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CNN Student News Learning Activity: Predict Electoral College Votes

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(CNN Student News) -- Students will make educated predictions about how many electoral votes each presidential candidate will capture in the 2008 U.S. presidential election.


Have students review the origin, purpose and function of the Electoral College. Ask students: What is the "winner take all" system? Are there any states that do not follow this system? If so, how do they determine their electoral vote allocation? How many electoral votes are needed to win the presidency?

Next, divide students into small groups and assign each group a current swing state in the 2008 presidential race. Consult the CNN Electoral Map Calculator for a list of swing states. Then, refer groups to online resources, including CNN's Election Center 2008 on the CNN Politics site, to identify the following for their assigned swing state:

  1. the number of electoral votes that are up for grabs
  2. the state's key political issues
  3. the U.S. presidential candidates' stances on these key issues
  4. the state's demographic composition
  5. the state's voting record in past presidential elections

After students complete their research, have each group analyze its data to determine which candidate it thinks will likely capture the swing state's electoral votes. Have each group present its prediction and the rationale behind it.

Following the presentations, direct students to the CNN Electoral Map Calculator to log their predictions for all the U.S. states and calculate how many electoral votes they predict each presidential candidate will capture. Instruct students to create a chart and log their predictions for each U.S. state. After the election, compare students' predictions to the actual electoral vote outcome. Wrap up the activity by discussing the role of the Electoral College in determining the outcome of a U.S. presidential election.

Correlated Standards


9-12 Content Standards

II. What are the Foundations of the American Political System?

A. What is the American idea of constitutional government?

B. What are the distinctive characteristics of American society?

C. What is American political culture?

D. What values and principles are basic to American constitutional democracy?

III. How Does the Government Established by the Constitution Embody the Purposes, Values, and Principles of American Democracy?

A. How are power and responsibility distributed, shared, and limited in the government established by the United States Constitution?

B. How is the national government organized and what does it do?

V. What are the Roles of the Citizen in American Democracy?

A. What is citizenship?

B. What are the rights of citizens?

C. What are the responsibilities of citizens?

D. What civic dispositions or traits of private and public character are important to the preservation and improvement of American constitutional democracy?

E. How can citizens take part in civic life?

The National Standards for Civics and Government ( are published by the Center for Civic Education (

Social Studies

Standard X. Civic Ideals and Practices

Social studies programs should include experiences that provide for the study of the ideals, principles, and practices of citizenship in a democratic republic.

The Curriculum Standards for Social Studies ( are published by the National Council for Social Studies (


U.S. presidential election, candidates, popular vote, Electoral College, campaigning

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