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The University of Southampton

PAIR2018 Partisans, Public Opinion and Elections: Understanding the Political Mind

Module Overview

Equal opportunity In line with the University’s Equal Opportunities Policy, individuals are treated on their relevant merits and abilities and are given equal opportunities within the module, School and University. The aim of the policy is to ensure that no prospective student or current student should receive any less favourable treatment on any grounds which are not relevant to academic ability and attainment. Every effort is made to ensure that disabled students are aware of and assisted in making use of the support provided by the University; to ensure access to lectures, classes, learning materials; and to ensure that where necessary appropriate variations to normal examining arrangements are made.

Aims and Objectives

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • demonstrate understanding of key theories in political behaviour.
  • explain some of the determinants of political attitudes and the processes through which people form their opinions.
  • be able to apply existing theoretical frameworks to explain contemporary examples of public opinion.
  • recognise the different sorts of research methods that can help us identify and analyse political beliefs and behaviour.
  • apply theories of political behaviour to empirical data relating to public psychology and political behaviour


This course considers some of the seminal contributions to modern political science and in the subfields of political behaviour and political psychology, addressing the following topics: 1. Mass Belief Systems 2. Partisanship 3. Political Socialisation 4. Information Processing, Heuristics and Choice 5. Communication, Framing and Biases 6. Voting Behaviour 7. Campaigns and Election Outcomes 8. Participation, Activism and Turnout 9. Trust in Government 10. Leaders, Approval and Competence 11. Macro Politics: Public Opinion and Policy

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

There is a double lecture every week, the first half of which is a traditional lecture and the second half of which involves an interactive Q&A session and presentations by groups. There is a weekly seminar slot in which groups will meet to develop their research projects. Full attendance is expected. Throughout the course you will work in groups on a project-based assignment, and the content of the seminars will be focused on the successive stages of the assignment. The seminars are designed to enable you to reflect on what you have learned from lectures and reading and to develop plans for the project on political behaviour. The project will require you to work with a group of your peers. At the start of the course, groups will choose a project with an objective relating to one of the topics covered during the course. You will receive guidance on key readings, questions to ask about research design, a list of possible methods, suggested resources or data sources that you might use. The final decisions on the project design will be taken collectively by the group. The interactive part of the lecture will be dedicated to activities such as group presentations on theories of political behaviour related to your project, discussions of how to develop hypotheses and design the study and select methods (e.g. case studies, experiments, and analyses of survey data). I will provide all groups with advice and guidance on the assignment throughout the duration of the course. You will each write up your own report of the assignment.

Independent Study120
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

David O. Sears, Leonie Huddy, and Robert Jervis. (2003). Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology. 


Donald Green, Bradley Palmquist, and Eric Schickler (2004). Partisan Hearts and Minds. 

Jon A. Krosnick and Donald R. Kinder (1990). Altering the Foundations of Public Support for the President through Priming.. American Political Science Review. ,84 , pp. 497-512.

Martha L. Cottam, Beth Dietz-Uhler, Elena Mastors, and Thomas Preston (2010). Introduction to Political Psychology. 

Russell J. Dalton and Hans-Dieter Klingemann (eds.). (2007). Oxford Handbook of Political Behavior. 

John Zaller (1992). The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. 

Larry M. Bartels (1993). Messages Received: The Political Impact of Media Exposure. American Political Science Review. ,87 , pp. 267-285.

James A. Stimson (2004). Tides of Consent: How Public Opinion Shapes American Politics.. 

Morris P. Fiorina. (1981). Retrospective Voting in American National Elections. 

Paul M. Kellstedt, and Guy D. Whitten. (2013). The Fundamentals of Political Science Research. 

Shanto Iyengar and Donald Kinder. (1987). News That Matters. 

Lecture/seminar room with presentation equipment.. 

Arthur Lupia, Mathew D. McCubbins, and Samuel L. Popkin (eds.). (2000). Elements of Reason: Cognition, Choice, and the Bounds of Rationality. 


Assessment Strategy

Assessment for this course will be through combination of a learning log and a research project. 50%: Assignment: a learning log, consisting of three 400 word discussion pieces of topics covered on the module. 50%: Research project, an individual report of the research project carried out by the group. Resit will be by resubmission of the learning log and research project. The research project is designed as an empirical analysis of political behaviour. This may employ either qualitative or quantitative methods, e.g. it may use descriptive/inferential statistics or undertake a case study of a particular event or set of events. Key is that you must make use of empirical data to test theories encountered on the course. You will make use of an existing dataset (e.g. the British Election Study) or with your group create your own data.


MethodPercentage contribution
Learning log  (1200 words) 50%
Project report  (2500 words) 50%


MethodPercentage contribution
Learning log  (1200 words) 50%
Project report  (2500 words) 50%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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