Current Course Offerings

FALL 2020


Core Competency 1: American Politics

PSCI 130 Introduction to American Politics 

Rogers Smith (MW 10:00 am - 11:00 am)

This course is intended to introduce students to the national institutions and political processes of American government. What are the historical and philosophical foundations of the American Republic? How does American public policy get made, who makes it, and who benefits? Is a constitutional fabric woven in 1787 good enough for today? How, if at all, should American government be changed, and why? What is politics and why bother to study it? If these sorts of questions interest you, then this course will be a congenial home. It is designed to explore such questions while teaching students the basics of American politics and government.

PSCI 230 Public Opinion & American Democracy

Michele Margolis (MW 11:00 am - 12:00 pm)

This course examines public opinion in the American political system. We will discuss how to measure public opinion, how citizens forumlate 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.

Core Competency 2: Statistics

PSCI 107 Introduction to Data Science

Marc Trussler (MW 1:00 pm - 2:00 pm)

Understanding and interpreting large, quantitative data sets is increasingly central in political and social science. Whether one seeks to understand political communication, international trade, inter-group conflict, or other issues, the availability of large quantities of digital data has revolutionized the study of politics. Nonetheless, most data-related courses focus on statistical estimation, rather than on the related but distinctive problems of data acquisition, management and visualization--in a term, data science. This course addresses that imbalance by focusing squarely on data science. Leaving this course, students will be able to acquire, format, analyze, and visualize various types of political data using the statistical programming language R. This course is not a statistics class, but it will increase the capacity of students to thrive in future statistics classes. While no background in statistics or political science is required, students are expected to be generally familiar with contemporary computing environments (e.g. know how to use a computer) and have a willingness to learn a variety of data science tools. You are encouraged (but certainly not required) to register for both this course and PSCI 338 at the same time, as the courses cover distinct, but complimentary material.

PSCI 338 Statistical Methods PSCI

Marc Meredith (MW 10:00 am - 11:00 am)

The goal of this class is to expose students to the process by which quantitative political science research is conducted. The class will take us down three separate, but related tracks. Track one will teach some basic tools necessary to conduct quantitative political science research. Topics covered will include descriptive statistics, sampling, probability and statistical theory, and regression analysis. However, conducting empirical research requires that we actually be able to apply these tools. Thus, track two will teach us how to implement some of these basic tools using the computer program R. However, if we want to implement these tools, we also need to be able to develop hypotheses that we want to test. Thus, track three will teach some basics in research design. Topics will include independent and dependent variables, generating testable hypotheses, and issues in causality. You are encouraged to register for both this course an PSCI 107 at the same time, as the courses cover distinct but complementary, material. But there are no prerequisites nor is registering for PSCI 107 necessary, in order to take this course. 

Core Competency 3: Survey Research and Design

PSCI 333 Political Polling 

David Dutwin (R 3:00 pm - 6:00 pm)

Political polls are a central feature of elections and are ubiquitously employed to understand and explain voter intentions and public opinion. This course will examine political polling by focusing on four main areas of consideration. First, what is the role of political polls in a functioning democracy? This area will explore the theoretical justifications for polling as a representation of public opinion. Second, the course will explore the business and use of political polling, including media coverage of polls, use by politicians for political strategy and messaging, and the impact polls have on elections specifically and politics more broadly. The third area will focus on the nuts and bolts of election and political polls, specifically with regard to exploring traditional questions and scales used for political measurement; the construction and considerations of likely voter models; measurement of the horserace; and samples and modes used for election polls. The course will additionally cover a fourth area of special topics, which will include exit polling, prediction markets, polling aggregation, and other topics. It is not necessary for students to have any specialized mathematical or statistical background for this course. Equivalent R based course if prerequisite not met.


PSCI 231 Race and Ethnic Politics

Daniel Gillion (TR 10:30 am - 11:30 am)

This course examines the role of race and ethnicity in the political discourse through a comparative survey of recent literature on the historical and contemporary political experiences of the four major minority groups (Blacks or African Americans, American Indians, Latinos or Hispanic Americans, and Asian Americans). A few of the key topics will include assimilation and acculturation seen in the Asian American community, understanding the political direction of Black America in a pre and post Civil Rights era, and assessing the emergence of Hispanics as the largest minority group and the political impact of this demographic change. Throughout the semester, the course will introduce students to significant minority legislation, political behavior, social movements, litigation/court rulings, media, and various forms of public opinion that have shaped the history of racial and ethnic minority relations in this country. Readings are drawn from books and articles written by contemporary political scientists.

PSCI 320 Who Gets Elected and Why

Edward Rendell (M 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm)

What does it take to get elected to office? What are the key elements of a successful political campaign? What are the crucial issues guiding campaigns and elections in the U.S. at the beginning of the 21st century? This class will address the process and results of electoral politics at the local, state, and federal levels. Course participants will study the stages and strategies of running for public office and will discuss the various influences on getting elected, including: Campaign finance and fundraising, demographics, polling, the media, staffing, economics, and party organization. Each week we will be joined by guest speakers who are nationally recognized professionals, with expertise in different areas of the campaign and election process. Students will also analyze campaign case studies and the career of the instructor himself. Edward G. Rendell is the former Mayor of Philadelphia, former Chair of the Democratic National Committee, and former Governor of Pennsylvania.

PSCI 531 Public Opinion & Elections

Matthew Levendusky (M 8:00 am - 11:00 am)

This course is designed to give advanced undergraduates and graduate students exposure to the literature on political behavior in American politics (the course is part of the departments 3-course graduate sequence in American politics). The course will cover both the classics of public opinion and political behavior from the Columbia, Michigan, and Rochester schools, as well as more current topics and debates in the literature. Topics include (but are not limited to) the early voting studies, the role of partisanship, the nature and origins of ideology, mass-elite interactions, heuristics and low information rationality, the nature of the survey response, campaign and media effects, framing effects, and the role of institutions in structuring behavior. Undergraduates are welcome in the class, but they should know that the class assumes familiarity with quantitative approaches to studying politics.