Skip to main navigationSkip to main content
The University of Southampton

PAIR2038 Political Behaviour (Quant)

Module Overview

Understanding political psychology and political behaviour is fundamental to understanding politics. This field of enquiry is interdisciplinary in scope, encompassing political science, psychology, sociology and survey research methods, and also has some synergies with fields as diverse as history, neuroscience and genetics. The study of political psychology and political behaviour requires a keen awareness of cognitive processes (how people think) and behaviour (how people act). It also will encourage you to think about how to observe these things or use data that can help you answer questions related to the topic. This module offers an introduction to key theories and models in the study of political behaviour and political psychology and provides an opportunity to undertake a research project – using quantitative methods – about how people develop their political beliefs and preferences, and how this affects their behaviour.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

This course introduces key theories and models in the study of political behaviour and political psychology and seeks to encourage students to develop a critical appreciation of how people develop their political beliefs and preferences, and how this affects their engagement in politics. The course is also designed to provide a practical and applied introduction to the study of political behaviour, applying theories to everyday political life and making use of the wealth of empirical data available on public opinion and political psychology. It deals with questions such as how people form their political beliefs and their attachments to political parties, how they evaluate political candidates and leaders, and why people do or don’t get involved in different forms of politics, be it voting, protest or civic action. It specifically involves the use of quantitative methods, such as logistic and multivariate regression and time series analysis, for the study of political behaviour.

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.
  • Demonstrate an ability to use quantitative methods to analyse empirical data relating to political behaviour.


This module considers some of the seminal contributions to modern political science and in the sub-fields of political behaviour and political psychology, and the use of quantitative methods in this field, 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. Social and Political Trust 10. Leaders, Approval and Competence 11. Macro Politics: Public Opinion and Policy

Special Features

The module will be classroom based so has no special features.

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, and a diary of your own contribution to and experience of the group work. During the module will be two additional one-hour ‘master classes’ on the use of quantitative methods and political behaviour: the first will provide an overview of the toolkit available to the quantitative researcher (drawing on examples), while the second will be a trouble-shooting session where students discuss their plans for using quantitative methods in their research project and receive feedback during the session.

Preparation for scheduled sessions30
Practical classes and workshops2
Completion of assessment task60
Wider reading or practice30
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

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

Donald Green, Bradley Palmquist, and Eric Schickler (2000). Partisan Hearts and Minds. 

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

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

Shanto Iyengar and Donald Kinder (1986). News That Matters. 

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

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

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

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.

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

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

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



MethodPercentage contribution
Diary  (800 words) 10%
Learning log  (1200 words) 45%
Project report  (2500 words) 45%


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

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

Share this module Share this on Facebook Share this on Twitter Share this on Weibo

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. If you continue without changing your settings, we will assume that you are happy to receive cookies on the University of Southampton website.