POLS 509: Roots of Political Behavior

Spring 2007

Tuesday, 12:30-3:10

DuSable 464


Dr. Matt Streb

Office: Zulauf Hall 412

E-Mail Address: mstreb@niu.edu

Office Hours:  W, 8:30-11:30


Course Description: 

Few fields have generated as much scholarship as the areas of political participation, voting, and elections.  This class will introduce you to several of the “classics” in the field as well as a plethora of new research.  We will cover everything from whether the lack of voter turnout in the United States matters, to how citizens use heuristics, to the impact that the media has on political behavior and elections.  Throughout the semester, we will continually come back to the normative question of how informed the American voter needs to be and the nonnormative question of how informed the American voter actually is.    

It is important to note that neither the readings we will cover in this course nor the topics addressed are comprehensive.  Indeed, because of time constraints, we will pay little attention to important questions regarding comparative political behavior, political psychology, and the effects of campaigns.  Still, the seminar will prepare the PhD students for their comprehensive exams and will help the masters’ students develop potential starred papers.   


Grading:  Students will receive four grades over the course of the semester:


Final Exam (30%):  The final exam will consist of an essay question and will be completed in class.  The question will resemble a comprehensive exam question given by the department’s American Government faculty.  Students will not be able to use their notes or readings during the exam, but will be able to use their syllabi.  The final will be Tuesday, May 8th.  The examination must be completed to earn a passing grade and credit for the course.  However, students enrolled under an audit option are exempt.  


Research Paper (38%):  Each student is required to write an original research paper on a topic related to political behavior (that receives my approval).  In the paper, students should develop and test empirically a hypothesis.  The paper is not a research design or a literature review.  The goal is to have the student create a paper that is suitable for presentation at a regional or national political science conference or that could be accepted as a department starred paper.  As a result, students will give a formal presentation of their papers some time during the final two class periods.  The paper will be discussed in greater detail in class. 

Students must have their research question approved by me by Tuesday, February 6th.   Students should set a time to meet with me before the 6th to discuss ideas for the papers.  On the 6th, students should turn in an abstract that includes the research question and a preliminary hypothesis or hypotheses.  They will be required to turn in a literature review on Tuesday, March 20th and a brief paper explaining the data and methods used in the paper on Tuesday, April 3rd.  Failure to hand in any of the assignments on time will result in an automatic failure on the paper.   The paper will be due May 1st, although some students should be prepared to present the findings of their papers by April 24th.  To earn a passing grade in the course, this assignment must be completed.  However, students enrolled in the course under an audit option are exempt. 


Weekly Memos (22%):  Students are required to write a one-page single-spaced reaction paper to the readings each week.  Students are to highlight arguments that they found most interesting, make general comments about the arguments in the readings, and ask questions about areas in which they are confused.  Papers are due to me via e-mail by midnight the day of class.  Students who do not turn in a paper by midnight will receive a 0 for the paper, NO EXCEPTIONS!!  Students who do not hand in more than two memos will automatically receive a course grade of “F.”  Memos will be graded based on 0-2 points.  A two-point paper will raise intriguing questions, provide insightful comments, and integrate concepts analyzed in more than one of the readings.  


Participation (10%):  For the most part, this class will be conducted in a seminar format.  Therefore, it is imperative that students actively participate in class.  Students are expected to contribute comments about the readings and questions about the material.  This class depends greatly on quality participation in order for you to get the most out of it.  All required readings for a particular week are to be completed by everyone before arriving in class; and each member of the class should be prepared to summarize, react to, and draw from the readings in depth.  Also, your research presentation will be part of your participation grade (although you will not be given a grade for the presentation).

            In general, relevant in-class participation will be evaluated according to the following scale with plus and minus grades being possible.

                        A=regular and thoughtful participation

                        B=occasional and thoughtful participation

                        C=regular attendance, but little or no participation

Students who miss more than two classes will fail the class, although students are not expected to miss any classes barring a family emergency or major illness.  


Course Policies:


1.  Makeup Exam:  I will only give a makeup final examination under extraordinary circumstances.  If such circumstances arise, please contact me as soon as possible and before the scheduled exam.  To keep the process fair for everyone in the course, students may be asked to support requests for makeup examinations with documentation.  A missed examination without prior notification and a documented excuse will result in a zero and a course grade of “F” as opposed to an incomplete.


2.  Students with Disabilities:  Under Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, NIU is committed to making reasonable accommodations for persons with documented disabilities. Those students with disabilities that may have some impact on their coursework and for which they may require accommodations should notify the Center for Access-Ability Resources (CAAR) on the fourth floor of the Health Services Building. CAAR will assist students in making appropriate accommodations with course instructors. It is important that CAAR and instructors be informed of any disability-related needs during the first two weeks of the semester.


3.  Late Assignments:  I will not accept late weekly memos.  If I do not receive the memo via email by midnight on the day of class, you will receive a zero for the assignment.  Students who miss more than two weekly memos will receive a course grade of “F” as opposed to an incomplete.  A research paper submitted after the due date will be penalized by a deduction of ten points (one letter grade) per day.  Since students will have had several weeks to write their papers, this standard will be waived only in extreme circumstances.


4.  Incomplete Requests:  Such petitions will be granted only in extraordinary circumstances.  The professor reserves the right to ask for documentation to verify the problem preventing completion of the course by the normal deadlines.  If the student does not present documentation from a university office or official, the matter will be left to the professor’s discretion. 


5.  Academic Dishonesty:  In preparing for their work and meeting the requirements of this course, members of this seminar are expected to adhere to all the rules, regulations, and standards set forth by the Department of Political Science, Graduate School, Northern Illinois University, and the scholarly community.  This statement encompasses intentional and unintentional plagiarism; cheating on examinations; using, purchasing, or stealing others’ work; misusing library materials, and so forth.  Failure to honor these rules, regulations, and standards could result in a failing course grade and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.   



Required Texts:


Campbell, David E.  2006.  Why We Vote: How Schools and Communities Shape Our Civic Life.  Princeton, NJ:  Princeton University Press.


Downs, Anthony.  1957.  An Economic Theory of Democracy.  Boston: Addison Wesley Longaman.


These books are available at the NIU bookstore.  Students are strongly encouraged to visit websites such as www.campusi.com to find much cheaper, used versions of these books.  The remainder of the readings will be placed on electronic reserve, are available through J-stor or online, or can be copied from journals in the library.  When on campus, you can access articles by going to http://www.niulib.niu.edu/journals.cfm.   


Grading Scale:

93-100%          A         90-92.9%         A-        87.5-89.9%      B+      

83-87.4%         B         80-82.9%         B-        77.5-79.9%      C+      

73-77.4%         C         70-72.9%         C-        60-69.9%         D        

Less than 60%      F


Course Outline and Readings:


NOTE: Readings should be completed for the day in which they are assigned.  (E) means the reading is available on electronic reserve. 


1/16     Introduction to the Course


1/23     Classic Theories of Voting


Berelson, Bernard R., Paul F. Lazarsfeld, and William N. McPhee.  1954.  Voting. 

Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.  Chapter 14. (E) 

Campbell, Angus, Philip E. Converse, Warren E. Miller, and Donald E. Stokes.  1960. 

The American Voter.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press.  Chapters 6 and 9. (E)

Downs, Anthony.  1957.  An Economic Theory of Democracy.  New York: Harper and

Row.  Chapters 1, 3, and 11-13.

Fiorina, Morris P.  1993.  “Explorations of a Political Theory of Party Identification.”  In Classics in Voting Behavior.  Washington D.C.: CQ Press: 247-262. (E)


1/30     Participation and Turnout


Aldrich, John.  1993.  “Rational Choice and Turnout.”  American Journal of Political Science 37: 246-278. 

Brady, Henry, Sidney Verba, and Kay Lehman Schlozman.  1995.  “Beyond SES: A Resource Model of Participation.”  American Political Science Review 89: 271-294.

Downs, Anthony.  1957.  An Economic Theory of Democracy.  New York: Harper and

Row.  Chapter 14.

Franklin, Mark N.  1996.  “Electoral Participation.”  In Comparing Democracies: Elections and Voting in a Comparative Perspective, Lawrence LeDuc, Richard G.

Niemi, and Pippa Norris (eds.): 216-35. (E)

Hajnal, Zoltan L., and Paul G. Lewis.  2003.  “Municipal Institutions and Voter Turnout

in Local Elections.”  Urban Affairs Review 38:  645-668.

McDonald, Michael P., and Samuel L. Popkin.  2001.  “The Myth of the Vanishing Voter.”  American Political Science Review 95: 963-974.

Powell, G. Bingham, Jr.  1986.  “American Voter Turnout in Comparative

Perspective.”  American Political Science Review 80: 17-43.

Putnam, Robert D.  1995.  “Tuning in, Tuning Out: The Strange Disappearance of Social

Capital in America.”  PS: Political Science and Politics 38: 664-683.


2/6       Participation and Turnout, cont.


Voter Mobilization

Gerber, Alan S., and Donald P. Green.  2000.  “The Effects of Personal Canvassing, Telephone Calls, and Direct Mail on Voter Turnout:  A Field Experiment.”  American Political Science Review 94: 653-664.

Niven, David.  2004.  “The Mobilization Solution?  Face-to-Face Contact and Voter Turnout in a Municipal Election.”  Journal of Politics 66:  868-884.

Rosenstone, Steven J., and John Mark Hansen.  1993.  Mobilization, Participation, and Democracy in America.  New York:  Macmillan Publishing.  Chapter 6. (E)


Habitual Voting

Gerber, Alan S., Donald P. Green, and Ron Shachar.  2003.  “Voting May Be Habit-Forming:  Evidence from a Randomized Field Experiment.”  American Journal of Political Science 47: 540-550.   

Plutzer, Eric.  2002.  “Becoming a Habitual Voter:  Inertia, Resources and Growth in Young Adulthood.”  American Political Science Review 96: 41-56.


Does Turnout Matter?

Citrin, Jack, Eric Schickler, and John Sides.  2003.  “What If Everyone Voted? 

Simulating the Impact of Increased Turnout in Senate Elections.”  American

Journal of Political Science 47: 75-90.

Hajnal, Zoltan, and Jessica Trounstine.  2005.  “Where Turnout Matters:  The

Consequences of Uneven Turnout in City Politics.”  Journal of Politics 67: 


Nagel, Jack H., and John E. McNulty.  1996.  “Partisan Effects of Voter Turnout in

Senatorial and Gubernatorial Elections.”  American Political Science Review 90: 780-793.


2/13     No Class.  ILS Conference.


2/20     Participation and Turnout, cont


Campbell, David.  2006.  Why We Vote?  Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press. 


2/27     Political Knowledge


Converse, Philip E.  1964.  “The Nature of Mass Belief Systems in Mass Publics.”  In

David E. Apter (ed.) Ideology and Discontent.  New York:  Free Press. (E)

Delli Carpini, Michael X., and Scott Keeter.  1996.  What Americans Know About

Politics and Why It Matters.  New Haven:  Yale University Press.  Chapters 2 and 4. (E)

Jerit, Jennifer, Jason Barabas, and Toby Bolsen.  2006.  “Citizens, Knowledge, and the

Information Environment.  American Journal of Political Science 47: 266.282.

Kuklinski, James H., Paul J. Quirk, Jennifer Jerit, David Schwieder, and Robert F. Rich. 

2000.  “Misinformation and the Currency of Democratic Citizenship.”  Journal of

Politics 62: 790-816.

Lau, Richard R. and David P. Redlawsk.  1997.  “Voting Correctly.”  American Political

Science Review 91: 585-98.

Prior, Markus.  2005.  “News vs. Entertainment:  How Increasing Media Choice Widens

Gaps in Political Knowledge and Turnout.”  American Journal of Political Science 49: 577-592.  

Zaller, John and Stanley Feldman.  1992.  “A Simple Theory of the Survey Response:

Answering Questions versus Revealing Preferences.”  American Journal of Political Science 36: 579-616.


3/6       Analyses of Voter Decision Making


Carmines, Edward G. and James A. Stimson.  1980.  “The Two Faces of Issue Voting.”  

American Political Science Review 74: 78-91.

Kinder, Donald R., Gordon S. Adams, and Paul W. Gronke.  1989.  “Economics and

Politics in the 1984 American Presidential Election.”  American Journal of

Political Science 33:491-515.

Lodge, Milton and Marco R. Steenbergen, with Shawn Brau.  1995.  “The Responsive

Voter: Campaign Information and the Dynamics of Candidate Evaluation.”  American Political Science Review 89: 309-26.

MacKuen, Michael B., Robert S. Erikson, and James A. Stimson.  1992.  “Peasants or

Bankers? The American Electorate and the U.S. Economy.”  American Political

Science Review 86:597-611.

Rabinowitz, George, and Susan Elaine McDonald.  1989.  “A Directional Theory of Issue

Voting.”  American Political Science Review 83: 93-121.

Wattenberg, Martin P., Ian McAllister, and Anthony Salvanto.  2000.  “How Voting Is

Like Taking an SAT test: An Analysis of American Voter Rolloff.”  American Politics Research 28: 234-250. 


3/13     No Class.  Spring Break


3/20     The Role of Heuristics


Hayes, Danny.  2005.  “Candidate Qualities through a Partisan Lens: A Theory of Trait

Ownership.”  American Journal of Political Science 49: 908-923.

Huckfeldt, Robert, Jeffrey Levine, William Morgan, and John Sprague.  1999. 

“Accessibility and the Political Utility of Partisan Ideological Orientations.” 

American Journal of Political Science 43: 888-911.

Kuklinski, James H., and Norman L. Hurley.  1994.  “On Hearing and Interpreting

Political Messages:  A Cautionary Tale of Citizen Cue-Taking.”  Journal of

Politics 56: 729-751.

Lau, Richard. R and David P. Redlawsk.  2001.  “Advantages and Disadvantages of

Cognitive Heuristics in Political Decision-Making.”  American Journal of Political Science 45: 951-71.

Mondak, Jeffrey J.  1993.  “Public Opinion and Heuristic Processing of Source Cues.” 

Political Behavior 15: 167-192.

Popkin, Samuel L.  1991.  The Reasoning Voter.  Chicago:  University of Chicago Press. 

Prologue and Chapter 1. (E)

Rahn, Wendy.  1993.  “The Role of Partisan Stereotypes in Information Processing about

Candidates.”  American Journal of Political Science 37:472-496.


3/27     Voting in Low-Information Elections


Baum, Lawrence, and David Klein.  2007.  “Voters’ Responses to High-Visibility

Judicial Elections.”  In Matthew J. Streb (ed.) Running for Judge.  New York: 

New York University Press. (E)   

Branton, Regina P.  2003.  “Examining Individual-Level Voting Behavior on State Ballot

Propositions.”  Political Research Quarterly 56: 367-377.

Byrne, Gary C., and Kristian Pueschel.  1974.  “But Who Should I Vote for County

Coroner?”  Journal of Politics 36: 778-784. 

McDermott, Monika L.  2005.  “Candidate Occupation and Voter Information Shortcuts.” 

Journal of Politics 67: 201-219.

Nicholson, Stephen P.  2003.  The Political Environment and Ballot Proposition

Awareness.”  American Journal of Political Science 47: 403-410. 

Schaffner, Brian F., and Matthew J. Streb. 2002.  “The Partisan Heuristic in Low

Information Elections.”  Public Opinion Quarterly 66: 559-581.

Schaffner, Brian F., Matthew J. Streb, and Gerald C. Wright.  2007.  “A New Look at the

Republican Advantage in Nonpartisan Elections.”  Forthcoming, Political

Research Quarterly.  (E)

Squire, Peverill, and Eric R.A.N. Smith.  1988.  “The Effect of Partisan Information on Voters in Nonpartisan Elections.”  Journal of Politics 50: 169-179.


4/3       The Effects of Paid Media on Voting Behavior


Ansolabehere, Stephen, and Shanto Iyengar.  1994.  “Riding the Wave and Claiming

Ownership Over Issues:  The Joint Effects of Advertising and News Coverage in Campaigns.”  Public Opinion Quarterly 58: 335-357. 

Ansolabehere, Stephen, Shanto Iyengar, Adam Simon, and Nicholas Valentino. 

1994.  “Does Attack Advertising Demobilize the Electorate?”  American

Political Science Review 88: 829-838.

Brians, Craig Leonard, and Martin P. Wattenberg.  1996.  “Campaign Issue

Knowledge and Salience: Comparing Reception from TV Commercials, TV

News, and Newspapers.”  American Journal of Political Science 40: 172-193. 

Clinton, Joshua D., and John S. Lapinski.  2004.  “’Targeted’ Advertising and Voter

Turnout:  An Experimental Study of the 2000 Presidential Election.”  Journal of Politics 66: 69-96.

Finkel, Steven E., and John G. Geer.  1998.  “A Spot Check: Casting Doubt on the

Demobilizing Effect of Attack Advertising.”  American Journal of Political

Science 42: 573-95.

Shaw, Daron R.  1999.  “The Effects of TV Ads and Candidate Appearances on

Statewide Presidential Votes, 1988-1996.”  The American Political Science Review 93: 345-361.

Sigelman, Lee, and Mark Kugler.  2003.  “Why Is Research on the Effects of Negative

Campaigning So Inconclusive?  Understanding Citizens’ Perceptions of

Negativity.”  Journal of Politics 65: 142-160. 


4/10     The Effects of Earned Media on Voting Behavior


Bartels, Larry M.  1993. “Messages Received:  The Political Impact of Media

Exposure.”  American Political Science Review 87: 267-285.

Beck, Paul Allen, Russell J. Dalton, Steven Greene, and Robert Huckfeldt.  2002.  “The

Social Calculus of Voting: Interpersonal, Media, and Organizational Influences

on Presidential Choices.”  American Political Science Review 96: 57-73.

Dalton, Russell J., Paul A. Beck, and Robert Huckfeldt.  1998.  “Partisan Cues and the

Media: Information Flows in the 1992 Presidential Election.”  American Political Science Review 92: 111-126.

Druckman, James N., and Michael Parkin.  2005.  “The Impact of Media Bias:  How

Editorial Slant Affects Voters.”  Journal of Politics 67: 1030-1049.

Finkel, Steven E.  1993.  “Reexamining the ‘Minimal Effects’ Model in Recent

Presidential Campaigns.”  Journal of Politics 55: 1-21.

Kahn, Kim Fridkin, and Patrick J. Kennedy.  2002.  “The Slant of the News: How

Editorial Endorsements Influence Campaign Coverage and Citizens’ Views of Candidates.”  American Political Science Review 96: 381-94.

Mutz, Diana C., and Paul S. Martin.  2001.  “Facilitating Communication Across Lines of

Political Difference: The Role of Mass Media.”  American Political Science Review 95: 97-114. 

Mutz, Diana C., and Byron Reeves.  2005.  “The New Videomalaise: Effects of Televised

Incivility on Political Trust.”  American Political Science Review 99: 1-15.


4/17     Voting Behavior and Race, Ethnicity, and Gender


Abrajano, Marisa A., Jonathan Nagler, and R. Michael Alvarez.  2005.  “A Natural

Experiment of Race-Based and Issue Voting:  The 2001 City of Los Angeles Elections.”  Political Research Quarterly 58: 203-218.

Barreto, Matt A., Gary M. Segura, and Nathan D. Woods.  2004.  “The Mobilizing Effect

of Majority-Minority Districts on Latino Turnout.”  American Political Science Review 98: 65-75.

Bobo, Lawrence, and Franklin D. Gilliam, Jr.  1990.  “Race, Sociopolitical Participation,

and Black Empowerment.”  American Political Science Review 84: 377-393.

Chaney, Carole Kennedy, R. Michael Alvarez, and Jonathan Nagler.  1998.  “Explaining

the Gender Gap in U.S. Presidential Elections, 1980-1992.”  Political Research

Quarterly 51: 311-339.

Gay, Claudine.  2001.  “The Effect of Black Congressional Representation on Political

Participation.”  American Political Science Review 95: 589-602.

Kaufmann, Karen, and John R. Petrocik.  1999.  “The Changing Politics of American

Men: Understanding the Sources of the Gender Gap.”  American Journal of Political Science 43: 864-887.

Tate, Katherine.  1991.  “Black Political Participation in the 1984 and 1988 Presidential

Elections.”  American Political Science Review 85: 1159-1176.


4/24     Research Presentations


5/1       Research Presentations


5/8       Final Exam