PSC 1002: Introduction to American Politics and Government (Fall 2014 syllabus)
This course provides a survey of the political processes and institutions of American government. I know what you might be thinking—that sounds boring. Let me assure you, this course will be anything but. The bulk of U.S. political history has been characterized by drama and conflict, and our investigation of American politics will include a focus on topics like the civil rights movement, polarization in the U.S. Congress, the 2014 midterm elections, and hotly contested debates over health care, immigration, and gay marriage, to name just a few. Controversial, always; boring, never. Each of these political issues and events—and most others—can be seen most clearly through the lens of the historical and institutional development of the American political system. Our lectures, readings, and discussions will address the Constitution, Congress, the presidency, the judiciary, political parties, the media, and public opinion, among other topics. In all of this, our focus will be on how the basic features of American government illuminate the stories and events that appear in the news that we encounter every day, be it ongoing budget debates, NSA surveillance efforts, or the movement to legalize marijuana.
PSC 2229: Media and Politics (Fall 2014 syllabus)
The media have long been recognized as an essential component of American politics. Reflecting the oft-cited designation of the press as the “fourth branch” of government, political observers from the earliest days of the republic noted the indispensable role of the mass media in a democratic society. Even before the signing of the Constitution, the seminal debate between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists took place in the newspaper. News outlets, moreover, have a long tradition as agents of partisan warfare, promoting and perpetuating party loyalties and voter turnout in the 19th and early 20th centuries. And in recent months, the media have played a central role in debates over the rollout of the Obama health care law, NSA surveillance operations, and the ongoing conflict over the federal budget. In short, it is impossible to fully comprehend American politics without understanding the media.
PSC 8220 (Graduate): Political Behavior (Spring 2014 syllabus)
This course surveys major theoretical approaches and empirical research in the field of political behavior. (This class is variously called Public Opinion and Political Socialization or Public Opinion and Political Psychology in the course catalog, but Political Behavior better reflects its broader scope.) It focuses on psychological approaches to understanding individual citizens’ attitudes and actions, and on the implications of individual choices for both collective outcomes and for the quality of representative democracy. We will also encounter other theories, including personality, rational choice, information-processing, social influence, and group identity and conflict. Among the many substantive topics we will investigate are political socialization, ideology, the media, and voting behavior. The majority of empirical research that we will discuss centers on American politics, although we will also read and discuss research that is cross-national or comparative in scope.
PSC 2220: Public Opinion (Spring 2013 syllabus)
In a democracy, the views of citizens are expected to guide government activity and the creation of public policy. That makes public opinion a central concern in the study of democratic politics. In this course, we will endeavor to answer a variety of questions related to U.S. public opinion: Where do political attitudes come from, and how much do people really know about politics anyway? Do people make political judgments on the basis of their material self-interest, or do more abstract values shape their attitudes? Do Sean Hannity, Rachel Maddow, and their media compadres influence public opinion? If so, how so? Is the American public polarized? What explains people’s views of war, climate change, and other prominent issues? And finally, what is the connection between mass opinion, on one hand, and public policy outcomes, on the other? Does the government listen to the governed?