PSCI 230 Public Opinion and American Democracy
This course examines public opinion in the American political system. We will discuss how to measure public opinion, how citizens formulate opinions, and the role of public opinion in campaigns, elections, and policymaking. We will also consider normative questions, including the role opinion should play in American democracy. Additionally, over the course of the semester we will track public opinion polls related to ongoing elections as well as develop analytical skills to answer questions using public opinion.
PSCI 236 Public Policy Process
This course introduces students to the theories and practice of the policy-making process. There are four primary learning objectives. First, understanding how the structure of political institutions matter for the policies that they produce. Second, recognizing the constraints that policy makers face when making decisions on behalf of the public. Third, identifying the strategies that can be used to overcome these constraints. Fourth, knowing the toolbox that available to participants in the policy-making process to help get their preferred strategies implemented. While our focus will primarily be on American political institutions, many of the ideas and topics discussed in the class apply broadly to other democratic systems of government.
PSCI 332/COMM 332 Survey Research & Design
Survey research is a small but rich academic discipline, drawing on theory and practice from many diverse fields including political science and communication. This course canvasses the science and practice of survey methods, sampling theory, instrument development and operationalization, and the analysis and reporting of survey data. Major areas of focus include measurement and research of survey errors, application to election polling, new frontiers in data collection, overall development of data management, and introductory analytics.
PSCI 234 Changing American Electorate
In 1960, a Democratic candidate won a very narrow Presidential victory with just 100,000 votes; in 2000, the Democratic candidate lost but received 500,000 more votes than his opponent. Still, contemporary scholars and journalists have made a variety of arguments about just how much the American political landscape changed in the intervening 40 years, often calling recent decades a “transformation.” This course explores and critically evaluates those arguments. Key questions include: how, if at all, have Americans’ political attitudes and ideologies changed? How have their connections to politics changed? What has this meant for the fortunes and strategies of the two parties? How have the parties’ base voters and swing voters changed? What changes in American society have advantaged some political messages and parties at the expense of others? Focusing primarily on mass-level politics, we consider a wide range of potential causes, including the changing role of race in American politics, suburbanization, economic transformations, the evolving constellation and structure of interest groups, declining social capital, the changing role of religion, immigration, and the actions of parties and political elites. For three weeks in the semester, we will take a break from considering broader trends to look at specific elections in some depth.
COMM 431 Public Opinion and the People
Democracy relies on mechanism in which the public communicates with policy makers. This course examines the extent to which public opinion effectively represents this mechanism. We begin with historical conceptions of public opinion tracing back to ancient Athens and 18th century enlightenment thinking. We then consider the extent to which public opinion can be captured by modern day polling, or whether it only emerges after considered deliberation and discussion. We then discuss the ways in which elite rhetoric and the media move public opinion, including through the use of public opinion polls. Finally, we ask whether policymakers are actually sensitive to the voice of the people or only the voice of some of the people.