Elections are essential elements of a successful democracy. Americans in particular are asked to vote frequently and on a wide range of offices and issues. How
well do people exercise these opportunities?
This course will examine the many factors that affect voter participation and how voters make decisions. Together we will explore theories dealing with party identification, group and geographic patterns, economic accountability, issue voting, and more. A nagging question will be present throughout all of these topics: are Americans capable of making “good” decisions? At the end of course you should have a firm understanding of theories of voting behavior and a means for answering this question.
The course material will include major theories of electoral behavior, but the approach will be mainly empirical. The readings are full of data. Be prepared to spend some time with graphs and tables, and to conduct some hands-on analysis. I hope you enjoy the topics, are surprised by some of the findings, and finish the semester with some new tools for understanding the electorate.