Voting Behavior

Term: 
Winter
Credits: 
4.0
ECTS Credits: 
8.0
Academic Year: 
Status: 
Elective
Start and end dates: 
January 12, 2015 to April 3, 2015
Course Description: 

This is an elective graduate course that examines various theories and the relevant evidence on how low-information rationality and/or blatant preference aggregation deficits are at work in citizens’ voting behavior. In other words, we will ask how social cleavages, economic conditions, ideology, political issues, party identification, factual information, campaigns and various other factors impact on how and what voters choose, and what all this implies about the quality of democracy and citizen influence on public policy. We will also explore how institutional contexts have an influence on whether elections hold policy-makers accountable to citizens and responsive to popular preferences, and what evidence contemporary scholarship offers on these questions. We will consider the difficult communication and cognitive processing problems that all political actors encounter in the political process, and highlight their relevance for democracy, while also giving some attention to the practical lessons that can be drawn for party strategists and political information campaigns. The course reviews a large variety of state-of-the-art empirical research and stresses the importance of first-hand experience in reading and critically discussing cutting edge research output instead of cherry-picking ideas from textbooks, essays and popular science. Thus it also pays attention to the philosophy, design and methods of contemporary quantitative and experimental analyses in social research and should improve your understanding of these.

Learning Outcomes: 

 Familiarity with theories, concepts, empirical regularities and research strategies in 3
voting behavior research
 Ability to conceive, elaborate and argue for campaign tools with reference to what
scholarly analyses reveal about voting behavior and public opinion
 Reason analytically, apply abstract models to complex empirical situations and engage
with different intellectual traditions, subfields, research designs and methodologies in the
social sciences
 Improved ability to design high quality academic or applied research in a rigorous and
consistent manner
 Ability for effective oral presentation of scholarly thoughts, developing listening and
discussion skills with initiative and autonomy in various professional contexts
 Improved understanding of the potential and limits of statistical analyses and
experimental research especially with respect to the establishment of causality; improved
appreciation of the potential of qualitative research and rigorous description

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