Hundreds of thousands march down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women's March in Washington, DC, U.S., January 21, 2017. (BRYAN WOOLSTON / Reuters)
Hundreds of thousands march down Pennsylvania Avenue during the Women's March in Washington, DC, U.S., January 21, 2017. (BRYAN WOOLSTON / Reuters)

There are few areas in political science where scholarly knowledge has progressed faster and further than the field of political behavior. Despite previous arguments as old as Aristotle that the mass public lacked sophistication and expertise to have a meaningful influence on domestic political processes, political behavior scholars have advanced important arguments to how ordinary citizens participate in politics, how they form opinions and attitudes, and how these influence the political process. This class reviews these arguments in both a broad scope and comparative scope. We will review scholarship on the foundational components: models of voting and turnout, public opinion formation, and value change. We will explore the multiple ways individuals and the mass public participate in politics, from voting to multiple forms of “unconventional” political participation, even riots. Our scope is comparative too. Any political behavior class will be lacking without a strong focus on the United States, but this class will situate U.S. political behavior alongside its democratic peers. We will further expand our “comparative” scope at the end of the class with a focus on recent insights from the international conflict literature about how external threat and conflict influences political behavior both in the United States and elsewhere. Students who complete this class will have a broad overview of the fluorishing discipline of political behavior.

Course Materials

  1. Syllabus