This GitPage is intended to be the interactive syllabus for Pol 5310: American Political Behavior: Citizen Preferences, Behavior & Representation for the 2021 Spring Semester The full syllabus for the course can be found above. Class logistics, the theoritical framework for the course, and course readings can be found below. Under each meeting header, you will find:
Course outline and readings corresponding to the meeting topic.
Course readings corresponding to the meeting topic. If you click on the reading links, you will be taken to a PDF of the reading.
The How to Read Social Science Research Articles Reading Guide for the course can be found here. Please refer to this guide when reading the scholarly work throughout this semester.
Lecture: Online Format; Monday 6:00-8:50pm (Mountain Standard Time, El Paso Local Time)
Office Hours: Online Format; Monday 2:00-4:00pm (Mountain Standard Time, El Paso Local Time) & by appointment
Course Materials: Course GitPage
This course offers an introduction to the systematic and meticulous study of American political behavior and, ultimately, how this influences the degree of political representation provided by political elites. The political behavior field is constructed broadly within the American politics subfield, with the political behavior literature encompassing the underpinning of political decision-making, opinion formation, in addition to more ``concrete’’ expressions of political behavior such as voting and political activism. In this course, we concentrate on this literature and also assess the implications of citizen political behavior on the quality of political representation provided by their elected elites.
Building on the scientific foundation of political science, this course is designed to provide an understanding into what shapes political behavior (i.e., partisanship, ideological preferences, democratic participation) and what how these behavioral considerations influence responsivenessby our American political institutions. The main question motivating the course is a simple, yet complex one: what factors influence the political behavior of citizens and what are the implications of this behavior for how elites provide descriptive and ideological representation?
Recognizing the pivotal model of representation in the American political system is predicated on the ability of citizens to translate their preferences and behavior to ensure democratic responsiveness from the American political elites, the motivating question of the course hinges on understanding the following concepts:
How do political sciences study and measure differing dimensions of political behavior in the study of American politics? How do we make a distinction between “attitudes” and ``behavior’’ in the study of American politics? How do we define both of these distinctions in the study of American politics?
Now that we have discussed how political scientists traditionally study political behavior, we now turn to the “meat of the course.” How well are citizens able to form opinions about politics, particularly with respect to partisanship and ideological preferences on the role of government in society? Is there a potential danger to the consistent finding in the literature that citizens know relatively little about “hard political issues” such as political ideology? Moreover, does this concern hold when assessing variation in which types of citizens participate in politics?
Lastly, we consider the implications of political behavior on the degree of representation provided by citizen’s elected elites. Do elites accurately represent the views of the majority of citizens they are tasked with representing? How do we know if this is or not the case? Moreover, would this degree of legislative representation be more equitable if citizens participated more in politics?
These thematic questions may seem daunting, but this course will give you the necessary framework to perform careful political and social science analysis to gain leverage on these questions. This course will provide not only an understanding of how to study the specific mechanisms by which political behavior manifests itself in American political life and how this behavior influences the nature of political representation in the political system. This course will engage with primary sources of political science literature that will inform us how to engage in careful social science analysis. This course emphasizes the tools you need to assess political behaviors, practices, and institutional representation based on theory and evidence. Welcome to the class!
Note: Access to the readings can be found in the links below.
Section Objective:We briefly discuss the theoretical logical underpinning the American political system and the fundamental role of citizens in our polity. This week serves as an overview into the parameters of our political system and how institutions may, in theory, play a role in shaping citizen political behavior and institutional responsiveness. We tie in this articulation of our democratic institutions with why the study of political behavior and public opinion is so critically important in political science.
Madison, James. 1787. Federalist 10. In United States Congress Resources
Madison, James (or Alexander Hamilton). 1788. Federalist 51. In United States Congress Resources
Section Objective: In this module, we discuss the classical works assessing perhaps the most important variable in the study of American political behavior, partisanship. This section, we look at classical studies developing theories explaining partisan preferences held by American voters and discuss why partisanship is so ingrained in the political psyche of Americans.
Section Objective: In this module, we discuss the contemporary works assessing perhaps the most important variable in the study of American political behavior, partisanship. Leveraging new data and methods, we discuss recent insights in how partisanship changes over time (if at all) and whether partisanship causes changes in preferences (or the other way around). Moreover, we will also discuss if partisanship is ``increasing in strength’’ as a predictor variable over time.
Section Objective: In this module, we discuss work assessing if Americans are capable of ``ideological thinking’’ and whether this degree of political sophistication is required for citizens to make rational decisions.
Section Objective: In this module, we discuss what factors motivate the propensity of participating in politics among voters. Specifically, what factors motivate the propensity of individuals to turnout to vote and what role do campaigns play (or not play) in driving voters to the polls?
Section Objective: In this module, we discuss whether citizens are able to use their ideological preferences to hold electoral candidates accountable. To do this, we assess the spatial model of electoral choice, its assumptions and whether citizens are up to the task of voting in spatial terms.
Section Objective: In this section, we assess the role of racial resentment in shaping the political identity and behavior of white Americans. We explore the extent to which partisan preferences closely align with racial resentment attitudes among whites, is there a fundamental change? Moreover, we explore to what extent racial resentment is a heuristic for electoral choice among white Americans and whether this is a salient determinant of choice during the age of Trump.
Buyuker, Beyza, Amanda Jadidi D’Urso, Alexandra Filindra, and Noah J. Kaplan. 2020. “Race Politics Research and the American Presidency: Thinking about White Attitudes, Identities and Vote Choice in the Trump Era and Beyond.” The Journal of Race, Ethnicity, and Politics. 1–42.
No-Seminar Due to Spring Break: March 15, 2021
Section Objective: In this section, we build off the previous literature on racial resentment and assess whether sexism plays a significant role in political behavior. Specifically, we assess the role of political behavior within the context of electoral choice and candidate evaluations.
Bonilla, Tabitha and Alvin B. Tillery Jr. 2020. “Which Identity Frames Boost Support for and Mobilization in the #BlackLivesMatter Movement? An Experimental Test.” American Political Science Review. 114(4): 947-962.
Section Objective: In this section, we begin by assessing whether the mass public are polarized on ideological grounds at levels comparable to elites (i.e., members of Congress). We assess whether citizens are able to think ideologically and are becoming more polarized over time. This is a huge debate in the literature and this section should uncover more questions than answers. Note that the first two articles by Abramowitz & Saunders and Fiorina et al. set the stage of the debate.
Layman, Geoffrey C., Thomas M. Carsey, John C. Green, Richard Herrera, & Rosalyn Cooperman. 2010. “Activists and conflict extension in American party politics.” American Political Science Review. 104(2): 324-346.
Graham, Matthew H. & Milan W. Svolik. 2020. “Democracy in America? Partisanship, Polarization, and the Robustness of Support for Democracy in the United States.” American Political Science Review. 114(2): 392-409.
Tesler, Michael. 2012. “The spillover of racialization into health care: How President Obama polarized public opinion by racial attitudes and race.” American Journal of Political Science. 56(3): 690-704.
Section Objective: In this module, we assess the critical question of whether citizens are able to assess the job performance of their collective institutions, such as the presidency, U.S. Congress, Supreme Court, state legislatures, and Governors. We will also discuss the implications of this literature on the broader question of collective accountability.
Algara, Carlos (2021) “Congressional Approval & Responsible Party Government: The Role of Partisanship & Ideology in Citizen Assessments of the Contemporary U.S. Congress.” Forthcoming at Political Behavior.
Section Objective: In this module, we assess the critical question of whether citizens are ideologically represented by their elected elites. In particular, we assess whether Madisonian dyadic representation exists between the mass public and their elected legislators exists. If Americans are not represented, what are the implications of this for political behavior and the nature of our democratic institutions? Do Americans know the intricacies of elite representation, such as the complex rules underpinning ideological representation by the U.S. Senate?
Lowande, Kenneth, Melinda Ritchie, & Erinn Lauterbach. 2019. “Descriptive and Substantive Representation in Congress: Evidence from 80,000 Congressional Inquiries.” American Journal of Political Science. 63(3): 644-659.
Broockman, David E. 2013. “Black Politicians are More Intrinsically Motivated to Advance Blacks’ interests: A Field Experiment Manipulating Political Incentives.” American Journal of Political Science. 57(3): 521-536.
Section Objective: We explore the role societal cleavages play in shaping the electoral coalitions of the two major parties. Why are the two parties thought of as a collection of organized interests and what does this mean for groups (i.e., racial & religious) securing policy representation from their elected elites? Why are the elections of 1964 and 1980 considered “critical junctures” in terms of racial and religious realignment within the two parties?
Section Objective: Lastly, we consider the rapid research being produced to assess the ongoing behavioral dynamics of COVID-19 pandemic. We will look at papers looking at the role of race, trust, scientific knowledge in shaping attitudes about COVID-19 policies. We will also assess work assessing attitudes surrounding the prevalence of taking the vaccine in the mass public.
Algara, Carlos, Sam Fuller, & Christopher Hare. 2020. “The Conditional Effect of Scientific Knowledge and Gender on Support for COVID-19 Government Containment Policies in a Partisan America.” Politics & Gender. 16(4): 1075–1083.
Motta, Matt, Dominik Stecula, & Christina Farhart. 2020. “How Right-Leaning Media Coverage of COVID-19 Facilitated the Spread of Misinformation in the Early Stages of the Pandemic in the U.S.” Canadian Journal of Political Science. 53(2): 335–342.
Kreps, Sarah, Sandip Prasad, John S. Brownstein, Yulin Hswen, Brian T. Garibaldi, Baobao Zhang, & Douglas L. Kriner. 2020. “Factors associated with US adults’ likelihood of accepting COVID-19 vaccination.” JAMA Network Open. 3(10): e2025594-e2025594.