1. federalism- a constitutional arrangement in which power is distributed b/w a central gov and states

  2. unitary system- constitutional arrangement that concentrates power in a central gov

  3. confederation- constitutional arrangement in which sovereign nations or states, by compact, create a central gov but carefully limit its power

  4. delegated powers- powers given explicitly to the nat’l gov by the Const

  5. implied powers- powers inferred from the express powers that allow Congress to carry out its functions

  6. necessary and proper clause- clause in the Const setting forth the implied powers of Congress

  7. inherent powers- powers of the nat’l gov in foreign affairs that the Supreme Court has deemed do not depend on constitutional grants but grow out of the need for safety from domestic and foreign threats

  8. supremacy clause- nat’l laws given absolute power over state laws

  9. commerce clause- gives Congress the ability to regulate all business activities that cross state lines or affect more than one state

  10. federal mandate- a req of the nat’l gov imposes as a condition for receiving fed funds

  11. reserve powers- all powers not specifically delegated to the nat’l gov by the Const

  12. concurrent powers- powers given by the Const to both the nat’l and state govs

  13. full faith and credit clause- req each state to recognize the civil judgements rendered by the courts of the other states and to accept their public records as valid

  14. extradition- an alleged criminal offender is surrendered by the officials of one state to officials of the state in which the crime is alleged to have been committed

  15. interstate compact- an agreement b/w two or more states; must be approved by Congress

  16. national supremacy- when constitutionality b/w nat’l and state govs clash, nat’l wins

  17. preemption- right of a nat’l law or regulation to preclude enforcement of a state or local law

  18. centralists- people who favor nat’l action over state and local action

  19. decentralists- people who favor state and local action over nat’l action

  20. states’ rights- powers expressly or implicitly reserved to the states

  21. devolution revolution- effort to slow the growth of the nat’l gov


Chapter 4 Vocabulary

  1. ethnocentrism- belief in the superiority of one’s nation or ethnic group

  2. demography- the study of the characteristics of populations

  3. reinforcing cleavages- divisions w/in society that reinforce one another, making groups more similar

  4. cross-cutting cleavages- divisions w/in society that cut across demographic categories to produce groups that are more different

  5. American exceptionalism- view that due to circumstances of history, the Const, and liberty, the US is different from other nations

  6. manifest destiny- a notion held by 19th century Americans that US was destined to rule the continent, from the Atlantic to the Pacific

  7. Sun Belt- region of the US in the South and SW that has seen pop growth relative to the rest of the country

  8. Bible Belt- region of states in the South and around the South with a large number of strongly committed Protestants who see a public role for religion

  9. Rust Belt- states in with MW once known for their industrial output, which have seen factories close and experience high unemployment

  10. urban- a densely settled territory that is often the central part of a city of metropolitan area

  11. suburban- area that typically surrounds the central city, often residential, and not as densely populated

  12. rural- sparsely populated territory and small towns, often associated with farming

  13. race- grouping of human beings with distinctive characteristics determined by genetic inheritance

  14. ethnicity- social division based on nat’l origin, religion, language, and often race

  15. fundamentalists- conservative Christians who, as a group, have become more active in politics in the last two decades

  16. gender gap- the difference b/w the political opinions or political behavior of men and women

  17. gross domestic product (GDP)- total output of all economic activity in the nation

  18. socioeconomic status (SES)- division of population based on occupation, income, and education

Chapter 5 Vocabulary

  1. collective bargaining- process in which a union represents a group of employees in negotiations with the employer about wages, benefits, and workplace safety

  2. recall- procedure for submitting to popular vote the removal of officials from office before the end of their term

  3. faction- term the founders used to refer to political parties or interest groups

  4. pluralism- theory of gov that holds that open, multiple, and competing groups can check the asserted power by any one group

  5. interest group- collection of people who share a common interest and seek to influence gov for specific ends

  6. social movement- large body of people interested in a common issue, idea, or concern that is of continuing significance and who are willing to take action

  7. open shop- company with a labor agreement under which union membership cannot be required as a condition of employment

  8. closed shop- company with a large labor agreement under which union membership can be a condition of employment

  9. free rider- individual who does not join a group representing his or her interests yet receives the benefits of the group’s influence

  10. professional associations- groups of individuals who share a common profession and are often organized for common political purposes related to that profession

  11. nongovernmental organization (NGO)- nonprofit association operating outside gov that advocates and pursues policy objectives

  12. collective action- how groups form and organize to pursue their goals, including how to get individuals and groups to participate and cooperate.

  13. public choice- synonymous with “collective action,” specifically studies how gov officials, voters, and politicians respond to positive and negative incentives

  14. lobbying- engaging in activities aimed at influencing public officials, especially legislators, and the policies they enact

  15. Federal Register- official document, published every weekday, that lists the new and proposed regulations of executive departments and regulatory agencies

  16. amicus curiae brief- “a friend of the court” brief, filed by an individual or organization urging the Supreme Court to hear a case (or discouraging) or, at the merits stage, to present arguments in addition to those presented by the immediate parties to a case

  17. super PACs- independent expenditure-only PACs are known as super PACs bc they may accept donations of any size and can endorse candidates

  18. bundling- tactic in which PACs collect contributions from like-minded individuals (limited to $2,000) and present them to a candidate or political party as bundle thus increasing the PAC’s influence

  19. lobbyist- person who is employed by and acts for an organized interest group or corporation to try to influence policy decisions and positions in the executive and legislative branches

  20. revolving door- employment cycle in which individuals who work for gov agencies that regulate interests eventually end up working for interest groups or business with the same policy concern

  21. issue network- relationships among interest groups, congressional committees, and the gov agencies that share a common policy concern

  22. political action committee (PAC)- the political arm of an interest group that is legally entitled to raise funds on a voluntary basis from members, stockholders, or employees to contribute funds to candidates or political parties

  23. leadership PAC- PAC formed by an officeholder that collects contributions from individuals and other PACs and then makes contributions to other candidates and political parties

  24. Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA)- largely banned party soft money, restored long-standing prohibition on corporations and labor unions use of general treasury funds for electoral purposes, and narrowed the definition of issue advocacy

  25. soft money- money raised in unlimited amounts by political parties for party-building purposes. Now largely illegal except for limited contributions to state or local parties for voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts

  26. independent expenditures- Supreme Court has ruled that individuals, groups, and parties can spend unlimited amounts in campaigns for or against candidates as long they operate independently from the candidates. When an individual, group or party does, they are making an independent expenditure

  27. issue advocacy- unlimited and undisclosed spending by an individual or group on communications that do not use the words like “ vote for” or “vote against,” although much of this activity is actually about electing or defending candidates

  28. 527 organizations- political group organized under section 527 of the IRS code that may accept and spend unlimited amounts of money on election activities so long as they are not spent on broadcast ads that run in the last 30 days before a primary or 60 days before a general election in which a clearly identified candidate is referred to and a relevant electorate is targeted

Chapter 8 Vocabulary


  1. winner-take-all system- an election system in which the candidate with the most votes wins

  2. single-member district- an electoral district in which voters choose one representative or official

  3. proportional representation- an election system in which each party running receives the proportion of legislative seats corresponding to its proportion of the vote

  4. electoral college-the electoral system used in electing the president and vice president, in which voters vote for electors pledged to cast their ballots for a particular party's candidates

  5. safe seat- an elected office that is predictably won by one party or the other, so the success of that party's candidate is almost taken for granted

  6. coattail effect- the boost that candidates may get in an election because of the popularity of candidates above them on the ballot, especially the president

  7. candidate appeal- the tendency in elections to focus on the personal attributes of a candidate, such as his or her strengths, weaknesses, background, experience, and visibility

  8. national tide- the inclination to focus on national issues, rather than local issues, in an election campaign. The impact of a national tide can be reduced by the nature of the candidates on the ballot who may have differentiated themselves from their party or its leader if the tide is negative, as well as competition in the election

  9. name recognition- incumbents have an advantage over challengers in election campaigns because voters are more familiar with them, and incumbents are more recognizable

  10. caucus- a meeting of local party members to choose party officials or candidates for public office and to decide the platform

  11. national party convention- a national meeting of delegates elected in primaries, caucuses, or state conventions who assemble once every 4 years to nominate candidates for president and vice president, ratify the party platform, elect officers, and adopt rules

  12. Federal Election Campaign Act (FECA) (1971)- limits amounts that candidates for federal office can spend on advertising, requires disclosure of the sources of campaign funds and how they are spent, and requires political action committees to register with the government and report all major contributions and expenditures

  13. Federal Election Commission (FEC)- a commission created by the 1974 amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act to administer election reform laws. It consists of 6 commissioners appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate. Its duties include overseeing disclosure of campaign finance information, public funding of presidential elections, and enforcing contribution limits

  14. Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) (2002)-Largely banned soft money, restored a long-standing prohibition on corporations and labor unions for using general treasury funds for electoral purposes, and narrowed the definition of issue advocacy

  15. soft money-money raised in unlimited amounts by political parties for party-building purposes. now largely illegal except for limited contributions to state or local parties for voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts

  16. hard money- political contributions given to a party, candidate, or interest group that are limited in amount and fully disclosed. Raising such limited funds is harder than raising unlimited funds, hence the term "hard money"

  17. issue advocacy- promoting a particular position or an issue paid for by interest groups or individuals but not by candidates. much issue advocacy is often electioneering for or against a candidate, avoiding words like "vote for," and until 2004 had not been subject to any regulation

  18. independent expenditures-money spent by individuals or groups not associated with candidates to elect or defeat candidates for office

Chapter 10 Vocabulary

  1. constituents- residents of a congressional district or state

  2. reapportionment- assigning by Congress of congressional seats after each census

  3. redistricting- redrawing of congressional and other legislative district lines following the census to accommodate pop. shifts and keep districts as equal as possible in pop.

  4. gerrymandering- drawing of legislative district boundaries to benefit a party, group or incumbent. Two types- cracking- party splits strong minority party. packing- party packs groups of parties into one strong district

  5. safe seat- elected office that is predictably won by one party or the other

  6. incumbent- current holder of an elected office

  7. earmarks- special spending projects that are set aside on behalf of individual members of Congress for their constituents

  8. bicameralism- principle of a two-house legislature

  9. enumerated powers- powers explicitly given to Congress in the Const

  10. Speaker- presiding officer in the HoR, formally elected by the House but selected by the majority party

  11. party caucus- meeting of the members of a party in a legislative chamber to select party leaders and to develop party policy

  12. majority leader- legislative leader selected by the majority party who helps plan party strategy, confers with other party leaders, and keeps members in line

  13. minority leader- legislative leader selected by the minority party as the spokesperson for the opposition

  14. whip- party leader who is the liaison b/w the leadership and the rank-and-file in the leg.

  15. closed rule- procedural rule in the HoR that prohibits any amend to bills or provides that only members of the committee reporting the bill may offer amend

  16. open rule- procedural rule in the HoR that permits floor amends within the overall time allocated to the bill

  17. president pro tempore- officer of the Senate selected by the majority party to act as chair in the absence of the VP

  18. filibuster- procedural practice in the Senate whereby a Senator refuses to relinquish the floor and thereby delays proceedings and prevents a vote on a controversial issue

  19. cloture- procedure for terminating debate, esp filibusters, in the Senate

  20. standing committee- permanent committee est in a legislature, usually focusing on a policy area

  21. special or select committee- congressional committee created for a specific purpose, sometimes to conduct an investigation

  22. joint committee- committee composed of members of both the HoR and the Senate

  23. seniority rule- leg. practice that assigns the chair of a committee or subcommittee to the member of the majority party with the longest continuous service on the committee

  24. conference committee- committee appointed by the presiding officers of each chamber to adjust differences on a particular bill passed by each in different form

  25. discharge petition- petition that, if signed by a majority of the member of the HoR, will pry a bill from committee and bring it to the floor for consideration

  26. rider- provision attached to a bill- to which it may or may not be related- in order to secure its passage or defeat

  27. pocket veto- veto exercised by the Pres after Congress has adjourned; if the pres takes no action for ten days the bill does not become a law and is not returned to Congress for possible override

  28. override- action taken by Congress to reverse a Pres veto, req ⅔ majority in each chamber

  29. delegate- official who is expected to represent the views of his or her constituents even when personally holding different views

  30. trustee- official who is expected to vote independently based on his or her judgement on the circumstances

  31. logrolling- mutual aid and vote trading among legislators

  32. attentive public- citizens who follow public affairs closely

  33. polarization- the extent to which liberals and conservatives occupy the more extreme positions on the liberal-conservative ideological spectrum

Chapter 11 Vocabulary

  1. parliamentary government- a form of gov in which the chief exe is the leader of the majority party in legislation

  2. Electoral College- electoral system used in electing the pres and VP, in which voters vote for electors pledged to cast their ballots for a particular party’s candidates

  3. presidential ticket- joint listing of the presidential and VP candidates on the same ballot as req by the 12th Amend

  4. vesting clause- the pres’s const authority to control mot exe functions

  5. treaty- formal, public agreement b/w the US and one or more nations that must be approved by ⅔ of the senate

  6. executive agreement- formal agreement b/w the US pres and the leaders of other nations that does not req senate approval

  7. congressional-executive agreement- formal agreement b/w the US pres and the leaders of other nations that reqs approval by both houses of congress

  8. recess appointment- presidential appointment made w/o senate confirmation during senate recess

  9. formal decision to reject a bill passed by congress

  10. pocket veto- formal decision to reject a bill passed by congress after it adjourns - if congress adjourns during the ten days that the pres is allowed to sign or veto a law, the pres can reject the law by taking no action at all

  11. take care clause- const req that pres take care that the laws are faithfully exe, even if they disagree with the purpose of those laws

  12. inherent powers- powers that grow out of the very existence of gov

  13. State of the Union Address- pres’s annual statement to congress and the nation

  14. signing statements- formal document that explains why a pres is signing a particular bill into a law. These statements may contain objections to the bill and promises not to implement key sections

  15. impeachment- formal accusation against the pres or another public official; the first step in removal from office

  16. War Power Resolution- resolution passed in 1973 req the pres to give advance warning of a military attack or ask congress for a declaration of war or specific legislation

  17. executive privilege- right to keep exe comms confidential, esp if they relate to nat’l security

  18. executive orders- formal orders to gov or an agency or agencies as a whole that carry the force of law issued by the pres to direct action by the fed bureaucracy

  19. executive memorandum- less powerful formal order to an agency or agencies that does not carry the force of law, to undertake a particular course of action

  20. impoundment- decision by the pres not to spend money appropriated by congress

  21. line item veto- pres power to remove specific items form a spending bill w/o vetoing the entire package, now unconstitutional

  22. chief of staff- head of the WH staff

  23. Executive Office of the Pres (EOP)- cluster of pres staff agencies that help the pres carry out his responsibilities

  24. Office of Management and Budget (OMB)- pres staff agency that serves as a clearinghouse for budgetary requests and mgmt improvements for gov agencies

  25. presidential support score- percentage of times a pres wins on key votes in congress

  26. mandate- pres’s claim of broad public support

  27. political capital- amount of overall public approval that a pres can use to win support for major decisions and proposals

  28. rally point- rise in public approval for the pres that follows a crisis as Americans “rally around the flag”and the chief exe

Chapter 12 Vocabulary

  1. bureaucracy- form of organization that operates through impersonal, uniform regulations

  2. bureaucrat- negative term for describing a career gov employee

  3. department- usually the largest organization in gov with the largest mission; also the highest rank in the fed hierarchy

  4. independent stand-alone agency- gov agency that operates outside a traditional gov dept, but under the pres’s direct control

  5. independent regulatory commission- gov agency or commission with regulatory power whose independence is protected by congress

  6. government corporation- gov agency that is designed like a business corporation and is created to secure greater freedom of action and flexibility for a particular program

  7. Senior Executive Service- est by congress in 1978 as a flexible, mobile corps of senior career executives who work closely with pre appointees to manage gov

  8. civil service- fed employees who work for gov through a competitive non political selection process

  9. spoils system- a system of public employment based on rewarding party loyalists and friends

  10. patronage- process of awarding favors to the party in power

  11. merit system- system of public employment in which selection and promotion depend on demonstrated performance rather than political patronage

  12. Office Personnel Management (OPM)- agency that administers civil service laws

  13. Merit Systems Protection Board- independent agency that oversees and protects merit in the fed gov personnel system

  14. Hatch Act- fed statute barring federal employees from active participation in certain kinds of politics and protecting them from being fired on partisan grounds

  15. implementation- process of putting a law into practice through bureaucracies regulations or spending

  16. administrative discretion- authority given by congress to the fed bureaucracy to use reasonable judgement in implementing the laws

  17. regulation- precise statement of how a law is implemented

  18. rule-making process- detailed process for drafting a regulation

  19. Federal Register- official record of what the fed bureaucracy does

  20. uncontrollable spending- portion of the fed budget that is spent on previously enacted programs that the pres and congress are unwilling to cut

  21. entitlement program- program such as unemployment insurance, disaster relief, or disability payments that provides benefits to all eligible citizens

  22. Federal Reserve Board- variation of an independent regulatory agency with a chairman and board that controls the supply of money that flows through the US economy

  23. oversight- legislative or exe review of a particular gov program or organization that can be in response to a crisis of some kind or part of routine review

  24. central clearance- review of all exe branch testimony, reports, and draft legislation by the OMB to ensure that each comms to congress is in accordance with the pres’s program

  25. public policy- specific course of action that gov takes to address a problem

  26. politics- interaction of the people and their gov, including citizens, interest groups, political parties, and the institutions of gov at all levels

  27. policy makers- individuals and groups that make the actual choices to create a public policy

  28. distributive policy- public policy such as SS that provides benefits to all groups in society

  29. redistributive policy- policy that provides to one group of society while taking away benefits from another through policy solutions such as tax increases to pay for job training

  30. zero-sum games- policy that takes away benefits or money from one group and give to another

  31. reverse distributive policy- policy that reduces benefits for all groups, often by imposing regulations or taxes that govern everyone

  32. nondecision- decision not to move ahead with the policy process

  33. policy agenda- list of issues that the fed gov pays attention to

  34. think tank- nongov organization that seeks to influence public policy through research and edu

  35. issue-attention cycle- mvmt of public opinion toward public policy from initial enthusiasm for action to realization of costs and a decline in interest

  36. incremental policy- small adjustments to existing public policies

  37. punctuating policy- radical changes to public policy that occur only after the mobilization of large segments of society to demand action

  38. iron triangle- policy-making instrument composed of a tightly related alliance of a congressional committee, interest groups, and a fed dept or agency

  39. issue network- policy-making instrument composed of loosely related interest groups, congressional committee, pres aides, and other parties