One of the most critical skills students will need on the AP® United States Government Exam is data literacy. Not only will there always be a quantitative question on the exam, but the ability to swiftly process data is essential when trying to discern meaning in complex news stories and public policy debates. When students are provided data, given time to critically analyze, conduct their own research, and develop and showcase their own presentations to authentic audiences, student engagement and interest will tick up.


The attached project provides student choice in analyzing exit polls for the 1972–2020 presidential elections. Students are given the flexibility to pick a demographic group, analyze the data, create hypotheses, and evaluate them against the academic literature. One of the important steps in this project is that I provided little direction for how students should organize their data. Students will come up with an array of strategies to showcase data and this is one of those important lessons of this project—how the data is organized and how it can be interpreted by the viewer is just as important as the data itself.


Another important aspect of this assignment is the academic literature research. Many of my students have not been exposed to research articles and this assignment provides them with an opportunity to read from political scientists and experts, and connect this to their work. It may be helpful to teach into how academic papers work, the purpose of an abstract, and the significance of methodology in academic research. In addition, students may need further guidance on how to use Google Scholar or JSTOR, if your school provides them. These are critical tools that will not only allow students to discover new information, but give them a new skillset they will most definitely utilize in their undergraduate careers.


This student-centered project gives students intellectual ownership, creative license, and allows students to grapple with the changing demographic voting preferences in the United States. Finally, and most importantly, it will help students develop a greater appreciation for the preferences of our complex and often messy electorate.




Pat Sprinkle is a 13th year history teacher at the NYC Lab School for Collaborative Studies, teaching AP® U.S. History and AP® U.S. Politics and Government. Pat is a graduate of The Ohio State University and Columbia University. Pat has served as a member of the Teacher Advisory Council for the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, National Humanities Center, and the National Constitution Center. In addition, Pat was a 2013 James Madison Fellow along with a 2021 C-SPAN Fellow. Pat lives in Jersey City, NJ with his wife, son (Franklin), and dog (Lyndon).