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:

Class Time, Office Hours & Course Materials

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

Course Objective: How do we study political behavior in the United States & what are the implications of this research on the quality of political representation in America??

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:

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!

Course Road-Map & Materials

Note: Access to the readings can be found in the links below.

1. Course Overview & Defining the ``Institutional Parameters’’ in the American Democratic System (1/25/2021)

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.

2. Classical Studies of Partisanship (2/1/2021)

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.

3. Contemporary Studies of Partisanship (2/8/2021)

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.

7. Does White Racial Resentment Shape Political Behavior? (3/8/2021)

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.

9. Are ``regular’’ Americans and Elites Polarized? (3/29/2021)

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.

11. Are Americans Ideologically Represented by their Elites? (4/5/2021)

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?

13. Does the Party System Respond to Changes in the Political Preferences of the Electorate? (4/26/2021)

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?

14. How are the Standing Models of Political Behavior Being Applied to the Ongoing COVID-19 Pandemic? (5/3/2021)

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.

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