Professor: Dr. Barbara Burrell
Meeting time and place: Tues/Thurs 2:0O-3:15 PM, DU459
Office address/phone: 115 Zulauf,
Office Hours: Wednesdays, 1-4:00 PM. Except 2nd Weds. of each month when office hours will be from . I am also usually available on Wednesday mornings and I am around other days.
This course asks questions that are at the heart of making a democracy work.
§ What do citizens think about public issues?
§ How do we know what public opinion is and is there such a thing as public opinion?
§ Are the people capable of having opinions on public issues?
§ How do they make their opinions known to the governors in a republican democracy? How do opinions get linked to policy making?
§ Do leaders lead? Do they follow? Do they manipulate the public? What do we mean by representation?
Political philosophers have differed in their beliefs about what role the people should have in public policy making, how much freedom public officials should have in making policy and the extent to which participation should be encouraged. At the end of this course you should be able to:
§ Describe the ways in which public opinion does or does not get translated into public policy.
§ Evaluate the ability of citizens to develop and articulate opinions on governmental matters.
§ Describe and evaluate public opinion polls as techniques to determine public opinion.
§ Critique various theories of the role of public opinion in democratic policy making.
Frank Newport, Polling
Matters, 2004. Warner Books and the
Jeffrey Stonecash and Mark Brewer,
Robert Eisinger, The
Evolution of Presidential Polling, 2003.
In addition, students are expected to follow the news on
public opinion either through the Chicago
Tribune, the New York Times and/or the
This course schedule is tentative. We may move faster or slower depending on class participation.
I will keep you updated as to where you should be.
Week of Jan. 15th Introduction and Course overview
Begin discussion of general ideas about Public Opinion
What were they thinking? The Federalists and Anti-Federalists
Gary Rosen, “James Madison and the Spirit of 1787” (BB)
Brutus “To the Citizens of the State of
Week of January 22nd
Continue discussion of general ideas about public opinion in democratic societies
Assignment: January 23 – Watch President Bush’s State of the Union address
What are some of the items on his agenda for 2007? What is he thinking?
How might we connect his agenda with public opinion? Does he invoke public opinion? Does he seem to try to lead public opinion?
Assignment due in
class on January 25, Write a 1-2 page summary of his agenda items and what
might be ways to gauge public opinion on these items. Look to see if there is
Week of January 29th The Art and Science of Polling
Assignment: Due in class on February 1. Find a public opinion poll in the national news media and answer the following questions: who conducted the poll, whom did they survey, how many people did they survey, what questions did they ask, what response categories did they give people to choose from what were their findings, when was the survey conducted? What is your assessment of this poll as a measure of public opinion Attach the survey report to your paper.
Week of February 5th Critique of Public Opinion Polling Political Socialization, Trust in Government
We will also construct the questions for your interview project this week.
Trust in Government Update, 2006 (BB)
Week of February 12th Begin Public Opinion and Contemporary Issues
Stonecash and Brewer,
Assignment: Examination of the demographic
characteristics of the American public. Using Census data (www.census.gov), each student will have one
characteristic, such as family income to determine its distribution based on
the 2000 Census or later Census Bureau statistics for the
Week of February 19th : Review and first examination
February 22nd – First examination
Week of February 26: continue Public Opinion and Contemporary Issues
Among other things, we will look at racial issues in the spirit of Black History month
Week of March 5 continue Public Opinion and Contemporary Issues
Among other things, we will look at the gender gap in American politics and look at the public’s support for a woman for president (and a Black for president) in the spirit of Women’s History month
Week of March 12th - Spring Break
Week of March 19th Public Opinion and the Media
Assignment: “Are the media biased?” Go the following two websites: www.mediaresearch.org and www.fair.org. The first is a conservative critic of the media and the second is a liberal critic of the media. How does each decide the media are biased? What is their research methodology? Give an example of how Fair.org believes there is a conservative bias and an example of Media research.org belief that the media are biased in a liberal direction. Write a 1-2 page description and critique of their approaches, providing examples.
Week of March 26th - Political Parties and Interest Groups as links between the people and the governors.
Week of April 2nd Begin Public Opinion from the Government’s Perspective
Assignment: Who are our prospective presidential candidates in 2008 and what is on their minds? Why are they running for president and what is their message to the American public. Each student will have one candidate to investigate. Write and 1-2 page paper on what can you learn about his or her message and what would be his or her priorities as president s far as public policy is concerned? Assignment due: April 5th in class.
Week of April 9th: Continue the Government and the People
April 12th – No class, Midwest Political Science Association annual meeting
Week of 16th : Continue the Government and the People
Week of April 23rd Evaluating Public Opinion
Term paper due: in class on April 26. We will discuss your findings
Week of April 30th Conclusion and Summation
Week of May 7th - Final Examination, Tuesday, May 8th,
Term paper: Students are required to conduct 8 interviews with a sample of citizens. You can select the 8 individuals on your own, however, they cannot include more than 2 fellow students and 2 members of your family. You could interview faculty or staff members at NIU, some residents of DeKalb or the community you live in, an employer, whatever. Aim for variety in the types of people you will interview. The interviews will be about the development of their political selves and their political ideology. We will develop an interview schedule of questions to be asked of these individuals in class. The paper should be at least ten pages in length (double-spaced, 12 point, Times New Roman font or smaller, one inch margins on each page). The paper will be a description of your interviews, what you have learned about peoples’ political selves. You must conclude with some reflection on the role of public opinion in a democracy. This concluding section is very important to your paper. You should put some thought into it and it must be more than a paragraph long. Grammar and spelling is very important.
Due in class: April 26th I will not accept late papers. Complete your paper early enough so that printer problems are not an excuse for not turning in the paper on time.
We will participate in an a university writing assessment project. Your paper will be given to English Department graduate students for evaluation. Their assessment should help you in your writing.
Each assignment is worth 4% of your course grade.
Assignment 1 – President Bush’s State of the Union address
Assignment 2 – Public Opinion Poll
Assignment 3 – Demographic analysis
Assignment 4 – Media analysis
Assignment 5 – Presidential Candidates
Total: 20% of course grade
First Examination - 20% of course grade
Term Paper - 30% of course grade
Final Examination – 25% of course grade
Attendance – 5% of course grade
Class Attendance: Students are expected to attend class each class period, be on time, pay attention, participate in class and not leave early. I determine when class ends. I will take attendance. If a student sleeps through class, his or her cell phone goes off or a student otherwise engages in disturbing behavior in class, he or she will be marked absent for that day.
In addition we may have very brief quizzes at the beginning of a reading assignment to stimulate keeping up with the readings. These quizzes will be built into the overall course grade.
90%-100% - A 80%-89% - B 70-79% - C 60%-69% - D Less than 60% - F
"The attempt of any student to present as his or her own work that
which he or she has not produced is regarded by the faculty and administration
as a serious offense. Students are considered to have cheated if they copy the
work of another during an examination or turn in a paper or an assignment
written, in whole or in part, by someone else. Students are guilty of
plagiarism, intentional or not, if they copy material from books, magazines, or
other sources or if they paraphrase ideas from such sources without
acknowledging them. Students guilty of, or assisting others in, either cheating
or plagiarism on an assignment, quiz, or examination may receive a grade of F
for the course involved and may be suspended or dismissed from the