THE UNITED STATES ELECTORAL SYSTEM:
| POLITICAL STUDIES 101
|| OFFICE HOURS
| Tu & Th 2:45-4:00 PM
| Mon & Wed 3:15-4:15;
Tues & Thurs 11:00-12:00*
*Tuesdays and Thursday office hours will be cancelled
when meetings or talks conflict, so try to use the MW hours.
My approach to electoral studies focuses on the system within which candidates operate, not on the candidates themselves. That is, we concentrate on the enduring forces behind voting behavior. During the first week or two of the course we will examine the historical evolution of the two party system with special attention paid to "critical" elections. We will examine each of the five party systems and discuss the changing functions performed by political parties, as well as the various sources of cleavage, dissolution and cohesion. For the remainder of the course we shift our attention to voting theories, campaign techniques and electoral behavior.
Our concern will be with those factors that almost always influence the outcome of elections regardless of issues or candidates. Indeed, it would be possible to focus on these factors without ever mentioning a particular candidate or that candidate's position on issues. Naturally, we will not do that, but the point is that there is an electoral structure in which candidates and issues operate. That structure places limits, establishes boundaries, and helps to determine what kinds of candidates and what kinds of issues can influence the electoral system.
The topics we will be exploring, or "what counts", are the state of the economy, partisanship, the party bias, swing ratios, coattails, midterm congressional elections, presidential and congressional elections, referendums, initiatives and recall elections, the electoral origins of divided government, presidential popularity, registration laws, voter turnout, party coalitions, third party politics, primaries and divisive primaries, the incumbency effect, name familiarity, candidate evaluation, issue voting, media coverage, polls, voter targeting, symbolic politics, strategic politics, the structure of belief systems and their impact on voting decisions, the impact of charges of corruption on a candidate's prospects for success, and last, but surely not least, campaign finances.
Grades will be determined as follows:
1) The midterm will be in class October 12th and will constitute 25 percent of your grade. It will cover both readings and lectures.
2) Fifteen percent of your grade will be based on an eight to twelve page paper on an electoral systems topic of your choice covered in this class (but the paper cannot cover a specific race). Please clear your topic with me by October 3. The paper is due October 31 and will be down graded one grade for each 24 hour period the paper is late.
3) Ten percent of your grade will be based on weekly reports during the run-up to the mid-term congressional elections. All races in the House and Senate will be divided up amongst the members of the class and you will follow your races and report to the class how the races are shaping up. House races will be reported on Tuesdays and Senate races on Thursdays. Each report should be brief (90 seconds to two minutes), but jam packed with relevant information, ending with a tally of Republican and Democratic victories "if the election were held today." Your performance on these presentations will be graded by your peers. A list of candidates can be found at the Voter Information Service.
4) Twenty-five percent of your grade will be based on the second midterm. It will cover both readings and lectures since the first midterm and will be in class on the last session, December 7.
5) Twenty-five percent of your grade will be based on an eight to twelve page paper analyzing why a state voted the way it did for House and Senate seats during this election cycle. The paper is due during the period scheduled for the final exam: December 11, at 2:00 PM.
In general, we will begin each class (through the first week of November) with current coverage of the 2002 campaigns, and relate those issues to the readings and lecture material. Class discussion will ensue. This will be followed by a lecture on the week's topic. To fully grasp the material, it is essential that you complete your readings prior to coming to class. The lecture topic will coincide with the readings but may not address the specific reading assigned for each class. Therefore, you should be prepared to ask questions about the reading and to relate your reading to the issues raised in the lectures.
The purpose of the lectures is to supplement and deepen your understanding of the readings, particularly the more elementary texts. The research behind the summaries of findings reported in the readings will be discussed in the lectures, as well as divergent or tangential interpretations of electoral behavior. The lectures will be pitched at a higher level than most, but not all, the readings. If you find the readings too simple, I have an extensive supplementary bibliography used in preparing the lectures, from which additional reading or substitutions can be assigned. The bibliography will also be very helpful in preparing your papers and should be the first thing you look at once you have chosen a topic.
Daily reading of the Los Angeles Times or the New York Times or CNN or Inside Politics.
The readings must be done before the date listed.