Government 270 – Political Behavior, Political Process, and Policy

Professor Nalder, Spring 2010


Office: Tahoe 3121                                                                               


Phone: 278-6693

Office Hours: W 4:30-5:30 and F 1:00-2:00, and by appointment



Scope and Purpose


            In this course we will explore the public opinion, voting behavior, representation, political psychology, and policy development literature.  Ideally in a democracy, there is a basic assumption that an informed citizenry exercises its right to political participation wisely, determining who will serve in elected office.  If theories of representation are functioning properly, then the direction of policy pursued by these officials should generally reflect the will of the electorate.  This semester will involve the evaluation of these assumptions and the realities of representation, voter capability, and the resultant policies.  This course should familiarize you with the relevant literature and assist you in develop critical thinking, research, and presentation skills.




Brader, Ted (2006) Campaigning for Hearts and Minds: How Emotional Appeals in Political Ads Work. ISBN: 978-0-226-06989-0


Delli Carpini,  Michael and Scott Keeter (1996) What Americans Know About Politics and Why it Matters, Yale University Press, ISBN: 0300072759


Fiorina, Morris (2005) Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America, 2nd Edition ISBN: 0321366069


            Hibbing, John and Theiss-Morse, (2003) Stealth Democracy, Cambridge University Press, ISBN: 0521009863


Jamieson, Kathleen Hall, and Paul Waldman, (2004) The Press Effect, Oxford University Press. 978-0195173291


Lakoff, George.(2002) Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, 2nd Edition. The University of Chicago Press, ISBN:0-226-46771-6


Marsh, David and Gerry Stoker. (2002) Theory and Methods in Political Science, 2nd Ed. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN: 978-0333948552


Putnam, Robert (2001) Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community. ISBN: 978-0743203043


Zaller,  John. (1992) The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion, Cambridge University   Press.





Weekly papers           30%

Final                            25%

Paper                          25%

Presentation                10%

Participation              10%


Weekly Analysis Papers

            Weekly readings must be complete by the time of the seminar.  You will be asked to critique and evaluate the research in each area of inquiry as part of the seminar’s discussion.  At the beginning of each seminar, a one page (typed) critique and evaluation of the week’s reading is due.  This paper should relay your understanding of the material, its conceptual strengths and weaknesses, its holes, and how it relates to the themes of the seminar.  You are only required to submit 6 of these papers over the course of the semester.  It is up to you to choose which 6 weeks you would like to write the analysis papers for.  For every class meeting, you are expected to e-mail a discussion question regarding the readings to the discussion leader for that week.  The question should be sent at least 24 hours in advance.



            This course will culminate in a final exam.  It will consist of broad and inclusive essay questions modeled on M.A. exam questions.  This should serve as good practice for those of you taking the field exam route.  Please bring a large blue book for use on the day of the final.


Research Paper

            You will be assigned a 15-page research paper on the topic of your choosing within the political behavior, political psychology, public opinion, media and politics or political culture sub-literatures.  A detailed paper assignment sheet will be online soon.  University policy on plagiarism applies here – any violations will result in serious penalties. An outline is due on April 5.  The paper is due May 3rd.


Leading Discussion

            Each of you will have the opportunity to lead a portion of the seminar discussion this semester.  In preparing for this task, you should carefully read the literature for the week and construct some compelling discussion questions or issues brought out in the reading.  You will also be responsible for providing a brief overview of the readings to ground the discussion.  See the guidelines for leading discussion on the website for the course.  This should provide you with some experience presenting scholarly material which should be useful as practice for teaching or conference participation.




Jan 25             Introduction


Feb 1            Social Science Research


Marsh and Stoker, Theory and Methods in Political Science.  Chapters: Intro, 1,2,3,10


February 8       How are Political Opinions and Orientations Formed? – Psychological    Explanations.





February 22        Ideology


             Lakoff, Moral Politics.  Carefully read Chapters 1-9, skim Chapters 10-17


March 1      Party Identification

The CCMS and Stimson are on reserve at the library.


·         Campbell, Converse, Miller, and Stokes. 1960. “The Impact and Development of Party Identification” Found in Classics in Voting Behavior by Niemi and Weisberg, and excerpted from chapters 6,7 of The American Voter.

·         Excerpt from “Tides of Consent” by James Stimson – on reserve.

·         Alan I. Abramowitz and Kyle L. Saunders. “Exploring the Bases of Partisanship in the American Electorate: Social Identity vs. IdeologyPolitical Research Quarterly, 6 2006; vol. 59: pp. 175 - 187

·         Pew Party Identification 2008

·         Overview and Section 1 of Pew Report on Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes


March 8          Patterns in Macro Opinion


·          Zaller, The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion (skim chapters 7,9, read the rest)


March 15   Political Culture


Putnam, Robert. 2001. Bowling Alone  


March 22  Red vs. Blue and Voting


·         Fiorina, Morris. 2005. Culture War? The Myth of a Polarized America.                     

·         Menand, Louis. (2004) “The Unpolitical Animal; How political science understands voters.” The New Yorker.  August 30, 2004. Pg. 92     


March 29     *****Spring Break******


April 5             Knowledge


            Delli Carpini and Keeter, 1996. What Americans Know about Politics and Why it Matters.



April 12           Knowledge, Information, and Misinformation


  • James H. Kuklinski et al. 2000. “Misinformation and the Currency of Democratic Citizenship” Journal of Politics. Vol. 62, Issue 3
  • Jerit, Barabas, and Bolsen, “Citizens, Knowledge, and the Information Environment” American Journal of Political Science. Volume 50:266-282.
  • What Americans Know: 1989-2007. Pew Center.             


******paper outline due


April 19           Political Communication and Emotion


  •             Brader, Ted. 2006. Campaigning for Hearts and Minds                 



April 26           Participation and Turnout


  •   Fowler, James (2006) “Altruism and Turnout” Journal of Politics 68 (3) 674-683.
  • Baldassare, Mark. 2006.  “California’s Exclusive Electorate”
  • Fowler, James et al. 2008.  TwoGenes Predict Voter Turnout

  •  American Political Science Review


May 3           Media Effects


      American Politics Research, Vol. 34, No. 3, 341-367 (2006)



May 10              Does Responsiveness matter?  How much policy control does the public have or want?


·          PIPA report on perceptions of candidate positions

·         Bartels, Larry, “Homer Gets a Tax Cut ” (online)

·         Hibbing and Theiss-Morse. 2003.  Stealth Democracy.


 Final Exam: Monday, May 17, 6:00-8:50