Political Behavior, Spring 2002 Professor Mark Peffley
Political Science 271-002 Office Hours: TR
TR , 234 Classroom Bldg POT 1653, Phone: 257-7033,
This is an introductory course in Political
Behavior. In this course, we will adopt
a fairly broad definition of "political behavior," one that includes
political attitudes, beliefs, and opinions as well as actual behavior. This broad focus allows us to explore a
variety of different types of behavior and a variety of ways to explain that
behavior. For example, our study of
political behavior ranges from an examination of public opinion in the
One goal of this course is to understand and explain political behavior--to be able to answer the basic question, Why do people exhibit different political behavior? Why isn't everyone the same? Why are some people political "junkies" and others political "couch potatoes?" Why do some people chafe and rebel, while others practically begin goose-stepping at the slightest hint of political authority? We will explore a variety of concepts and theories in an attempt to explain why people are different politically. Thus, one reason some people are more aggressive, obedient and politically intolerant than others is that they have different personalities. Another explanation is that they have different childhood learning experiences, or that they have different ideologies and values, or that they occupy different roles in society, or that they are more or less responsive to political cues from politicians and the mass media.
Another important goal of this course is to be able to evaluate political behavior. Our standards for evaluating the behavior of masses and elites come primarily from various theories of democracy which set different standards for evaluating a "good" or "bad" citizen, political representative, or mass media. Are “good” citizens passive and obedient or active and rebellious? Are “good” journalists those who merely provide information from elites, or those who serve as a critical “watchdog” of government?
A third goal for this course is to provide a practical
guide to political citizenship in the 21st Century. Despite the fact that the American electorate
is one of the more educated publics living in one of the oldest democracies in
the world, citizens are increasingly at a disadvantage in meeting the
requirements of classical democratic theories--that citizens be informed,
active, and interested in their government.
Not only are political issues increasingly complex and
"technical," but political elites--from
1) The syllabus, with updated links to lecture outlines, written assignments, additional readings, and relevant web sites will be posted at class web-site, which can be found at .
2) This course is part of the University Studies Program, which is designed to provide a comprehensive liberal arts education to all undergraduates. The course can be taken to fulfill the Social Sciences requirement in University Studies.
The following four books are available at the university bookstores:
Dalton Citizen Politics: Public Opinion
and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies, 3rd
· Lance Bennett, News: The Politics of Illusion, 4th ed., Longman, 2001.
· Anthony Pratkanis and Eliot Aranson, Age of Propaganda: The Everyday Use and Abuse of Political Persuasion, revised ed., Freeman, 2001.
1. Reading Assignments
Our class time will not be spent simply "going over" the assigned readings. Rather, the readings will serve as a foundation and point of departure for lectures and discussions. It is, therefore, imperative that students complete the assigned readings before a particular topic is taken up in class. Also, the assigned readings should not be viewed as absolute truth. Read the material thoughtfully, challenge the conclusions of the authors, and voice your criticisms in class.
Students should feel free to raise questions concerning the readings, the lectures, and the comments of other students. In other words, meaningful participation is strongly encouraged and will, no doubt, enhance the quality of our class sessions.
3. Short Written Assignments
There will be several short written assignments that require no outside reading beyond that which has been assigned. These short (1-4 pages) papers are designed to help students organize and think more reflectively about the material in the course. You might expect one short assignment approximately every 3-4 weeks. These papers--some to be graded and some not--will either be written in class or will be handed in one or two class periods from the day they are assigned. The short writing assignments cannot be turned in late, except for university excused absences.
4. Examinations and Grades
Grades will be based on the following criteria:
Written Assignments 25% of Grade
Midterm Examination 35% of Grade
Final Examination 40% of Grade
a. While class attendance is not mandatory, exam questions will be based approximately equally on both the readings and class discussions. Also, attendance and participation will definitely influence borderline grades. Also, if you aren't in class, you obviously won't have the opportunity to write the short papers that will be assigned.
b. If a student has a university-excused absence, arrangements for a make-up exam may be made. (See , Section 188.8.131.52, Part II of the Student Rights and Responsibilities handbook for a definition of university-excused absences). Note, however, that the format of a make-up will not be the same as the regular exam.
Part 1: The Study of Political Behavior
January 10-17 Empirical and Normative Perspectives on the Study of Political Behavior
Democratic theory, Research methods, survey research and alternatives
Read: Begin reading
Lecture Outline: Normative Bases of Political Behavior
Lecture Outline: Empirical Bases of Political Behavior
Writing Assignment # 1: Critiquing Journalists’ Presentations of Political Opinion Polls
Part 2: Explaining Conventional Political Behavior
January 22-31 The Nature of Political Attitudes, Ideologies, and Mass Belief Systems
Lecture Outline: Mass Sophistication
February 5-12 The Electoral Connection: Elections, Parties, Voting Behavior and
Representation, and Democracy’s Future
Review Questions for Midterm,
Part 3: Explaining Political Protest, Violence and Aggression
February 14-21 Explaining Political Obedience, Aggression, and Conformity
Read: Milgram, Obedience to Authority, up to p. 112, Epilogue.
February 26 Contemporary Political Protest and Violence
February 28 MIDTERM Exam
Part 4: Political Propaganda and the Mass Media
March 5-7 Mass Media and Political Behavior
Read: Bennett, News: Politics of Illusion, chs. 1-5.
March 12-14 SPRING BREAK!!
March 19-26 Mass Media and Political Behavior
Read: Bennett, News: Politics of Illusion, chs. 6-8.
Writing Assignment # 2: Television News Coverage
March 28-April 2 Attitude Change and Political Persuasion
Read: Pratkanis and Aranson, Age of Propaganda, chs. 1-22
April 4-23 Attitude Change and Political Persuasion
Read: Pratkanis and Aranson, Age of Propaganda, chs. 23-37.
Writing Assignment # 3: Application of Persuasion Principles
April 25 Course Summary
April 30 FINAL EXAMINATION: TUESDAY, .