PLAP 3270—Public Opinion and American Democracy

This course will examine public opinion and assess its place in the American political system, and will emphasize both how citizens’ thinking about politics is shaped and the role of public opinion in political campaigns, elections, and government. While the course will focus on research on the current state of public opinion, throughout the course we will also discuss historical developments in opinion and its place in politics, including changes that arose with the development of polling and with the advent of television and other new media. We will also consider normative questions, including the role opinion should play in American democracy.

Important Note: This course was formerly offered as PLAP2270, “Public Opinion and Political Behavior.” You cannot receive credit for PLAP 3270 if you took the course previously as 2270.

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PLAP 4140—Gender and American Political Behavior

Gender is a social system that defines relevant categories of people, proscribes appropriate attributes and behaviors to those categories, and regularizes power relations among individuals and between society and individuals. Children are socialized very early to recognize, understand, and enact gender, and adults understand and enact it as well.

Gender matters lots of ways. We’ll focus on two related ways in particular: first, on citizen identities and relationship with the state, and second, on candidates’ and leaders’ identities and the perceptions of them by citizens. Less directly, we will touch on the ways the substance of politics—political issues—take on gender connotations, sometimes explicit, sometimes more subtle.

To do this, we will develop theoretical tools, drawing first from psychology, sociology, anthropology, feminist theory, and beyond, and then from American history. We will consider the theoretical place of gender in American politics. Has politics been constructed as a symbolically masculine realm? What effects does that have on citizens' attitudes and behavior? Is that changing? We will also take up a number of topics, including the unavoidable gender gap, the role of masculinity and femininity in conditioning our perceptions of issues and political candidates, the ways gender, politics, and society have interacted historically, and the ways race and gender (and class) interact in conditioning political behavior.

In addition, this course will emphasize research. We will pay careful attention to the different methods and types of evidence that scholars from diverse fields use to learn about gender and the social and political world. We will explore the ways that science informs our understanding of gender, as well as the reciprocal influence of those ideas on how we understand what the data show. And we will conduct and present research ourselves: in class exercises as well as in the culminating research project.

This course has a prerequisite: you must have taken at least one course either on gender or on political behavior.

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PLAP 4150—Seminar in Political Psychology

This course is an introduction to a perhaps-idiosyncratic set of topics in political psychology, with a focus primarily on mass political behavior in the American case. We will focus on a number of substantive topics, with particular interest in roles that metaphor, emotion, and race & gender play in shaping political reasoning and communication. Throughout the term we will also pay careful attention to issues of methodology and research design.

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PLAP 4500.5—Emotional Politics/Political Emotions

This course explores the often-neglected role of emotion in shaping citizens’ political thought and action. While the Western enlightenment tradition generally treats emotion and cognition as antithetical, recent psychological research suggests they are in fact intimately interconnected. We will draw on a broad range of work, including classical political theory, anthropology, psychology, and political science to explore the interrelated roles of emotion and cognition in the context of American politics.

Prerequisite: Students must have taken at least one class on public opinion or political behavior. Priority will be given to politics majors and to fourth year students.

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PLAD 7100—Political Research With Quantitative Methods

This course will introduce students to some basic methods for conducting quantitative analyses in political science, with a focus on statistics and econometrics. The central theme of the course consists in applying quantitative methods to explore and evaluate political science theories. Statistical analysis has become a standard elements of the political science “tool kit,” and basic familiarity with it is valuable for students in all sub-fields of the discipline. My goal in this class is provide basic familiarity with statistics and econometrics for studying politics, and to lay a solid foundation for further coursework for those who choose to pursue quantitative analysis in more depth. Thus, we will begin at the beginning—with basic probability theory—then move through basic statistical analysis, and conclude with regression analysis. The lectures and problem sets will include a moderate amount of statistical theory, because I believe strongly that familiarity with the underlying theory is critical to the smart application of statistical techniques. The later problem sets will shift the emphasis toward application and data analysis. There are no prerequisites for the course. The course will include some mathematical content; however, no math beyond high school algebra is assumed before you begin.

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PLAP 7110—Core Seminar in Political Behavior

This course provides an introduction to the vast literature devoted to public opinion and mass political behavior. That is, we will survey the major theoretical approaches and empirical research on the behavior of non-elite political actors. “Behavior” is a broad term, which includes the psychological and attitudinal precursors as well as overt behavior such as voting or political protest. The primary focus will be on American public opinion and behavior, although there will be some attention to comparative work. In addition to empirical research on the antecedents of opinion and its role in the larger political system, we will consider normative work on the meaning and measurement of political behavior and on its role in democratic politics.

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PLAP 7500—Seminar in Political Psychology

This course is an introduction to a perhaps-idiosyncratic set of topics in political psychology. It focuses primarily on mass political behavior in the American case. We will focus on a number of substantive topics, with particular interest in new developments in psychological research on implicit cognition and motivation. Throughout the term we will pay careful attention to issues of methodology and research design, and to the promise and pitfalls of interdisciplinary work.

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