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Tasks: Hot Button Issues and Statistics

Are you able to extract the correct information from charts and statistics? Are you able to present your findings in a clear and concise way? Let's take a look at some hot button issues and find out how you can include statistical information about these issues in a text.

LK20

In an increasingly polarised Unites States, Americans are passionate about many topics, for example health care, inequality, gun control, immigration, and abortion issues. We may call these hot button issues: subjects that are important to people, topics that stir up strong emotions.

These hot button issues are especially important for voters before a presidential election. In connection with the 2020 election, Pew Research Center found that economy, health care, and Supreme Court appointments were at the very top of issues that decided people's votes.

Understanding statistics:

Below, you will find a chart from Pew Research Center (2020) about the top issues for voters in the 2020 election. Study the chart carefully and do the following tasks in pairs or small groups.

  1. Present the information from the chart in your own words.
  2. Study the top three topics on the list. Why do you think these are ranked as the most important ones? You may find it useful to consider various events from 2020 to support your arguments.
  3. Which issues from the list would be the most important to you, and why?
  4. Did any part of the ranking surprise you?
  5. If you were to arrange the twelve points found in the chart from highest to lowest priority, what would your list look like?
  6. Visit the Pew Research Center website and consider whether this is a reliable source. Give reasons for your answer. Link to Pew Research Center website (pewresearch.org)
Top issues for voters in the 2020 US Presidential election

Write:

Step 1: Studying a model text

An important competence aim for English 1 students is to be able to demonstrate understanding, independent reflection, and critical thinking when analysing current issues in English-speaking countries. A step towards this goal can be to practise interpreting and writing about statistics.

  1. Imagine you are asked to present and analyse statistics about the most important issues for American voters before the 2020 election. With your answers from the previous task (understanding statistics) in mind, read the sample text below.
  2. Study how the statistics are presented and analysed in the sample text.
  3. Look for academic sentence starters and linking words. Make a list.
Model text

In 2020, Pew Research Center provided statistics on which issues American voters considered to be most important. The numbers presented provide an overview of what the electorate ranked as 'very important' to them before casting their vote.

Based on the numbers, we can see that the economy was at the top of the chart. Economy was understandably important, since economy can be considered the foundation for every society and is furthermore connected to challenges such as lack of education, poverty, and unemployment. The relationship between economy and other issues may be a reason why nearly eight in ten registered voters (79%) said the economy would be very important to them when making their decision about who to vote for in the 2020 presidential election.

Health-care was ranked as the second most important topic (68%), closely followed by Supreme Court appointments (64%). It seems likely that this issue became prominent because of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the political battle over who was to fill her seat. The US Supreme Court has immense power to shape the American society for years to come.

As the US continued to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak, 62% of the voters said the outbreak would be a very important factor as well. This may also be seen as linked to health-care in general, and perhaps even foreign policies (57%).

The murder of African American George Floyd and the demonstrations against police brutality that followed may explain the results on violent crime (59%), as well as on race and ethnic inequality (52%).

It may also be worth commenting on the fact that only 40% of American voters highlighted abortion as a very important issue. There can be several reasons for this. Perhaps it is regarded as an issue that is not relevant for the average American, or it may simply be that the abovementioned topics are considered to be of greater importance in this particular election.

The issue of climate change was also considered important by fairly few voters (42%), which is surprising. Could an explanation be that fake news has managed to get a grip on the population, and that many Americans may not believe climate change to be real? It is difficult to tell based on these numbers, but what we can conclude is that it was considered less important than various domestic issues.

Consequently, statistics like this can provide useful information to help us understand American society, but it should also be taken into consideration that it shows numbers based on what respondents reported as being 'very important', and not what they consider to be of various degrees of importance. Therefore, it is possible to think that even though the statistics give us useful information, it might not paint the full picture.

  1. What topics and numbers did this analysis highlight?
  2. Find two or three sample sentences you think are especially good sentences in the analysis and explain why you think these are important.
  3. Which academic sentence starters and linking words did you find? Below, you will find the same text with various linking devices and academic phrases in bold. Compare your findings with the suggested key.
  4. Do you consider this to be a good analytical short text? Give reasons for your opinion.


Model text with academic phrases in bold


In 2020, Pew Research Center provided statistics on which issues American voters considered to be most important. The numbers presented provide an overview of what the electorate ranked as 'very important' to them before casting their vote.

Based on the numbers, we can see that the economy was at the top of the chart. Economy was understandably important, since economy can be considered the foundation for every society and is furthermore connected to challenges such as lack of education, poverty, and unemployment. The relationship between economy and other issues may be a reason why nearly eight in ten registered voters (79%) said the economy would be very important to them when making their decision about who to vote for in the 2020 presidential election.

Health-care was ranked as the second most important topic (68%), closely followed by Supreme Court appointments (64%). It seems likely that this issue became prominent because of the death of Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the political battle over who was to fill her seat. The US Supreme Court has immense power to shape the American society for years to come.

As the US continued to grapple with the coronavirus outbreak, 62% of the voters said the outbreak would be a very important factor as well. This may also be seen as linked to health-care in general, and perhaps even foreign policies (57%).

The murder of African American George Floyd and the demonstrations against police brutality that followed may explain the results on violent crime (59%), as well as on race and ethnic inequality (52%).

It may also be worth commenting on the fact that only 40% of American voters highlighted abortion as a very important issue. There can be several reasons for this. Perhaps it is regarded as an issue that is not relevant for the average American, or it may simply be that the abovementioned topics are considered to be of greater importance in this particular election.

The issue of climate change was also considered important by fairly few voters (42%), which is surprising. Could an explanation be that fake news has managed to get a grip on the population, and that many Americans may not believe climate change to be real? It is difficult to tell based on these numbers, but what we can conclude is that it was considered less important than various domestic issues.

Consequently, statistics like this can provide useful information to help us understand American society, but it should also be taken into consideration that it shows numbers based on what respondents reported as being 'very important', and not what they consider to be of various degrees of importance. Therefore, it is possible to think that even though the statistics give us useful information, it might not paint the full picture.


Step 2: Writing your own analytical text

After studying the model text, you are now going to analyse a different piece of statistics on your own. The statistics listed below are all considered to relate to hot button issues. Have a look at each, then choose one to study.

Tasks: Analyse one of the following statistics and write a short text where you present and discuss your findings. You are free to include information from other sources as well.

  1. Gun policy: Pew Research Center statistics about gun deaths (pewresearch.org)
  2. Abortion: Pew Research Center statistics about public views on abortion (1995-2019) (pewresearch.org).
  3. Immigration: Pew Research Center statistics about views on immigration (pewresearch.org)
  4. Climate change: Pew Research Center statistics about views on climate change (pewresearch.org)


Afterwards, work with a partner. Share your texts and give each other constructive feedback. Have you presented the facts from the statistics clearly?

Sources

Cambridge Dictionary. (2020). Definiton of hot button. Retrieved from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/hot-button (dictionary.cambridge.org)

Pew Research Center. (2020). U.S. Politics & Policy: Important issues in the 2020 election. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/politics/2020/08/13/important-issues-in-the-2020-election/ (pewresearch.org)

Sist oppdatert 22.10.2020
Skrevet av Lena Øyre Leirdal

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Democracy and Human Rights