Author: Emily Farris, Texas Christian University
In my Introduction to American Politics classes, I use weekly short assignments to help students stay on top of the reading and digest the material. Often that comes in the format of a multiple choice quiz about the reading, but occasionally I like to ask students to apply their knowledge to something relevant. (I’d like to do this more, but it is more time consuming both for students and for me to grade, just keeping it honest).
This week, my students are learning about public opinion and media. I’ve assigned this MonkeyCage piece ( with Dr. Heather Silber Mohamed, which discusses our research on the ways the media depicts immigrants and immigration in images. The news media usually show immigrants as dangerous criminals. That’s changed — for now, at least) with Dr. Heather Silber Mohamed, which discusses our research on the ways the media depicts immigrants and immigration in images. There’s a lot of misconception about immigration nowadays, so I want to cover it in my introductory course, but don’t have time to devote an entire lesson to it. This is one way I “sneak” policy topics into my Introduction to American Politics class. You could do this assignment with another topic as well, such as environment, abortion, or gun control. To help students better understand some of public opinion and the media, I’ve designed the following assignment.
- First, I’m asking students to look at the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research iPoll database. (My university has a subscription to iPoll, but you could do something similar with Gallup or Pew, if you wanted). Students are directed to look at Immigration, under Topics at a Glance. I ask them to explore some of the immigration questions and then describe two questions to me (going over the question/answers, results, and how it was conducted). I then ask students to use something they learned from the textbook regarding public opinion/surveys to help understand what these results tell us about public opinion on immigration.
- Second, I’m asking students to use Google News or some major newspaper to find a recent story covering immigration that includes a picture of immigrants. I ask students to describe the picture of immigrants and connect it to my article and the ways in which the media covers topics and the influence it has on politics.
These assignments could also easily be adapted for in class.