Political Behavior GOVT 374 (S17)

Welcome to the launch page for Political Behavior (374).

  • All course readings, assignments and announcements will be posted through the Blackboard page

  • Interesting news articles and discussion will be housed on the course Facebook page

  • Political behavior is the study of the way people think, feel, and act with regard to politics. This course is designed to touch on the major areas of research in political behavior, including public opinion, ideology, partisanship, participation, campaigns and the media. Although many fruitful comparisons could be made in a cross-national context, we will focus on the American political system and will be primarily concerned with national elections.

    The study of political behavior presents many intriguing puzzles. Millions of people vote in presidential elections every four years, even though any individual’s vote will not affect the outcome of the election. Approximately 60% of Americans identify with one of the two major political parties, but a substantial proportion of people are unable to recognize the name of their congressional representative or know which party holds a majority in Congress. Democratic theory is built on the principle that citizens can make informed and rational choices, yet emotion influences our political opinions and actions. In this course, we will discuss these and other topics in the context of broader questions about political behavior, including:
  • What drives public opinion?

  • How sophisticated is the public's thinking about politics

  • Can people make reasoned political decisions?

  • Why do we vote?

  • Do political campigns and the media influence the electorate's vote choices?

  • The academic study of political behavior is a very different pursuit than the sport of following electoral politics. While we will focus on the empirical study of politics, given the timing of this course with what may be an extremely interesting presidential election, we will certainly consider how our theories of political behavior inform what we read and hear about the 2014 congressional elections.


    Required Books: