Voting Behavior

Academic Year: 
Course Description: 

Voting is central to the democratic process and to legitimating the office-holders and policies that it produces. Accordingly, it is the subject of an enormous literature that offers a uniquely rich and varied insight into theory and methods in contemporary political science that also touches upon more general questions regarding human decision making, information aggregation problems, attitude formation and the impact of competition in general. This course focuses mostly on issues relevant for political communication and comparative politics; voting behavior and public opinion; empirical democratic theory and comparative political economy; and the methodology of quantitative research. In particular, it queries how citizens, with their limited resources and time available for engaging with politics, perform their role as ultimate decision-makers in democratic politics. This angle gives us an interesting perspective on the entire democratic political process and allows us to inspect the content and empirical validity of its normative foundations. Hence, the course serves as an intermediate-level introduction to the study of political behavior, choice and attitude formation. It has a strongly interdisciplinary approach and always keeps an eye on actual political practice and its use of scientific knowledge.

Learning Outcomes: 

* Familiarity with theories, concepts, empirical regularities and research strategies in 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


Your course grade will depend on your contributions to classroom discussions (task A, 25% of the grade), in-class exercises (task B, 25% of the grade), short presentations (task C, 10% of the grade), and a max. 5000-word research paper (task D, 40% of the grade).