AP U.S. Government and Politics: Quantitative Analysis Example

Question 2 of the AP U.S. Government and Politics free response section is the Quantitative Analysis prompt. This FRQ begins with an information graphic, such as a table, chart, graph, or map. The information graphic will depict some kind of politically relevant data—presidential election results, political affiliations of federal judges, or voter turnout by state, for instance.
The prompts that follow will require you to both analyze the information graphic and relate its data to government and politics concepts; later parts will likely require increasingly complex tasks.

  • Part A usually asks you to identify a piece of data or a trend from the information graphic.
  • Part B will likely ask you to analyze the information graphic, perhaps by explaining a possible reason for the graphic’s data trends or by using the data to draw a conclusion.
  • Part C will then involve applying the information graphic to a course concept; for example, the question could ask how a table’s depiction of popular vote results in a presidential election reflects the structure of the Electoral College system.


Quantitative Analysis Strategy

Consider the following special strategies for the Quantitative Comparison question:

  • Take time to analyze the information graphic. The information graphic is just as important to answering the questions as the text stimulus on other prompts, and it requires some special analysis. Components such as titles, labels, and keys are vital for correct interpretation of the graphic. Ask yourself exactly what data the information graphic is depicting (and what data it is not depicting) and note relevant trends before you look at the questions.
  • At least one question will require you to identify a specific trend or data point from the information graphic. On such questions, focus only on the relevant part of the graphic and pinpoint the data you need.
  • When appropriate, refer to data from the information graphic in your response, and be specific (e.g., “only four amendments were passed in the nineteenth century” rather than “few amendments were passed in the nineteenth century”).

Sample Question

ap us gopo quantitative analysis
Use the information graphic to respond to Parts A, B, and C.
(A) Identify the tier of individual contributions to Hillary Clinton’s campaign that accounts for the third largest proportion of her total.
(B) Describe a similarity or difference between the data for individual contributions for each candidate and draw a possible conclusion based on this similarity or difference.
(C) Explain a reason that individual contributions are capped at $2,700, and explain a possible impact of this cap on elections.

Step 1: Analyze the Prompt

Carefully analyze the components of the information graphic: titles, labels, and general trends. Notice that the information graphic contains two pie charts. Both depict individual contributions at different tiers to presidential candidates in 2016; one shows contributions for Clinton, one for Trump. The contribution tiers are the same for both candidates. Contributions of $200 and less represent the lowest tier; this tier makes up the biggest proportion of both candidates’ contributions from individuals. Note that there must be a limit at $2,700 since the tiers don’t go any higher. Clinton also had a large proportion of contributions at the highest tier, while Trump’s were a bit more evenly distributed among the middle-high tiers. The dollar totals show that Clinton had a much higher total amount of contributions.
Next, carefully read and mark the important parts of each question, paying special attention to questions that ask for multiple things; note that Part B asks you to both describe and draw a conclusion and Part C includes two things you must explain. Keep in mind that Quantitative Analysis questions generally ask you to first read data from the information graphic, then make some analysis of the data, and finally apply the data to a course concept.

Step 2: Plan Your Response

Brainstorm how you will address each response part based on your analysis in Step 1. See the following thoughts and notes that a high-scoring writer might make.
Part A: Need to find the 3rd largest tier on Clinton’s pie chart.

  • $1,000–$1,999

Part B: Need one similarity or difference, and a conclusion based on this info.

  • similarity: <$200 largest proportion concl.: many want to support candidates; even small contributions add up

Part C: Need to fully explain two things.

  • caps on ind. contribs b/c concerns about buying elections, campaign finance laws
  • cap probably helps limit the total amount at the highest tier; caps help equalize contribs among candidates & limit scope of campaigning (ex. of candidate highly supported by wealthy)

Step 3: Action! Write Your Response & Step 4: Proofread

Then, use your plan to write out your response, leaving a minute at the end to complete a brisk proofread. Remember that it is suggested you spend about 20 minutes each on Questions 1, 2, and 3. See the following for a sample high-scoring response and an explanation of its high-scoring features.

Sample High-Scoring Response

The third largest proportion of Clinton’s individual contributions total was the tier of $1,000–$1,999.
A similarity in the data about individual contributions is that both candidates’ most common donation is the lowest-tier amount, $200 or less. This suggests that both candidates have widespread support among less-wealthy voters. To constitute such a high percentage of the total contributions even though it is the lowest tier, this indicates that many individuals must have contributed to the campaigns.
Individual contributions to candidates were capped due to concerns about money having too large of an influence on elections, threatening what is supposed to be a democratic process in which every voter has an equal voice. In an unregulated system, a wealthier candidate with wealthier supporters could overrun the media with political messages, perhaps having such an overwhelming impact on public opinion that the election was essentially purchased by the side with more money at its disposal. To prevent this, Congress passed campaign finance laws; limiting individual contributions perhaps prevents a disproportionate influence by wealthy supporters. These laws thus help equalize contributions among candidates, making elections more fair. Limits help minimize the potential for out-of-control campaigning with essentially limitless money for candidates to spend.

Explanation of Sample Response

Note the following successful elements of this high-scoring response:

  • Organization: The writer uses one paragraph for each part of the response and follows the plan from Step 2, helping to ensure that the response addresses every required task.
  • Complete sentences: The writer uses full sentences for every part of the response—even the brief identification task in Part A.
  • Specific data from the information graphic: The writer uses specific data for the response to Part B.
  • Addressing each action word: The writer addresses each action word appropriately. For instance, in Part A, the writer uses a brief sentence to address the requirement of identification. In contrast, Part C requires two explanations, so the writer fully explains both a reason for and an impact of contribution caps, effectively incorporating an example of a candidate with many wealthy supporters to help support the explanations.

Scoring for Question 2: 5 points (1 + 2 + 2)

Part A (1 point)
One point for identifying $1,000–$1,999 as the third largest proportion for Clinton’s campaign.

Part B (2 points)
One point for describing a similarity or difference.

  • Example similarities: both candidates had lowest tier (<$200) make up the largest percentage of contributions; middle tiers were similar for both candidates
  • Example differences: Clinton’s second-highest percentage tier was the highest contribution level ($2,000+) and made up about a third of her total contribution amounts, while Trump had a near-tie for the second-highest percentage tier ($200-$500 and $2,000+); Clinton had much higher total contribution dollars than Trump both at each tier and overall

One point for drawing a logical possible conclusion based on the similarity or difference.

  • Example conclusions: based on high percentage of lowest-tier contributions, both candidates may have had large numbers of supporters who could not afford contributions at higher tiers; based on Clinton’s larger percentage of highest-tier contributions, she may have had a greater number of wealthy supporters than Trump; Clinton lost the election although she had more individual contribution dollars than Trump, suggesting that the candidate with the highest contributions from individuals does not necessarily win the election
Part C (2 points)
One point for explaining a reason for the cap on individual contributions.

  • Example reasons for the cap: concerns about wealthy individuals and corporations “buying” elections have led to campaign finance laws and contribution caps; cap reflects attempts to limit spending on pervasive advertising, especially “attack ads”; cap reflects restrictions such as Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002’s regulations on “soft money” contributions by individuals

One point for explaining a possible impact of the cap on elections.

  • Example impacts on elections: limits potential for elections to be dominated by wealthy contributors; potentially limits unfair advantage of candidates who have more wealthy supporters; forces individuals who wish to contribute more than the cap to use other avenues of financial support, such as political party committees and PACs, which increases such institutions’ influence on elections

Learn more about the other free response questions on the AP U.S. Government and Politics exam.
Concept Application  •  SCOTUS Comparison  •  Argument Essay