Practical and common vocabulary for discussing politics in English

If you want to speak more about politics in an exam or just in conversation, here is your opportunity to discover somo frequently used vocabulary that you can learn to use and understand

After one of the most dramatic elections in the US it is no wonder that everyone is talking about it. Here you will find some useful and common vocabulary for discussing politics in general, as well as elections.

Politics can be a common speaking topic so it’s important to know how to hold your own (to continue to be in a strong position even when there are difficulties) and speak confidently!

Firstly let´s take a look at the people involved in elections:

1. A candidate 

A person who wishes to be elected via a vote

2. A Presidential Candidate

Someone who competes in an election to become president.

3. A running mate

Someone who is trying to get elected to the second of two top positions.

4. A president elect

A person who has won the election but who is not officially the president yet. This person is usually awaiting an official announcement or process.

5. The first lady

The wife of the president.

6. A campaign manager

The person responsible for organising and planning a candidate’s campaign (see campaign definition later).

7. A spin doctor

A PR (public relations) specialist who tries to maintain a candidate’s positive image in the media by giving positive information about them.

8. A front runner

The candidate who is leading during an election.

9. A supporter 

Someone who favours a certain candidate during the election.

10. A challenger 

A person who hopes to beat someone in an election.

In general political parties are split into three groups:

  1. Conservative/Right-Wing
  2. Liberal/Left-Wing
  3. Centrists 

We can use centre right or centre left to describe people who are generally in the centre but lean slightly to one side.

When a party leans very strongly to one side we describe them as extreme or far with left or right.

Example: ”The extreme right/the far right” or ”The extreme left/the far left”

Now let’s take a look at some important common vocabulary for discussing politics that you may come across or want to use:

1. A Ballot

A piece of paper that lists all the options that can be voted for (same as ballot paper).

2. A bill 

A formal statement of a new law that is discussed before it has been approved by a vote.

3. Campaign

A series of activities done especially to achieve an aim, for example to gain votes. This can be meeting voters, shaking hands, speaking publicly etc.

4. Caucus

When a party meets to choose the candidate that will represent the party in the election.

5. Coalition

When two or more political parties work together to form a government

6. Constituent 

A person who can vote in a specific area of the country for the local government.ñ

7. Constitution

The written document that states the basic laws and political principles that govern a country.

8. Debate

A serious and formal discussion on various opinions.

9. Dictator

A leader of a country that was not elected and uses force to stay in power.

10. Dictatorship

A country that is being ruled by a dictator.

11. First past the post

A voting system where the first person to get the votes required is the winner, or the person that gets the most votes in the area they have chosen is elected.

12. Proportional Representation

A system in which parties are represented in the government according to the number of people who voted for them.

13. Polls/Polling Stations

Places where people vote during an election.

14. Exit polls

The activity of asking people how they voted as they leave a polling station to try to discover who will win the election.

15. A referendum

A vote in which all of the people in a country or an area are asked to give their opinion about or decide an important political or social question.

16. To abstain

To decide not to use your vote.

17. Canvass

To try to get political support or votes, especially by visiting all the houses in an area.

18. Independent 

A candidate or elected official who is not a member of a political party.

19. Legislation 

The process of forming and creating a new law or new laws.

20. Snap Election

An election that is announced suddenly and unexpectedly.

21. Opposition

The political party that is in a minority and does not form the government. They often fight against and disagree with the ideas suggested by the majority party.

22. Policy

A plan that a government or political party will follow when in government.

23. Rhetoric

Clever speech or writing that is designed to be effective in influencing people.

24. Flip (very common word with this election)

To change from supporting one political party to a different one.

25. Mandate 

The authority given to an elected group of people such as a government to perform an action or govern a country.


I hope you find this useful and helpful! Remember, once you review this common vocabulary for discussing politics, the best way to practice is with one of our qualified, experienced and native teachers. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions or want to know more about our classes.