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Public Opinion and Political Participation

Module Code: PO3730

Module Name: Public Opinion and Political Participation 2017-18

  • ECTS Weighting: 10
  • Semester/Term Taught: Michaelmas + Hilary Term
  • Contact Hours: 2 one-hour lectures per week; 1 tutorial per fortnight
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - Dr. Gizem Arikan
  • Office hours:

Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:

  1. Explain and summarise the major issues in survey research.
  2. Analyse the effect of individual and contextual factors on attitude formation and conventional and unconventional forms of political participation.
  3. Assess the factors contributing to voter turnout in modern political systems.
  4. Develop arguments, based on empirical evidence, about the causes of recent political protests around the world.
  5. Assess the role of different factors in explaining voting behaviour in recent elections and referendums.

Module Learning Aims

The module examines public opinion and political behaviour from a comparative perspective. Students will learn about the key issues in defining and measuring public opinion, understand the foundations of public opinion and political participation, become familiar with the contemporary debates in public opinion and political behaviour research, and be able to discuss current issues concerning mass attitudes and behaviour with reference to the major theoretical approaches in the field.


Module Content

In the Michaelmas term, we examine the nature of public opinion and key approaches and debates concerning its foundations. Topics and themes covered will include: defining, measuring, and analysing public opinion (sampling, questionnaire design, contextual sources of bias); citizen competence (information, sophistication, democratic norms and tolerance); explaining public opinion (self-interest vs symbolic approaches, group interest models, political culture and values, role of elites, ideology, media and political communication, social networks).

In the Hilary term, we focus on political participation, and particularly voting behaviour and cover the following topics: defining political participation, major theoretical debates in political behaviour (rational choice models; social influence models; psychological models), explaining voter turnout, models of vote choice (strategic voting, sociological approaches, the Michigan model, retrospective and prospective evaluations, issue voting, candidate qualities, election campaigns and political communication), political protest, social capital and participation in voluntary organizations, social movements.

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Recommended Reading List

  • Clawson, Rosalee A., and Zoe M. Oxley. 2012. Public Opinion: Democratic Ideals, Democratic Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: CQ Press, 2nd edition.
  • Dalton, Russell J. 2013. Citizen Politics: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 6th edition.
  • Norris, Pippa. 2003. Democratic Phoenix: Reinventing Political Activism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Norris, Pippa. 2011. Democratic Deficit: Critical Citizens Revisited. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

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Assessment Details

One essay per semester (12.5% each), and end of the year final exam (75%).

* In the case of one-term visiting students (PO373B and PO373C) , the course is evaluated through two essays (50% each).

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Last updated 22 August 2017 polsci@tcd.ie.