Past Questions: Political Parties

Some answered, some not. This is a compilation of all the past paper questions (that were accessible at the time - there may be more now). Good source for practice questions without having to wade through the Edexcel website (which isn't very good...).

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Political Parties
ShortAnswer Questions (15)
How important have third parties been in recent presidential elections?
At first glance, it may appear that third parties in the USA barely exist, let alone have an
important effect on the outcome of presidential elections.
There is a wealth of evidence to support the view that third parties are essentially
unimportant in presidential elections. Historically, third parties certainly are not directly
important in deciding the overall outcome ­ a third party candidate hasn't won a
presidential election for over 150 years. Furthermore, third parties can be seen as
unimportant for their failure to gather a significant proportion of the popular vote. The two
major parties have gathered more than 80% of the popular vote in every election since
1968, and more than 95% of the popular vote on all but 4 occasions. Most recently, in the
2008 presidential election all third party and independent candidates combined accounted
for less than 1% of the popular vote.
Unimportant (True dat...)
o Very little media coverage ­ excluded from televised debates, not deemed
newsworthy enough for other media coverage
Important (However...)
o Perot (1992 and 1996) took significant portions of the vote (19% and 9%)
and had both parties take up his flagship policy (federal budget deficit ­
was in surplus by 2000)
o Don't need to take huge numbers of votes ­ Nader gave presidency to
Bush on just 2.7%
o Ditto Perot (1992, 19%) and Wallace (1968, 13.5%)
Conclusion (Turns out...)
o While they tend to secure few votes and hold little power of their own, third
parties can have a significant effect on both who is elected and what they
stand for ­ as Ross Perot showed with the adoption of his flagship policy
by both major parties after his successes. If it were not for their exclusion
from most televised debates and other media and the difficulty in getting a
place on ballot papers in the first place, third parties could be hugely
influential in the USA. As it is, third parties have had an important, but not
vital, influence on recent presidential elections.
How influential is the left within the Democratic Party?
o Traditionally the party of the `left'
o Party activists tend to be quite leftwing
o Tend to gain the vote of leftwing voter groups (e.g. unionised workers)
o May have influence in private
Not so influential
o All parties dragged to the centre
o All American parties would be considered quite rightwing by European

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Ralph Nader ­ accused of losing the Democrats the election but claimed that
there is no party that represents the left
o Despite left's influence in private, in public policies are forced to be fairly
centrist ­ e.g. Obama's healthcare almost carboncopy of one of the
Republican alternatives to Clinton's healthcare reform bill
Explain the factors that limit the electoral impact of minor parties
There are several reasons why minor or third parties in the USA tend to not have much
electoral impact.…read more

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­ in essence, adopting the minor candidate's policies in order to lower his
support. Ralph Nader gained large proportions of the vote in 1992 and 1996, but his major
policy (the federal budget deficit) was then addressed and was in fact in surplus by 2000
­ rendering his key policy largely meaningless. However, while this means that minor
candidates cannot win elections, they can still have influence in other areas, so it would
be wrong to completely write them off.…read more

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Always fail and why
Since 1853, every President has been either Republican or Democrat
o Winnertakesall (WTA)
o Last 10 elections (1972 onwards) every EC vote has gone to Republican
or Democrat candidates (excluding rogue electors)
o Since 1968, never have all the third parties combined gained more than
20% of the popular vote
o Only 4 times since then have they got more than 5%
o 2008: less than 1% of the vote went to all the third parties combined
Stricter rules for…read more

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Plenty of contrast ­ e.g. can be socially conservative and fiscally liberal, or vice
versa (Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum)
George Bush Jr. ­ compassionate conservative: fiscally conservative, with a fair
amount of social conservatism and yet a little moderatism (e.g.…read more

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The theory of "party decline" is increasingly out of date.' Discuss
'The ideological differences between the Democratic and Republican parties are
far greater than the differences within them.…read more


Old Sir

This is a very good example of one way of organising 'end-point' revision notes. i.e. Notes that address specific issues that might arise in the exam and mould them into what is essentially a plan for dealing with questions about those issues. Well-organised students should aim to be producing these sorts of notes in the final approach to the exams.

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