POLS 833: Problems of American Democracy

Syllabus and other course information to appear here soon. This page will be occassionally updated through September 5, 2019.

This course is a general survey of classic and recent research on major problems and questions in American politics research. Research areas to be covered include the constitutional founding, public opinion, voting and participation, campaigns and elections, Congressional decision making, the executive branch, the judiciary, and parties and interest groups. The dominant theoretical frameworks used by scholars in each research area will be emphasized. Students will be exposed both to classic works in the field as well as recent research inspired by enduring and contemporary questions in the study of American politics.

Reading list:

The following books are required and should be purchased. We will read all or substantial portions of these books. They are available at the campus bookstore and on 24-hour reserve at the Stauffer Library:

  • Cameron, Charles M. 2000. Veto Bargaining: Presidents and the Politics of Negative Power. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  • Gilens, Martin. 1999. Why Americans Hate Welfare: Race, Media, and the Politics of Antipoverty Policy. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  • Krehbiel, Keith. 1998. Pivotal Politics: A Theory of U.S. Lawmaking. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  • Lee, Taeku. 2002. Mobilizing Public Opinion. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press

  • Hartz, Louis. 1995. The Liberal Tradition in America. New York: Harcourt, Brace, and World.

  • Rosenberg, Gerald. 2008. The Hollow Hope: Can Courts Bring About Social Change? (Second edition). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

  • Segal and Spaeth. 2002. The Supreme Court and the Attitudinal Model Revisited. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

  • Zaller, John R. 1992. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

The remaining books contain required readings, but you are not required to purchase them. We will read one or several chapters from each. You may wish to purchase these books if they are related to your research interests (whether in or out of American politics). A handful of copies of most are available from the bookstore*, and all have also been placed on 24-hour reserve.

  • *Cox, Gary and Matthew McCubbins. 2003. Setting the Agenda: Responsible Party Government in the US House of Representatives.

  • *Skowronek, Stephen. 1982. Building a New American State: The Expansion of National Administrative Capacities, 1877-1920.

  • *Berelson, Bernard, et al. 1954. Voting: A Study of Opinion Formation in a Presidential Campaign.

  • *Campbell, Angus, et al. 1960. The American Voter.

  • *Page, Benjamin I. and Robert Y. Shapiro. 1992. The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans’ Policy Preferences.

  • *Iyengar, Shanto and Donald R. Kinder. 1989. News that Matters: Television and American Opinion.

  • Key, V.O. 1949. Southern Politics in State and Nation.

  • Downs, Anthony. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. (Out of print)

  • *Aldrich, John H. 1995. Why Parties?

  • Neustadt, Richard. 1960. Presidential Power.

  • Skowronek, Stephen. 1997. The Politics Presidents Make.

  • *Strolovitch, Dara. 2007. Affirmative Advocacy: Race, Class, and Gender in Interest Group Politics.

Tentative Weekly Schedule:

Week 1: Foundations of American Politics
Week 2: Foundations of American Political Behavior I
Week 3: Foundations of American Political Behavior II
Week 4: Opinion Formation
Week 5: Voting and Participation
Week 6: Media
Week 7: Parties
Week 8: Congress I
Week 9: Congress II
Week 10: The Presidency
Week 11: The Courts
Week 12: Interest Groups