Public Opinion, Voting and Participation

Course Description: 

This course deals with the ways in which individual citizens may have an impact on American politics through the electoral process.  The course will therefore focus on the political opinions and behavior of citizens as reflected in cross-section surveys of the national adult population, rather than studies of elected officials or other political elites.  Special attention will be paid to the role of partisan identification and policy-related preferences in presidential elections, to the distribution and origins of public opinion on important political issues, and to the determinants of electoral participation or turnout.


 There will be two lectures weekly and some additional discussions in smaller groups.  Those smaller group sessions will sometimes be held in the Social Sciences Computing Laboratory (in the basement of Barrows Hall), where students will carry out their own computer-based analyses. Grades will be determined by a final examination and several quizzes and exercises, as well as participation in class discussions.


 This is an advanced course in two respects, for it presupposes both a basic knowledge of the American political system and a familiarity with political inquiry based on quantitative evidence of the sort provided by modern survey research.  Both a course in American Politics and at least one course in statistics or quantitative methods beyond PS3 are therefore prerequisites for the course.


 The following books are required for the course.  Additional materials will be distributed in class or made available on the Web.


Abramson, Paul R., John H. Aldrich, and David W. Rohde, Change and Continuity in the 2008 Elections. (A Division of Congressional Quarterly, Inc., Washington, DC), 2009


Miller, Warren E. and J. Merrill Shanks, The New American Voter, Harvard Press, 1996. (now out of print, but available online through bspace as well as some used copies)


Nelson, Michael, Editor, The Elections of 2008, CQ Press, 2009


Wolfinger, Raymond E. and Steven J. Rosenstone, Who Votes?, New Haven: 

Yale University Press, 1980.