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Contemporary Issues and Controversies in US Politics

Module Code: PO3151

Module Name: Contemporary Issues and Controversies in US Politics 2018-19

  • ECTS Weighting: 5
  • Semester/Term Taught: Hilary Term
  • Contact Hours: 2 lectures per week; 1 tutorial per fortnight
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - Dr Emanuel Coman

Learning Outcomes

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

  • Show strong knowledge of the American public’s position on important issues such as foreign policy, defense, the environment, minority rights, women rights etc.
  • Understand how the public’s positions on these issues has changed and continues to change with the passage of time
  • Demonstrate strong understanding of the process by which changes in public opinion lead to changes in policies

Module Learning Aims

By the end of this module the students should obtain a strong understanding of the main current political debates in the American system as well as the role played by public opinion in shaping these debates. Equally important, students should be able to understand the way in which changes in public opinion vis-à-vis these issues lead to changes in policy output.

Module Content

The module will start with a brief introduction to the American institutions in charge of policy making (Presidency, Congress, Judiciary), followed by some theoretical explanations of how and when public opinion is expected to influence policy. Then we will focus on particular issues (one per session) that are important nowadays in America. In the process we will discuss the evolution of public support for each particular issue, the historical development of policies related to that issue and we will speculate about potential future policy developments.

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Recommended Reading List

Stimson, James A. Tides of consent: How public opinion shapes American politics. Cambridge University Press, 2015.

Bowles, Nigel, and Robert K. McMahon. Government and politics of the United States. Palgrave Macmillan, 2014.

Assessment Details

One essay, counting 25%;

One 90 minute exam, counting 75%.

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