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Glossary

  • Page ID
    204116
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    Example and Directions Words (or words that have the same definition) The definition is case sensitive (Optional) Image to display with the definition [Not displayed in Glossary, only in pop-up on pages] (Optional) Caption for Image (Optional) External or Internal Link (Optional) Source for Definition (Eg. "Genetic, Hereditary, DNA ...") (Eg. "Relating to genes or heredity") The infamous double helix https://bio.libretexts.org/ CC-BY-SA; Delmar Larsen Glossary Entries Word(s) Definition Image Caption Link Source affirmative action Preferential treatment of members of underrepresented groups in employment, college admissions, and other situations as compensation for past discrimination.         agenda setting The power of news media to influence what the public considers important by covering or not covering it. agent: Someone who is asked by someone else to do something.         amicus curiae A brief filed by an individual or group not directly involved in a court case in order to influence the court’s ruling.         Anti-Federalists Opponents of the Constitution during the time when states were debating its ratification.         appellate court A court ranking below the Supreme Court in the federal judiciary.         Articles of Confederation The first constitution of the United States, which loosely united the 13 states under a weak central government from 1781 to 1789. attitude: An orientation or predisposition toward an object.         bicameral Consisting of two chambers. Bill of Rights: The first ten amendments to the Constitution.         block grant An amount of money issued to a state by Congress with fewer restrictions than a categorical grant.         bureaucracy A formal, hierarchical organization for delegating tasks and duties.         Cabinet A group of advisers to the president, consisting of the vice president and the secretaries of the 15 Cabinet departments.         casework Services rendered to individual constituents by members of Congress and their staffs.         categorical grant An amount of money issued to a state by Congress to spend for a specific purpose and according to specific guidelines.         caucus A type of primary election in which voters gather at group meetings before voting for a nominee.         checks and balances A system in which each branch of government can limit or block the actions of the other branches.         civil liberty A protection from government overreach that is considered necessary to the functioning of a liberal democracy.         civil right A protection from discrimination or unequal treatment.         civil service A system in which bureaucrats are employed based on merit.         collective action problem The challenge of providing a public good as a group when members would rather free-ride than contribute.         concurrence An opinion written by a Supreme Court justice agreeing with the majority opinion but for additional or different reasons.         concurrent powers Powers that are shared by the national government and the state governments.         confederal system A system of government in which power is concentrated at the subnational level.         conference committee A committee consisting of both House and Senate members, created to reconcile two versions of a bill into one.         conservatism An ideology which generally prioritizes freedom over equality and favors limited government, free markets, and maintenance of traditional social norms.         constitution A set of basic laws that structure a government.         Constitutional Convention The 1787 meeting in Philadelphia where the Constitution was written.         cooperative federalism A system in which national and state governments exercise their powers collaboratively, with states implementing programs designed and administered by the national government.         Declaration of Independence The document which formally declared the United States of America to be independent from Great Britain in 1776.         democracy A form of government in which the people rule, either directly or indirectly through elected representatives.         direct democracy A democracy in which citizens vote directly on government policy.         dissent An opinion written by a Supreme Court justice disagreeing with the majority opinion.         district court A court ranking below the appellate courts in the federal judiciary.         divided government A period when the party which controls the presidency lacks control of the House, the Senate, or both.         division of labor The separate assignment of tasks or sets of related tasks to allow for specialization.         double jeopardy Being tried more than once for the same crime.         dual federalism A system in which national and state governments exercise their powers in separate domains with minimal overlap or interaction.         due process Fair treatment in legal proceedings.         Duverger’s law The tendency of electoral systems based on plurality rule and singlemember districts to produce two-party systems.         Electoral College A set of 538 electors, chosen by the states and the District of Columbia, whose votes determine the winner of the presidential election. enumerated powers: Powers that are granted to the national government in the Constitution.         establishment clause The part of the First Amendment which prevents the government from establishing an official religion or passing laws that favor or disfavor particular religions.         executive agreement An agreement between the president and one or more other countries which functions like a treaty but does not require ratification by the Senate.         Executive Office of the President A set of agencies that advise and act on behalf of the president on various administrative matters.         executive order A presidential decree that has the force of law but does not require congressional approval.         faction A group of people with shared interests that are distinct from the interests of society as a whole.         fairness A requirement that news broadcasters represent opposing political views in their reporting.         Federal Communications Commission The agency charged with regulating radio, television, and Internet communication in the United States.         federal system A system of government in which power is divided roughly evenly between the national and subnational levels.         Federalist Papers A collection of 85 essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay, and James Madison in support of ratifying the Constitution.         Federalists Supporters of the Constitution during the time when states were debating its ratification.         fighting words Speech directed at a target in order to provoke a violent response.         filibuster A tactic for delaying Senate proceedings by extending debate indefinitely.         framing Priming based on how a question or issue is presented.         free exercise clause The part of the First Amendment which prevents the government from interfering with citizens’ religious practices.         free rider A person who benefits from a public good without contributing to it.         full faith and credit clause The clause in Article IV of the Constitution which requires states to respect the laws of other states. general election: An election to determine who will hold an elected office.         gerrymander A district drawn to influence its election outcomes by including certain voters and excluding others.         government A system of institutions, rules, and leaders for making group decisions.         grandfather clause An exemption to literacy tests for those whose ancestors had the right to vote prior to a certain date.         grassroots lobbying A form of lobbying in which an interest group encourages the public to contact and attempt to persuade government officials.         Great Compromise A compromise between large and small states at the Constitutional Convention which resulted in a two-chamber Congress with a proportional House of Representatives and an equal Senate.         Great Society A policy agenda spearheaded by President Lyndon B. Johnson that created Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs to address issues of poverty, education, and racial discrimination.         gridlock The absence of congressional action due to internal disagreement. head of government: The practical role of leading the government of a country.         head of state The symbolic role of fulfilling ceremonial duties on behalf of a country.         heuristic A mental shortcut for making a decision based on limited information.         hierarchy An organizational structure in which each member is superior or inferior to at least one other member.         identity A stable, defining characteristic of a person.         ideology A system of beliefs about how to improve society.         impeachment The charging of a federal officer with treason, bribery, or “high crimes and misdemeanors.”         incitement Speech that advocates (and is likely to provoke) imminent lawless action.         incorporation The process by which the Supreme Court rules that a right mentioned in the Bill of Rights must be respected by the states.         indirect democracy A democracy in which citizens vote for representatives who, in turn, determine government policy.         initiative A policy proposed and voted on directly by citizens.         interest group An organized group seeking to influence public policy which does not nominate its own candidates to run in elections.         iron triangle A mutually beneficial relationship between a congressional committee or subcommittee, a bureaucratic agency, and an interest group.         Jim Crow laws Laws passed after the Civil War to discriminate against blacks and preserve the existing racial order in the South.         judicial activism Ruling based on something other than the strict meaning of a legal text.         judicial review The judiciary’s power to strike down acts of Congress or the president if it deems them unconstitutional.         Lemon test A three-part test of whether a government action violates the establishment clause of the First Amendment.         libel Written falsehoods that damage someone’s reputation.         liberalism An ideology which generally prioritizes equality over freedom and favors government intervention, redistributive programs, and non- maintenance of traditional social norms.         literacy test A requirement to prove one’s ability to read and write in order to vote.         lobbying Attempting to persuade government officials to act in a certain way.         majority rule The principle that a group should take the actions supported by most of its members.         majority opinion The official statement of the Supreme Court’s decision in a case.         margin of error The range around a polling result within which the true value of public opinion is likely to be found.         mass media Modes of communication with the power to quickly reach a large audience.         mobilization The act of encouraging citizens to turn out to vote.         necessary and proper clause The clause in Article I of the Constitution which authorizes Congress to make whatever laws are “necessary and proper” to carry out its duties.         New Deal The set of programs initiated by President Franklin D. Roosevelt which increased the national government’s economic powers in response to the Great Depression.         newsworthy bias Favoritism for stories that will attract and maintain the audience’s attention.         obscenity Offensive depictions of sexual conduct with no redeeming social value.         opinion A measurable manifestation of an attitude.         override To make a vetoed bill law without the president’s signature by a two-thirds vote of both the House and the Senate.         oversight Congressional monitoring of the actions of executive branch officials.         partisan bias Favoritism for (or opposition to) a particular party.         partisanship Stable personal attachment to a party.         party An organized group that seeks to influence public policy by nominating candidates in elections.         party-as-organization The formal administrative structure of a party.         party-in-government The members of a party who hold official government positions.         party-in-the-electorate The average citizens who support or consider themselves members of a party.         Pendleton Act An 1883 law that reformed the national bureaucracy from the spoils system to a civil service by protecting certain bureaucrats from being fired without cause.         persuasion The act of encouraging citizens to vote for a particular candidate, party, or issue position.         pluralism A theory of democracy as a competition among interest groups.         plurality More than anyone else has of something.         polarization Increasing ideological distance between parties.         political action committee An interest group whose sole purpose is to raise money and spend it on political campaigns.         politics The contest over and exercise of power.         poll A process by which people are asked to give their opinions on a topic.         popular sovereignty The principle that people should have a say in how they are governed.         population The set about which a pollster wants to make inferences.         pork National funding for projects in individual states or congressional districts.         power The ability to cause someone to do something he or she would not otherwise do.         precedent A past decision by a judge in a court case.         primary A type of primary election in which voters vote for a nominee similarly to how they would in a general election.         primary election An election to determine the nominee of a party for an elected office.         priming The process by which a particular consideration is made more salient.         principal Someone who asks someone else to do something.         principal-agent problem When a principal asks an agent to do something but the agent’s motivations differ from the principal’s motivations.         prior restraint Censorship of information prior to its publication.         privileges and immunities clause The clause in Article IV of the Constitution which prohibits states from denying basic rights to citizens from other states.         Progressivism A political philosophy which emerged in the United States in the late 1800s and advocated increasing the size and scope of government to improve its capacity to solve problems.         propaganda Information or misinformation disseminated for the purpose of manipulating public opinion.         public good A benefit that can be enjoyed by all group members, regardless of whether they contributed to it.         referendum A policy proposed by a legislature and voted on directly by citizens.         representativeness The degree to which a sample resembles the population from which it is drawn.         reserved powers Powers that are reserved for state governments by the Tenth Amendment of the Constitution.         right A privilege to which a person is entitled.         right to privacy A right against excessive government intrusion into one’s personal life, often invoked in matters related to sexual activity.         runoff A second election held between the top finishers of the first election.         salience The quality of being readily called to mind.         sample The subset of a population which is polled.         segregation The division of groups into separate accommodations on the basis of race or some other criterion.         selective incentive A benefit available only to those who contribute to a group effort.         separation of powers The distribution of legislative, executive, and judicial powers among multiple branches of government.         separate but equal doctrine The belief that racial segregation is constitutional as long as the separate accommodations are equivalent.         single-member district A type of electoral system in which each individual election produces a single winner assigned to a particular area.         slander Spoken falsehoods that damage someone’s reputation.         Speaker of the House The highest-ranking member of the House of Representatives and the leader of the majority party in the House, elected by a vote of all representatives.         spoiler effect The tendency of minor parties to “spoil” elections by making it harder for their preferred major party to win.         spoils system A system in which bureaucrats are employed based on political favoritism.         stare decisis The doctrine that judges should rely on precedent when deciding cases.         statute A specific law passed by a legislature.         suffrage The right to vote.         super PAC A type of political action committee without fundraising limits which cannot coordinate directly with candidates or parties.         supremacy clause The clause in Article VI of the Constitution which establishes that national law supersedes state law.         Supreme Court The highest-ranking federal court in the United States.         Three-Fifths Compromise A compromise between Northern and Southern states at the Constitutional Convention, which resulted in slaves being counted as three-fifths of a person for determining seats in the House of Representatives.         Title IX A 1972 law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational institutions that receive federal aid. turnout: The percentage of people who vote in an election.         two-party system A system in which two parties win most elections and dominate the political process.         unified government A period when the same party controls the House, Senate, and presidency.         unitary system A system of government in which power is concentrated at the national level.         veto To reject a bill passed by both chambers of Congress.         War Powers Act A 1973 law that empowers the president to initiate military actions, provided he informs Congress within 48 hours of their commencement and subject to congressional authorization after 90 days.         whip A member of Congress whose job it is to get fellow party members to vote together.         writ of certiorari A statement issued by a court agreeing to consider a case.        
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