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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

Knowledge and Understanding

Having successfully completed this module, you will be able to demonstrate knowledge and understanding of:

  • 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.
Subject Specific Intellectual and Research Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • 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.
Transferable and Generic Skills

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • 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 Study114
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

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

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

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.


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

Lecture/seminar room with presentation equipment.. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Assessment Strategy

2 hours of lectures per week. All will be recorded and posted on Blackboard. Lectures will be delivered either face to face or online only depending upon University and Public Health England Guidance at the time. Total of 24 hours of lectures (2 hours per week X 12 weeks) per module. Weekly student participation in online discussion boards. 1 hour per week delivered asynchronously. (1 hour X 12 weeks)


MethodPercentage contribution
Discussion board activity 25%
Research project 50%
Research proposal 25%


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


Costs associated with this module

Students are responsible for meeting the cost of essential textbooks, and of producing such essays, assignments, laboratory reports and dissertations as are required to fulfil the academic requirements for each programme of study.

In addition to this, students registered for this module typically also have to pay for:

Books and Stationery equipment

Recommended texts for this module may be available in limited supply in the University Library and students may wish to purchase reading texts as appropriate.

Please also ensure you read the section on additional costs in the University’s Fees, Charges and Expenses Regulations in the University Calendar available at

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