Using Poll Everywhere to help students discuss the 2016 election

“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”
— Franklin D. Roosevelt

Enticing an entire classroom to speak up about anything is tough – even something as divisive as the 2016 election.

Peter Paccone, a teacher at San Marino High School in Los Angeles, helped students enrolled in his US Government class discuss the 2016 presidential election using Poll Everywhere.

“Poll Everywhere is great for discussing these sensitive topics without public scrutiny,” Paccone said in his community post. “People respond on their phones or online instead of in front of their peers, and there are anonymity options for added security.”

Poll Everywhere became the backbone of what Paccone called ‘Presidential Election Wednesdays’ – a block of time each Wednesday dedicated to teaching the election process.

Below are some tips and example questions from his classes.

Teaching the election process through interactive polling


New to Poll Everywhere? No problem.

Poll Everywhere is a clicker-free classroom response system used to create interactive questions online. Students respond on the web or by texting with their phones, and the results update in real time for everyone to see.

For Paccone, this was a great way to facilitate group discussions. “In the weeks that followed, I asked the students several questions related to the various issues raised during the campaign,” he said. Ripped from the headlines, these questions challenged students to weigh in on several real-word issues, including:

>> Do you think the United States should build a wall along its entire border with Mexico?
>> Should Supreme Court Justice Scalia’s replacement be chosen by Barack Obama?
>> Should voters be required to show photo identification in order to vote?
>> Should the presidential debates include third party candidates?

I recreated some of these questions below using Poll Everywhere. These are not the original polls from Paccone’s class, but can be used for inspiration:

Instead of speaking out in front of peers, students can respond to sensitive questions about sex, religion, and even politics from the privacy of their phones or tablets. This empowers second-language speakers, and other reluctant participants, to contribute comfortably.


Anonymous polling in the classroom

Gather anonymous feedback during your next class or lecture with Poll Everywhere. Anonymity is available for all poll types, and empowers students to voice their opinion without public scrutiny.

After the election was over, Paccone asked his students about the Electoral College.

“Given that, in the election of 2016, Hillary Clinton received the popular vote and Donald Trump received the electoral college vote, I asked my students after the election whether they thought the Constitution should be amended to get rid of the Electoral College, and thereby have the people, by popular vote, decide who shall be the president.”

Here are the results of that poll:


“For all the talk about getting rid of the Electoral College today, this is not a topic that interests a lot of kids,” Paccone said. “Students are split on the issue more or less evenly, and many, for whatever reasons, don’t want to voice their opinion, even if it’s to say ‘I don’t know’ or ‘I decline to state’.”

Paccone closed out Presidential Election Wednesdays with three polls designed to gauge the students’ interest in the module as a whole.

First was a multiple-choice question ranking the quality of Presidential Election Wednesdays. “The specific question I asked, ‘On a scale of 1-10, to what extent did you find Election Wednesdays interesting, informative, and engaging?'” I re-created the poll using Paccone’s result data below:

what students thought of the process

“I then asked the students to rank the two things they enjoyed most about Election Wednesdays,” Paccone said. “I used the Poll Everywhere ranking question for this.”

The screen on the left shows the results of this poll. The screen on the right is what the student sees when she responds using a mobile phone.

>> Writing a Letter to the Next President
>> Predicting the Electoral College
>> Engaging in Class Discussion / Debate
>> Engaging in a Mock Election
>> Playing the Win the White House Game
>> Listening to My Lecture – Terrorism, Rise of China, etc.
>> Listening to my Lecture – Presidential Election Process

Finally, Paccone asked his students to list the first two words that came to mind in response to the words “presidential election 2016.” He used Poll Everywhere’s word cloud option for this.


“When I demonstrated the above-described use of Poll Everywhere for one of our school’s administrators, he was totally and completely impressed,” Paccone said.

“I’ll be sure to use Poll Everywhere when I teach the election of 2020.”

For more inspiration, check Peter Paccone’s guest post Great ways to use Poll Everywhere in the classroom. And if you’re a teacher or educator who uses live student polling in an interesting way, share your story with the PollEv community.

Happy polling!

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