Political Science Key Terms

absolute majority

50% and plus 1 of eligible citizens


a single person has the power to authoritatively allocate values


power is shared among citizens

direct democracy

citizens are principal political decision makers

economic equality

individual should receive the same amount of material goods regardless of his or her contribution to society


organized influential minorities checked neither by one another nor by the general populace dominated the political process

equality of opportunity

right of every individual to develop his or her abilities to the fullest extent

equality under the law

law is applied impartially without regard to the identity or status of the individual involved

false consensus

the tendency of people to believe their views are normal or common sense and therefore shared shared by most people


a consistent set of values, attitudes, and beliefs about the appropriate role of government in society


an election where ordinary citizens circulate a petition to put a proposed law on the ballot for voter to approve

liberal democracy

representative government because of their concern for individual liberty

minority rights

a group numerically inferior to the majority and they retain the full rights of democratic citizenship


power vested in a small group of people


a psychological attachment to a political party


power is fragmented and distributed widely among diverse groups and interests


Obtaining the largest percentage of a vote when no one has a majority

political equality

individual preferences are given equal weight

political science

is the academic discipline dedicated to the study of politics and it is the job of political scientists to explain the how and why of the authoritative allocation of values


who gets what, when and how ...authoritative allocation of values

popular sovereignty

sovereignty belongs to all citizens


an election in which state legislator refers a proposed law to the voters for their approval

representative democracy

a system of government where ordinary citizens do not make governmental decisions themselves but choose public officials

simple majority

50% plus 1 of those who vote

social equality

idea that people should be free of class or social barriers or discrimination


legitimate authority to wield this coercive power to authoritatively allocate values


is the satisfaction or enjoyment derived from each different preferences (explains the rational choice model of politics)

ad hoc federalism

the process of adopting a state or nation centered view of federalism on the basis of political convenience

block grants

A type of federal that provides funds for a general policy area but offers states and local governments discretion in designing the specific programs

categorical grants

A type of federal grant that provides money for a specific policy activity and details how the programs are to be carried out

concurrent powers

powers listed in the Constitution as belonging to both the national and state governments


central government receives no direct grant of of power from the people and can exercise only the power granted to it by the regional government

cooperative federalism

idea that the distinction between states and national responsibilities is unclear and that the different levels of government share responsibilities in many areas

crossover sanction

conditions placed on grant money which have nothing to do with the original purpose of the grant


returning of policy power and responsibility to the states from the national government

dual federalism

idea that national and state governments are sovereign with separate and distinct jurisdiction

enabling act

a resolution passed by Congress authorizing resident a territory to draft a state constitution as part of the process of adding new states to the Union


political system in which regional governments share power with a central or national government but each level of government has legal powers that are independent of the other. The division of power between national and state governments attempts to balance power by giving each independent sources of authority and allowing one level of government to serve as a check on the other

full faith and credit

first words of Article IV, Section 1 of the Constitution, which requires states to respect the "public acts, records, and judicial proceedings" of all the other states.

general revenue sharing

federal aid to the states without any conditions on how the money is to be spent

grants in aid

a form of national subsidy to the states designed to help them pay for policies and programs that are the responsibility of states rather than the national government

interstate rendition

obligation of states to return people accused of a crime to the state from which they fled

McCulloch v. Maryland

considered Marshall's most important interpretation of the Constitution, because it dealt with the division of power between the federal government and the states. Maryland, to protect local banks, place an annual tax on the U.S. bank and other foreign banks. The Maryland bank sued when the U.S. bank refused to pay. Marshall upheld the constitutionality of the Bank of the U.S. Said that the Bank's legality was implied in many of the powers specifically granted to Congress. Maryland's tax was unconstitutional. This was significant because it strengthened federal authority and the implied powers of Congress. - Loose Constructionist.

new federalism

a movement to take power away from the federal governments and return it to the states


the idea that states had the right to nullify or void any law they deemed unconstitutional

police power

the authority of states to pass laws for the health safety and moral of their citizens


Congress expressly giving national laws precedence over states and local laws

supreme law of the land

laws of the U.S. ; the constitution stands above all other forms of law in the U.S.

unfunded mandates

federal mandates for which the federal government does not pay any associated costs

unitary system

a political system in which the power is concentrated in the national government and the regional governments can exercise only those powers granted them by central government

absolutist approach

The view of the First Amendment that states that the Founders wanted it to be interpreted literally so that Congress should make "no laws" about the expression of views.

bad tendency rule

an approach to determining if an action should be protected under the 1st amendment which considers if the action would have a tendency to produce a negative consequence

balancing test

the view of freedom of expression that states the obligations to protect rights must be balanced with the impact on society of the action question

Barron v. Baltimore

SC case that explicitly confirmed that the Bill of Rights applied only to the national government

Brandenburg v. Ohio

upheld a KKK members right to controversial speech which supported lawbreaking in the abstract because it contained no incitement to commit an imminent or specific crime establishing the imminent lawless action test

civil liberties

freedoms enjoyed by individuals are free to make with little or no interference from governmental authority

clear and present danger

an approach to determining if an action should be protected under the first amendment that considers whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent

District of Columbia v. Heller

S.C struck down Washington DC ban on possession of handguns and for the first time held that the 2nd amendment protects an individuals right to possess a firearm for lawful purposes such as self defense

establishment clause

the first guarantee passed by the SC about the 1st amendment that government cannot establish a religion which means that public authorities cannot show preference for one set of religious beliefs over others

exclusionary rule

the rule that evidence, no matter how incriminating, cannot be introduced into a trial if it was not constitutionally obtained. The rule prohibits use of evidence obtained through unreasonable search and seizure.

Everson v. Board of Education

establishment clause and public education......case originated in New Jersey where state laws authorized local schools boards to reimburse parents for costs incurring in transporting their children to parochial schools... SC articulated the principle of separation of church and state meaning neither federal nor state governments could pass any law supporting one religion o over another.

free of exercise of religion

individuals are free to choose religious beliefs and practice them as they see fit or not to practice any religion at all (the second guarantee by SC of the 1st amendment)

Gideon v. Wainwright

a landmark case in United States Supreme Court history. In the case, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled that state courts are required under the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution to provide counsel in criminal cases for defendants unable to afford their own attorneys.

good faith exception

exception to supremes exclusionary rule-holding that evidence seized on the basis of mistakenly issued search warrant can be introduced at trial if the mistake was made in good faith-meaning if all the parties involved had good reason at the time to believe the warrant was proper

Griswold v. Connecticut

SC overthrew a Connecticut law that effectively prohibited the use of contraceptives, holding that the law violated the right to privacy

imminent lawless action test

as decided in Brandenburg v. Ohio speech is protected if it contains no incitement to commit an imminent or specif crime this test replaced the old clear and present danger test and protects a broader range of speech

incorporation doctrine

the notion that the Bill of Rights applies to state governments as well as federal through the due process clause of the 14th amendment

inevitable discovery exception

An exception to the Exclusionary Rule, illegal evidence can be used in court if the evidence would have eventually been found.

Lawrence v. Texas

2003 case ruling that the government had no right to regulate or control consensual personal relationships . This case overruled Bowers v. Hardwick which allowed states to make engaging in homosexual sex a crime


false and defamatory printed (or written) statement

Mapp v. Ohio

Case that extended the exclusionary rule to state trials

Miranda v. Arizona

Supreme Court held that criminal suspects must be informed of their right to consult with an attorney and of their right against self-incrimination prior to questioning by police.

preferred freedoms doctrine

the idea that the rights provide in the 1st amendment are fundamental and as such the courts have a greater obligation to protect those right than others

right to privacy

1st, 3rd 4th, 5th,9th amendment

Roe v. Wade

established national abortion guidelines; trimester guidelines; no state interference in 1st; state may regulate to protect health of mother in 2nd; state may regulate to protect health or unborn child in 3rd. inferred from right of privacy established in griswald v. connecticut

Schneck v. United States

during wartime, man mailed circulars to draftees. Charged w/ conspiracy, NOT protected under first amendment - in wartime.


spoken defamation

Texas v. Johnson

fundamental freedoms doctrine: allowed to burn American flag, freedom of speech protects rights of minority dissidents

Weeks v. United States

Case dealing with the rights of the accused. Reversed conviction and came forth with the exclusionary rule which says that evidence obtained by the federal government through an unreasonable search and seizure cannot be used in a federal court

affirmative action

a policy designed to redress past discrimination against women and minority groups through measures to improve their economic and educational opportunities

Americans with Disabilities Act

Passed by Congress in 1991, this act banned discrimination against the disabled in employment and mandated easy access to all public and commerical buildings.

Brown v. Board of Education

court found that segregation was a violation of the Equal Protection clause; "separate but equal" has no place; reverse decision of Plessy v Feurgeson

civil disobedience

a form of political participation that reflects a conscious decision to break a law believed to be immoral and to suffer the consequences.

Civil Rights Act of 1964

This act made racial, religious, and sex discrimination by employers illegal and gave the government the power to enforce all laws governing civil rights, including desegregation of schools and public places.

de facto discrimination

discrimination that is the result not of law but rather of tradition and habit

de jure discrimination

racial segregation that is a direct result of law or official policy

grandfather clause

A clause in registration laws allowing people who do not meet registration requirements to vote if they or their ancestors had voted before 1867.

Jim Crow laws

The "separate but equal" segregation laws state and local laws enacted in the Southern and border states of the United States and enforced between 1876 and 1965

literacy tests

Method used to deny African-Americans the vote in the South that tested a person's ability to read and write - they were done very unfairly so even though most African-Americans could read and write by the 1950's they still failed.

passive resistance

opposition to a government or to specific governmental laws by the use of non-cooperation and other nonviolent methods, as economic boycotts and protest marches, resisting the law in a nonviolent way, nonviolent resistance in order to make something change

Plessy v. Ferguson

as a landmark United States Supreme Court decision in the jurisprudence of the United States, upholding the constitutionality of racial segregation even in public accommodations (particularly railroads), under the doctrine of "separate but equal".

poll taxes

Small taxes levied on the right to vote that often fell due at a time of year when poor African-American sharecroppers had the least cash on hand. This method was used by most Southern states to exclude African Americans from voting. Poll taxes were declared void by the Twenty-fourth Amendment in 1964.

separate but equal

Principle upheld in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) in which the Supreme Court ruled that segregation of public facilities was legal.


a legal right guaranteed by the 15th amendment to the US constitution

Voting Rights Act of 1965

1965; invalidated the use of any test or device to deny the vote and authorized federal examiners to register voters in states that had disenfranchised blacks; as more blacks became politically active and elected black representatives, jobs, contracts, and facilities and services for the black community, encouraging greater social equality and decreasing the wealth and education gap