PSCI 211
Do the People Govern? U.S. Public Opinion and Mass Political Behavior Spring 2025
Division II

Class Details

America’s founding documents explicitly state that the will of the people is the authority upon which our government rests. But do the people actually govern, and should they? Pessimists point out that most Americans know very little about politics and lack coherent political views, are easily manipulated by media and campaigns, and are frequently ignored by public officials anyway. Optimists counter that, even if individuals are often ignorant and/or confused about politics, in the aggregate, the public sends a coherent signal to public officials, who usually carry out the public’s general wishes. In addition to engaging this debate about what the public thinks about politics, we will also explore how people behave in the political realm. What are the forces that shape whether citizens pay attention to politics, vote, work on campaigns, protest, or engage in other types of political action? How do resource gaps tied to inequalities in society (such as race, class, and gender) influence political behavior? And how do institutions such as the media and campaigns encourage or discourage it?
The Class: Format: lecture
Limit: 25
Expected: 20
Class#: 3679
Grading: no pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: class participation, one to two short papers (5-7 pages), one medium paper (8-12 pages), an oral presentation, and a final exam
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Political Science majors
Distributions: Division II
Attributes: PSCI American Politics Courses

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