GOV 370L • Presidential Electoral Politics
1:00 PM-2:00 PM
Course number may be repeated for credit when topics vary. In presidential elections alone the majority of American citizens can simultaneously express their opinion about the direction of national public policy in the United States. Often, leaders of the winning party interpret results of a presidential election as the people's mandate for one set of policies or another, while the defeated downplay the election's significance. Who should we believe? What goes into the selection of the only elected official responsible to the entire electorate? Because presidential elections express public opinion and because public opinion in turn is a key resource both for studying elections and waging election campaigns, in the first part of the course we will examine the relationships of public opinion and polling with presidential elections. Next we will turn to the nuts and bolts of presidential campaigns in the contemporary era. We will focus on theories of voting in presidential elections, in both the general elections and the primaries. We will also examine topics such as candidate behavior, voter participation, voter information, independent and third parties, and the media's role in the presidential election process. Finally, in the last part of the course, we will put presidential elections in a larger historical and systemic perspective. The goal of this course in all this is, narrowly, to examine the inputs of the presidential selection process and use a knowldege of these inputs to evaluate how voters make decisions. More broadly, this course offers a starting point for evaluating how well our presidential election practice selects good leaders in a money-driven political system.