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10 Political Terms Teens Need to Know

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With election day coming up in just five months, VOX thought it would be helpful to share a few terms that might be helpful for our first time voters or any teen keeping up with the elections.

It can be hard to understand politics with all the complicated words politicians and reporters throw out, so we made this list of 10 election terms to help you better understand the language of politics.


“Caucus” and “primary” are often used interchangeably, but the two words are completely different. A caucus is a local gathering where voters organize into groups according to which candidate they support, or raise their hands to show which candidates they support. A primary is state level election where voters select which candidate they want to represent their political party in the national election, submitted by ballots that are kept a secret.


A socialist is a person who believes that all industries should be controlled and regulated by the government with no private ownership of business or capitalist pursuits. The term is often misused by Republicans and conservatives against liberals and Democrats.

Electoral College

The electoral college is a process where each candidate running for President has “electors” from your state that help decide who the President will be. It is a compromise between the votes of the people and the vote of Congressmen. The process is a little complex and hard to explain in a short definition, so if you want to know more you can visit the National Archives and Records Administration.

GOP/Tea Party

GOP is the abbreviation for “Grand Old Party,” and is just a nickname for the Republican Party. The Tea Party is a group of conservatives from a wide range of political parties, whose members favor policies such as a reduction of taxes, strong military, and ban on deficit spending.

Foreign Policy

Foreign Policy is the stance that a nation or candidate takes on dealings with other nations, especially in the case of the military; important foreign policy issues in debate right now include terrorism, ISIS and immigration.

Debt vs Deficit

When a government spends more than it takes in over the course of one year, it has run a deficit. This accumulated overspending is called debt.


Bipartisan refers to a candidate that is supported by two or more political parties, usually because of their stance on one or more important issues.

Right vs Left Wing

Of any political party, the “right wing” is the more conservative side, and the “left wing” is the more liberal side. Left wingers believe in an expanded government, and right wingers believe in individual liberties with limited government interference.

Wall Street

Though many of the large investment and banking companies have relocated, Wall Street is an area in lower Manhattan that is still used as the collective name for the financial and investment community. Wall Street is commonly mentioned in politics because larger bussinesses raise capital (funds) — and some argue that they have an unfair advantage over smaller companies. Some believe that Wall Street is a group of corrupt, exclusive, and greedy bussinesmen. This is why many liberal politicians campaign to “bring down Wall Street.”

Some of these terms may have sounded familiar, and if, so it’s a refresher for you. For others, now that you know these terms, we hope it will help you in your political decisions down the line, especially this election season.

Miranda Mullins, 16, is a senior at Duluth High School in Gwinnett County. Art by Alimah Dawkins, VOX staff. 


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