Course catalogue

Name105E19 Advanced Political Behaviour: The Causes and Consequences of Public Opinion Formation
Language Engelsk
Course levelKandidat
Department Institut for Statskundskab
Related educations
Course code431192U009
TeacherMartin Bisgaard, Lene Aarøe and Jens Peter Frølund Thomsen
Course type Tomplads Ordinær Udveksling
FacultyAarhus BSS
Course catalogue id94292

Description of qualifications:

<p>Political scientists (as civil servants or consultants) offer advice to national and local politicians including the general public. To accomplish this task effectively, political scientists must have an adequate understanding of the nuts and bolts of citizens&#8217; opinions and reactions. In particular, under what circumstances do ordinary citizens respond negatively or positively to government policies? How do ordinary citizens cope with important information about policy issues &#8211; are they objective or deeply partisan? Are ordinary citizens responsible voters concerned with the well-being of the nation or simply focused on their own narrow interests? To what extent can interethnic relations be improved?</p> <p>These important questions clearly show that understanding how citizens respond to events and form opinions is fundamental to understanding contemporary politics. Fortunately, our knowledge about these issues is extensive. Political scientists use a variety of different theories and explanations to understand mass behaviour, from work focused on stable influences such as citizens&#8217; biological and psychological dispositions and their location in the social structure to dynamic factors such as key messages from the mass media and political elites.</p> <p>This core course provides a comprehensive, updated overview of the literature from the major approaches and the classic works to standing debates on perennial topics like voting and tolerance, to current controversies such as the relative weight of current experiences, past socialisation and biology in influencing opinion formation. This means that the course covers and combines major insights from leading disciplines, among these political sociology, political psychology, social psychology and evolutionary biology. Hence, the course goes far beyond any simple notion of &#8216;economic man&#8217;. Rather, Aristotle&#8217;s complex notion of human beings as political animals is more adequate.&#160;</p> <p>The insights and approaches of the course have great relevance both outside and inside Academia. For students contemplating careers in the public or private sectors, the course offers essential insights into key factors defining the social environment in which any politically oriented organisation operates: public opinion, electoral behaviour and intergroup relations. Such insights are key to providing solid advice on everything from the content of new laws to the timing of information campaigns targeting the public. In the shorter run, the course gives participants an ideal vantage point from which to pursue more specialised questions and interests in other seminars and/or in their MA thesis (speciale), but it is also relevant for those who are primarily interested in an overview of the field.</p> <p>The course is structured in three blocks. First, we cover five major approaches to the study of public opinion and political behaviour: the biological approach, the sociological approach, the psychological approach, the rational choice/economic approach and the communication approach. Readings for this block will be a combination of classic studies and more recent critiques and/or updates. In the second block, we address topics that both in the past and more recently have attracted attention. The list of topics includes ethnic and political tolerance, voting behaviour, support for the welfare state, effects of social networks and the nature of political ideology. In the final block, we delve into current debates about such topics as the relative weight of socialisation and biology for attitude formation, the role of self-interest and experiences in political attitudes, the extent to which citizens are competent for democracy, the effects of ethnic diversity and the relationship between affect and reason in political behaviour. Throughout each of the blocks, we will discuss potential topics for the final synopses as well as the strengths and weaknesses of empirical analyses of political behaviour.</p> <p>A substantial number of the classes will be taught in Danish, if the enrolled students&#8217; language proficiencies allow it. The exam, however, will be held in English for everyone.</p>


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