US Presidential Elections: one year to go

06-Oct-2011

On Tuesday November 6 2012, the United States will hold their next presidential election, and the current polls in America are showing a rising level of discontent with the current president, Barack Obama.

It is arguable that Obama’s election was unique in America’s history. Not only is he their first African-American president, he also inherited a rather unfortunate backlog of political problems, including two wars, rising unemployment, a flailing worldwide market, as well as a fat-cat American banking crisis that saw the rich getting richer and everyone else getting angry.

In February 2009, after just four months in office, 62% of Americans polled approved of the way Obama was handling his presidential office, while only 15% disapproved. In September 2011, two and a half years later, an interesting transformation has occurred: his disapproval rating has shot up to 50%, while his approval rating has slumped to 43%. This suggests that after two years of worldwide economic turmoil and unfulfilled political promises, the immediate post-election haze of hope and enthusiasm has wilted into a disappointing reality.

Certain happenings have boosted the president’s popularity over the course of his office. For example, his approval rating rose by over 11% to 57% the month Osama bin Laden was killed. With just over a year to go until the United States chooses their next president, it is interesting to consider whether this kind of heightened response to occurrences such as Bin Laden’s death will have a long-standing impact on Obama’s popularity, and his chances at re-election. Will voters bear this in mind when voting twelve months down the line, or is it just a fleeting celebration that will be overshadowed by Obama’s apparent failings in the economy and the jobs market?

The US presidential elections provide prime opportunity to get your students communicating in English. You could use a transcript of his victory speech to test students’ vocabulary and grammatical structures, or use a recording to test their listening skills, as in Rosie McAndrew’s lesson plan ‘Obama’s victory speech’ available on onestopenglish.com. For a more productive task, ask students to write their own victory speech, pretending they have been elected president of their school or workplace. They can then perform these for the rest of the class if they’re feeling brave enough, or you can simply mark the written exercise for accuracy.

To make this more of a running theme in your classes (perhaps with older or more advanced students), you could ask your students to start keeping up with the elections via the American press. Not only is this great practice for their English, helping them absorb written and spoken English by reading American newspapers and watching American news shows online, it also perfectly coincides with the academic year. May, June and July will be very exciting months in the United States, and will make for plenty of engaging lesson ideas.

(All figures sourced from the New York Times)

Becca


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