Public Opinion and Political Communication, PS (711 002)
Spring 2006, Thursday 3:30-6:00
1645 POT

Professor Mark Peffley
Phone: 257-7033 (O)
Office: 1653 POT                                                                                  
Office Hours: R 1:00-3:00 PM                                                


            The purpose of the course is to provide graduate students with an introduction to major theoretical approaches and applied research in the areas of public opinion and political communications. A quick look through the syllabus makes it clear that political communications is one of the most exciting and dynamic subfields in political science. We begin the semester with a few news articles that make clear that political communications is a central to American politics: politicians constantly try to move public opinion and sometimes, but not always, they are successful. We move to several basic questions about how to measure public opinion (How can public opinion be measured, if at all?) before probing the roots of the explosive issues of race in the U.S. (Are Policy Attitudes Driven by Racial Attitudes in the U.S.) and immigration in Western Europe. For the next two weeks, we examine theories of persuasion and attitude change with the benefit of several studies of political persuasion, mostly in the U.S. context. This leads to a study of democratic persuasion in the West and emerging democracies, such as South Africa. For the next several weeks, we take up the study of a major player in political communications—the mass media. Here we investigate the forces that shape the production of the news (Has the news become too negative? Is the media politically biased?) as well as various direct the subtle effects of media messages on political behavior in the U.S. and abroad. We end the course with a closer look at group appeals and the impact of public opinion on policy-making (Who Leads Whom?).

            Our focus in this course is on citizens, not elites; and on opinions, versus voting behavior, with more treatment of studies in the U.S. than international contexts. These excluded topics and foci are covered in more depth in a variety of other courses. At the same time, however, the topics we cover are some of the most interesting in political science (no bias here!) and many of the ideas and theories we tackle are absolutely relevant to elite, electoral and comparative contexts.

Seminar Organization and Requirements

            Seminar grades will be based on several considerations—class participation, a critical book review, a research paper, and a final examination.

            Class Discussions. Approximately one fourth of your grade will be based on your seminar participation.  Each seminar will center on a critical analysis of the assigned readings.  Most of our class time will typically be spent in group discussion, although I will usually offer some commentary on the week's readings (e.g., placing the readings in context of previous research or research not represented on the syllabus, etc.).  Also, at the beginning of each class I will introduce the next week’s readings by briefly describing them, suggesting issues for you to think about, etc.


For each week's readings,  you should be prepared to discuss the following questions:

  1. What are the major theoretical perspectives that structure research in a given area?  What are the major strengths and weaknesses of each perspective and how do they compare with other perspectives considered in the course?
  2. What are the strengths and weaknesses of the methodological strategies used to investigate the subject?  What methodologies, broadly conceived (e.g., basic issues of design, measurement, etc.) are most appropriate, given the subject of inquiry?  To what degree are substantive conclusions dependent on the methods employed?
  3. What suggestions would you make for improving research in a given area of study?  What theories, methods and substantive foci deserve more attention in future research?
  4. What are the major implications of the findings for public policy, policy-makers, and democratic theory?
  5. How should this material be presented to undergraduates?     


            Research Paper.  Approximately one-fourth of your grade will be based on a research paper (10-12 double-spaced pages) on a topic of your choice that will be due on the last day of class.  At a minimum, this paper must include a critical literature review and an accompanying research design. More ambitiously, you should think of this assignment as an opportunity to craft a piece of original research which states and tests hypotheses. Ultimately, this paper should lead to a convention paper or journal submission. Students will also present a short synopsis of their research on the final day of the seminar. The topic should be discussed with, and approved by, the instructor before you begin work on it. See Guidelines for Research Design Paper. Expectations will be different for first-year vs. more advanced students.

            Critical Review.  Approximately one-fourth of your grade will be based on a critical review of a book (or at least three articles) that relates to a potential research paper topic (or minimally, a topic of interest). For this paper, you will confer with me to select the reading(s). There are books listed under “Presentation” for most of the week’s readings. I can suggest articles for most relevant research topics. The critical review should provide a summary of the reading and a critique based on theoretical, methodological, or substantive grounds, as well as a discussion of how the selected readings relate to the required readings in the class. You should make your review approximately 5 pages in length, and should distribute it to the other participants 24 hours prior to the seminar.  You will also be responsible for presenting your critique during a seminar session in 5 to 10 minutes in a PowerPoint presentation. Try to pick readings on a topic that you’d like to write your research paper. In formulating your critique, you might consider the 5 questions listed on the syllabus for “Class Discussions.”  Don’t be afraid to be a little creative, strike out on your own and take a point of view.

Final Examination. Approximately one-fourth of your grade will be based on a final exam. If class participation is adequate during the semester—i.e., if most students contribute to an informed discussion of the material – the final may be waived.  In that case, the other three components of the class (participation, research paper and critical review) will each comprise a third of the final grade. 


Required Readings

            The following books have been ordered for this class and will be available at the university bookstores (and are on reserve at the library). Please note that some books were ordered but are not required and that only selected chapters of some of these books are required reading.

  1. Paul M. Sniderman and Edward G. Carmines, Reaching Beyond Race. Harvard Univ Pr, 1999.
  2. Donald R. Kinder and Lynn M. Sanders Divided by Color : Racial Politics and Democratic Ideals Univ of Chicago Pr, 1997.
  3. Richard Perloff, The Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 20th Century. Earlbaum, 2003.
  4. James L. Gibson and Amanda Gouws. 2002. Overcoming Intolerance in South Africa: Experiments in Democratic Persuasion. Cambridge.
  5. Marc Hetherington, Why Trust Matters: Declining Political Trust and the Demise of American Liberalism. Princeton, 2005.

            In addition, a number of journal articles and manuscripts are required reading and I will make copies of these available to you prior to our meetings.

Topical Reading List (Tentative)

            The tentative reading list follows. Based on past experience, the best location for the readings is the Political Science computer lab (16xx POT), which is usually unlocked until later in the evening. Each week I will place the next week’s readings in a labeled box in the computer lab: paper copies of chapters, as well as a CD that contains most of the articles assigned in the class.


I.        Introduction: Overview

  1. New York Times articles and commentary on Bush’s “Victory in Iraq” speech:

    Scott Shane. “Bush's Speech on Iraq War Echoes Voice of an Analyst.” New York Times, December 4, 2005.
    Frank Rich. “It Takes a Potemkin Village.” New York Times, December 11, 2005.

  2. John Mueller. 2005. “The Iraq Syndrome.
  3. The Press and Public Misperceptions About the Iraq War


II.         Approaches and Methods: How Can Public Opinion Be Measured?

  1. Richard Perloff, The Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 20th Century. Part I, “Foundations.”
  2. Benjamin Page and Robert Shapiro, The Rational Public, 1994, chapters 1-2.
  3. John Zaller and Stanley Feldman. 1992. "A Simple Theory of the Survey Response: Answering Questions or Revealing Preferences?" American Journal of Political Science, 36(3): 579-616.
  4. Donald Kinder, "On Behalf of an Experimental Political Science" and "Coming to Grips with the Holy Ghost," in Donald Kinder and Thomas R. Pallfrey (Eds.), Experimental Foundations of Political Science, 1993, pp. 1-52.
  5. David Sears. 1988. "College sophomores in the laboratory: Influences of a narrow data base on psychologists' views of human nature." In Letita Peplau, et al. (eds.), Readings in Social Psychology.

Discussion Questions


III.    Are Policy Attitudes Driven by Racial Attitudes in the U.S.? (Note: lots of reading this week)

  1. Donald R. Kinder and Lynn M. Sanders. 1997. Divided by Color: Racial Politics and Democratic Ideals. Univ of Chicago Pr., chs 1-7. 
  2. Paul M. Sniderman and Edward G. Carmines. 1999. Reaching Beyond Race. Harvard Univ Pr.
  3. Feldman and Huddy. “Racial Resentment and White Opposition to Race-Conscious Programs: Principles or Prejudice?” American Journal of Political Science, January 2005 - Vol. 49 Issue 1.
  4. Martin Gilens “Racial Attitudes and Race-Neutral Social Policies: White Opposition to Welfare and the Politics of Racial Inequality.” In Hurwitz and Peffley, (Eds.), Perception and Prejudice. Yale, 1999.


Discussion Questions



IV.    Immigration Attitudes in Western Europe (lighter reading load this week)

1.       PAUL M. SNIDERMAN, LOUK HAGENDOORN, MARKUS PRIOR. “Predisposing Factors and Situational Triggers: Exclusionary Reactions to Immigrant Minorities.” American Political Science Review, Volume 98, Issue 01, February 2004, pp 35-49

2.       Citrin, Jack, et al. “European Opinion about Immigration: The Role of Identities, Interests, and Information.” BJPS, forthcoming.

3.       Weldon, Steven A. Forthcoming. “The Institutional Context of Tolerance for Ethnic Minorities: A Comparative, Multi- Level Analysis of Western Europe.” American Journal of Political Science, Volume 50 / Number 2 / April 2006

4.       Deborah J. Schildkraut. 2005. “Symbolic Nativism.”



Paul Sniderman, et al. 2000. The Outsider: Prejudice and Politics in Italy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.


V.      Political Persuasion and Attitude Change

  1. Richard Perloff, The Dynamics of Persuasion: Communication and Attitudes in the 20th Century. Part II, “Changing Attitudes and Behavior.” OR Stuart Oskamp, Attitudes and Opinions, 3rd ed., chs. 2 (“Social Perception and Social Cognition”), 10-11 (“Attitude Change”), pp. 19-43, 207-264.
  2. Diana C. Mutz, Paul M. Sniderman, Richard A. Brody (eds.). 1996. Political Persuasion and Attitude Change. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Ch.1, “Political Persuasion: The Birth of a New Field.”
  3. Michael D. Cobb, James H. Kuklinski. 1997. Changing Minds: Political Arguments and Political Persuasion. American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 41, No. 1. (Jan., 1997), pp. 88-121
  4. Kuklinski, James H. and Norman Hurley.  “On Hearing and Interpreting Political Messages:  A Cautionary Tale of Citizen Cue-Taking,” The Journal of Politics, Vol. 56, No. 3.  (August 1994), pp. 729-51.
  5. Kuklinski, James H., Paul J. Quirk, Jennifer Jerit, and Robert F. Rich.  “The Political Environment and Citizen Competence,” American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 45, No. 2, April 2001, pp. 410-24.


Discussion Questions



David Barker. Rushed to Judgment: Talk Radio, Persuasion and American Political Behavior.


VI.    Persuasion and Resistance

1. John Zaller. 1994. “Elite Leadership of Public Opinion: New Evidence from the Gulf War.” In Lance Bennett and Robert Entman (eds.), Taken By Storm. (in the box) 

2. Read either:
Barbara Geddes and John Zaller. 1989. Sources of Popular Support for Authoritarian Regimes. American Journal of Political Science, Vol. 33, No. 2. (May, 1989), pp. 319-347. ;
  or b) John Zaller.  1991. “Information, Values and Opinion.” American Political Science Review, 85(4): 1215-1238.

3.  Kuklinski, James H., Paul J. Quirk, Jennifer Jerit, David Schwieder, and Robert F. Rich. 2000 . “Misinformation and the Currency of Democratic Citizenship,” The Journal of Politics, Vol. 62, No. 3, August 2000, pp. 790-816.

4.  Taber, Charles S., and Milton Lodge . Forthcoming. “Motivated Skepticism in the Evaluation of Political Beliefs.” American Journal of Political Science. Volume 50 / Number 3/ July 2006

5. Drew Westen. An fMRI study of motivated reasoning: “Partisan political reasoning in the U.S. Presidential Election.” (skim)

6. Philip E. Tetlock. 1999. “Theory-Driven Reasoning About Plausible Pasts and Probable Futures in World Politics: Are We Prisoners of Our Preconceptions?American Journal of Political Science  Vol. 43, No. 2 (Apr., 1999), pp. 335-366.


Notes on Readings 


Discussion Questions



Philip E. Tetlock. Expert Political Judgment : How Good is It? How Can We Know? 


VII.  Democratic Persuasion in Comparative Context

1.       Sullivan, et al. 1993. “Why Politicians are More Tolerant:  Selective Recruitment and Socialization among Political Elites in Britain, Israel, New Zealand, and the United States,” British Journal of Political Science, 23: 51-76.

2.       James L. Gibson and Amanda Gouws. 2002. Overcoming Intolerance in South Africa: Experiments in Democratic Persuasion. Cambridge.



Paul Sniderman. 1996. The Clash of Rights : Liberty, Equality, and Legitimacy in Pluralist Democracy



VIII.            Is the News Media Politically Biased and, If So, How Does It Influence Us? 

  1. Thomas Patterson, "Doing Well and Doing Good: How Soft News and Critical Journalism are Shrinking the News Audience and Weakening Democracy" (skim for overview of trends in news coverage).
  2. Martin Gilens and Craig Hertzman. "Corporate Ownership and News Bias: Newspaper Coverage of the 1996 Telecommunications Act." Journal of Politics, 62 (May, 200):369-386.
  3. Kim Fridkin Kahn and Patrick J. Kenny 2002. “The Slant of the News: How Editorial Endorsements Influence Campaign Coverage and Citizens’ Views of Candidates.” American Political Science Review Vol. 96(2): 381-394.
  4. James Druckman and Michael Parkin. 2005. “How Editorial Slant Affects Voters.” Journal of Politics. (skim)
  5. Gilens, Why Americans Hate Welfare, Chapters 5 and 6. (racially biased news portrayals of welfare). 
  6. Franklin Gilliam and Shanto Iyengar. 2000. "Prime Suspects: The Influence of Local Television News on the Viewing Public. American Journal of Political Science 44(3): 560-573.


A Primer on Making the News and News Bias


Discussion Questions



David A. Yalof, Kenneth Dautrich. 2002. The First Amendment and the Media in the Court of Public Opinion. Cambridge University Press.



  1. Dalton, Russell J., Paul A Beck, and Robert Huckfeldt. 1998. "Partisan Cues and the Media: Information Flows in the 1992 Presidential Election." American Political Science Review vol. 92, no. 1: 111-26.
  2. Vallone, Robert, Less Ross, and Mark Lepper. 1985. "The Hostile Media Phenomenon: Biased Perception and Perceptions of Media Bias in Coverage of the Beirut Massacre." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 49 (September): 577-88.



IX.    Media Effects I: Direct Effects

1.       Markus Prior. 2005. “News vs. Entertainment: How Increasing Media Choice Widens Gaps in Political Knowledge and Turnout.” American Journal of Political Science Volume 49 Issue 3.

2.       Baum. 2005.Talking the Vote: Why Presidential Candidates Hit the Talk Show Circuit. American Journal of Political Science , Volume 49 Issue 2.

3.       Steve Kull, et al. 2003. “Misperceptions, the Media, and the Iraq War.” Political Science Quarterly, Volume 118 · Number 4 · Winter 2003-2004.

4.       Diana Mutz and Byron Reeves. 2005. “The New Videomalaise: Effects of Televised Incivility on Political Trust.” American Political Science Review, Volume 99, Issue 01, February 2005, pp 1-15.

5.       RÜDIGER SCHMITT-BECK. “Mass Communication, Personal Communication and Vote Choice: The Filter Hypothesis of Media Influence in Comparative Perspective.” British Journal of Political Science, Volume 33, Issue 02, April 2003, pp 233-259

6.       CHAPPELL LAWSON and JAMES A. McCANN. “Television News, Mexico's 2000 Elections and Media Effects in Emerging Democracies.” British Journal of Political Science, 2004, 35: 1-30.

7.       STEPHEN WHITE, SARAH OATES, IAN McALLISTER . “Media Effects and Russian Elections, 1999–2000.” British Journal of Political Science, Volume 35, Issue 02, April 2005, pp 191-208

8.       William D. Baker; John R. Oneal. “Patriotism or Opinion Leadership?: The Nature and Origins of the "Rally 'Round the Flag" Effect.” The Journal of Conflict Resolution, Vol. 45, No. 5. (Oct., 2001), pp. 661-687.


See next week for discussion questions


X.                  Media Effects II: Subtle Effects (Media Agenda-Setting, Priming, Framing & Learning)

  1. Miller, Joanne M. and Jon A. Krosnick. 2000. "News Media Impact on the Ingredients of Presidential Evaluations: Politically Knowledgeable Citizens Are Guided by a Trusted Source." American Journal of Political Science 44: 301-315.
  2. Thomas E. Nelson, Rosalie Clawson, et al. 1997. "Media Framing of a Civil Liberties Case and Its Effects on Tolerance." American Political Science Review 91(3):567-84.
  3. James N. Druckman. 2001. On the Limits of Framing Effects: Who Can Frame? The Journal of Politics, 63(4): 1041 – 1066.
  4. Donald P. Haider-Markel; Mark R. Joslyn. “Gun Policy, Opinion, Tragedy, and Blame Attribution: The Conditional Influence of Issue Frames The Journal of Politics , Vol. 63, No. 2 (May, 2001), pp. 520-543
  5. James N. Druckman. 2004.  Political Preference Formation: Competition, Deliberation, and the (Ir)relevance of Framing Effects. APSR: 671-686.
  6. Matthew A. Baum. 2002. “Sex, Lies, and War: How Soft News Brings Foreign Policy to the Inattentive Public.” American Political Science Review , 96 (1): 91-109.
  7. Paul M. Kellstedt. 2000. Media Framing and the Dynamics of Racial Policy Preferences. American Journal of Political Science, 44 (2): 245-260. 


Discussion Questions for Media Effects I & II with Revised Reading List



Matthew A. Baum. Soft News Goes to War : Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy in the New Media Age. Princeton University Press, 2003. By transforming political issues involving scandal or violence (especially attacks against America) into entertainment, the "soft news" media have actually captured more viewers who will now follow news about foreign crises, due to its entertainment value, even if they remain uninterested in foreign policy.



XI.        Do Campaign Ads Have Negative Effects?

  1. Ted Brader. “Striking a Responsive Chord: How Political Ads Motivate and Persuade Voters by Appealing to Emotions.” American Journal of Political Science, 2005. Volume 49 Issue 2
  2. Stephen Ansolabehere, Shanto Iyengar, Adam Simon, and Nicholas Valentino, "Does Attack Advertising Demobilize the Electorate?" American Political Science Review, 1994, 88(4): 829-838.
  3. “Do Negative Campaigns Mobilize or Suppress Turnout? Clarifying the Relationship between Negativity and Participation.” Kim Fridkin Kahn and Patrick J. Kenney. American Political Science Review, , Vol. 93, December 1999, 877.
  4. Ansolabehere, Stephen D., Shanto Iyengar, and Adam Simon. "Replicating Experiments Using Aggregate and Survey Data: The Case of Negative Advertising and Turnout." American Political Science Review, , Vol. 93, December 1999, 901.
  5. Ken Goldstein Paul Freedman. 2002. “Campaign Advertising and Voter Turnout: New Evidence for a Stimulation Effect.” The Journal of Politics, 64(3): 721 – 740.

6.       Freedman, Paul; Franz, Michael; Goldstein, Kenneth. “Campaign Advertising and Democratic Citizenship.” American Journal of Political Science, Oct 2004, Vol. 48 Issue 4, p723-741


Discussion Questions



1.       Ted Brader. 2005. Campaigning for Hearts and Minds : How Emotional Appeals in Political Ads Work.


XII.              Group Appeals

1.       Thomas E. Nelson and Donald Kinder. 1996. “Issue Frames and Group-Centrism in American Public Opinion.” The Journal of Politics 58(4): 1055-78.

2.       Brian F. Schaffner. “Priming Gender: Campaigning on Women's Issues in U.S. Senate Elections. American Journal of Political Science, October 2005 - Vol. 49 Issue 4.

3.       Nicholas A. Valentino, Vincent Hutchings, and Ismail White. 2002. “Cues that Matter: How Political Ads Prime Racial Attitudes During Campaigns.” American Political Science Review 96 (1) 75-90

  1. Vincent Hutchings, et al. 2005. “The Limits of the Norm of Racial Equality: Gender, Partisanship, and Support for Confederate Symbols.”
  2. Huber, Gregory A., and John Lapinski. Forthcoming. “ The 'Race Card' Revisited: Assessing Racial Priming in Policy Contests.” American Journal of Political Science, Volume 50 / Number 2 / April 2006.
  3. Hurwitz and Peffley. 2005. “Playing the Race Card in the Post Willie Horton Era: The Impact of Racialized Code Words on Support for Punitive Crime Policy,” (with Jon Hurwitz). Public Opinion Quarterly, 2005.



Tali Mendelberg. 2001. The Race Card: Campaign Strategy, Implicit Messages, and the Norm of Equality. Princeton.


XIII.    Public Support for Politicians and Government

1.       Marc Hetherington, Why Trust Matters: Declining Political Trust and the Demise of American Liberalism. Princeton, 2005.

2.       James M. Avery.The Sources and Participatory Consequences of Political Distrust among African Americans.” American Politics Review, forthcoming. 

3.       John Hibbing and Elizabeth Theiss-More. “Process Preferences and American Politics: What the People Want the Government to Be.”  American Political Science Review, March, 2001.

XIV.           The Formation of Macro Public Opinion and Political Representation: Who Leads Whom?

  1. Jeff Manza, Fay Lomax Cook and Benjamin Page (Eds.), Navigating Public Opinion, (2002), Chs. 1-4 (pp. 17-85) on the debate between Erikson et al versus Jacobs and Shapiro on the impact of public opinion on public policy.
  2. LAWRENCE R. JACOBS and BENJAMIN I. PAGE. “Who Influences U.S. Foreign Policy?” American Political Science Review, Volume 99, Issue 01, February 2005, pp 107-123. 
  3. Kara Lindaman; Donald P. Haider-Markel. “Issue Evolution, Political Parties, and the Culture Wars.” Political Research Quarterly, Vol. 55, No. 1. (Mar., 2002), pp. 91-110.



2.       Andrea Louise Campbell. 2005. How Policies Make Citizens: Senior Political Activism and the American Welfare State

3.       Lawrence R. Jacobs, Robert Y. Shapiro. 2000. Politicians Don't Pander: Political Manipulation and the Loss of Democratic Responsiveness. Chicago.


Final Exam: Pick up the exam Thursday or Friday and return it to the secretaries 4 hours later. Closed book. Papers due on Thursday. The formal schedule is 3:30 pm, Fri.; 05/05/06.