Public Opinion and Political Communication, PS
Spring 2006, Thursday 3:30-6:00
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
Our focus in this course is on
citizens, not elites; and on opinions, versus voting behavior, with more
treatment of studies in the
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:
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.
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.
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.
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
II. Approaches and Methods: How Can Public Opinion Be Measured?
Policy Attitudes Driven by Racial Attitudes in the
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.
Weldon, Steven A. Forthcoming. “The Institutional Context of
Tolerance for Ethnic Minorities: A Comparative, Multi- Level Analysis of
4. Deborah J. Schildkraut. 2005. “Symbolic Nativism.”
Paul Sniderman, et al.
2000. The Outsider: Prejudice and Politics in
V. Political Persuasion and Attitude Change
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:
a) 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.
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
L. Gibson and Amanda Gouws. 2002. Overcoming
Paul Sniderman. 1996. The
Clash of Rights :
VIII. Is the News Media Politically Biased and, If So, How Does It Influence Us?
David A. Yalof, Kenneth Dautrich.
2002. The First Amendment and the Media in the Court of Public Opinion.
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
CHAPPELL LAWSON and JAMES A. McCANN. “Television
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)
Discussion Questions for
Media Effects I & II with Revised
Matthew A. Baum. Soft News
Goes to War : Public Opinion and American Foreign Policy in the New Media Age.
XI. Do Campaign Ads Have Negative Effects?
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
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.
Brian F. Schaffner. “Priming Gender: Campaigning on Women's
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
Mendelberg. 2001. The Race Card: Campaign Strategy, Implicit Messages, and
the Norm of Equality.
XIII. Public Support for Politicians and Government
Hetherington, Why Trust Matters: Declining Political Trust and the Demise of American
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?
2. Andrea Louise Campbell. 2005. How Policies Make Citizens: Senior Political Activism and the American Welfare State
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.