This class surveys the principal topics and lines of research in the study of individual political behavior. The class will commence with consideration of classical perspectives on voting and public opinion. But even at the starting point its concern is with current approaches and open questions -- both very much in the plural. Specific research areas singled out for review include campaigns, political communication, and race in American politics.
This course examines the theory and practice of American political campaigns. First, we attempt to explain the behavior of the key players -- candidates, journalists, and voters -- in terms of the institutional arrangements and political incentives that confront them. Second, we will use the 2008, 2012, and ongoing 2014 election campaigns as "laboratories" for testing generalizations about candidate and voter behavior. Third, we examine selections from the academic literature dealing with the immediate effects of campaigns on public opinion and voter behavior as well as more long-term consequences for governance and the political process.
The seminar provides an overview of research in political communication with particular reference to work on the impact of the mass media on opinions and attitudes. Students are asked to submit four papers. Three will be critical syntheses of a particular subset of the readings. These short papers (3-4 pages, double-spaced) will set the agenda for in-class discussion. The fourth paper will be more extensive; you are asked to propose a line of research that extends the state of knowledge in a particular area of the field. The proposal will account for fifty percent of the course grade with the remainder being divided (evenly) between the three review papers.
Experimental methods have become the standard in many fields of political science. We survey the logic and practice of experimentation as applied to laboratory, field and survey settings. We discuss the strengths and limitations of experiments in relation to observational methods. Design considerations include randomization, the construction of treatments, the use of deception, ethical implications of deception, and new developments in subject recruitment. Turning to the analysis of experimental data, we describe the methods for estimating treatment effects, interactions, and more complex indirect effects stemming from either mediator or moderator variables. We also cover appropriate data analytic strategies for estimating causal effects from natural and "quasi-experimental" designs including interrupted time series, differences-in-differences, the regression-discontinuity design, matching and instrumental variables.
This course examines the role of mass media in the democratic process. We begin by considering the "public service" responsibilities of the press -- to inform and engage citizens -- and the various policy regimes for implementing these responsibilities. Second, we examine the determinants of news coverage, including market forces and the internal workings of press organizations. Third, we discuss the ways in which news programming affects the audience -- both the mass public and political elites. Fourth, we explain the design and evolution of media-based campaigns, with particular emphasis given to the strategic interplay between reporters, candidates, and voters. We also document the gradual extension of "going public" and related techniques to the policy-making arena. Finally, we assess the potential of new technologies to alter the landscape of media politics.