Campaigns, Voting, Media and Elections

Poli Sci 120b - Comm 162/262

Fall Quarter 2020-21

Location: Online
Time: MW 1-2.20


Shanto Iyengar (
Office Hours: Tue Noon-2 (and by appt.)

Teaching Assistants:

Alejandra Aldridge (
Office Hours: Wed 3-5 (and by appt.)

Rachel Lienesch (
Office Hours: Tue 10-Noon (and by appt.)

Brett Parker (
Office Hours: Thu 10-Noon (and by appt.)

Class website:

Text: Media Politics: A Citizen's Guide (Fourth Edition). W. W. Norton, 2018. ISBN 978-0-393-66487-4.

All other required readings are available on the class website. Access to the readings is restricted to those enrolled or auditing the course.

This course examines the theory and practice of American political campaigns. First, we explain the behavior of the key players — candidates, journalists, and voters — in terms of the institutional arrangements and political incentives that confront them. Second, we use the 2016 election and the ongoing 2020 campaigns as a "laboratory" for testing general propositions about the behavior of journalists, candidates, and voters. Last, we discuss selections from the academic literature dealing with the immediate effects of campaigns on public opinion and voter behavior as well as possible long-term consequences for governance and the democratic process.

We will calculate your grade based on a midterm, final exam (non-cumulative), a research paper, a class presentation (covering one of the assigned readings), and your presence in the discussion section. The exams each count for 25 percent of the grade, the paper for 30 percent, your class presentation for 10 percent, and the remaining 10 percent is based on participation in the discussion section. The research paper must address some issue or aspect of public opinion and voting behavior, summarize the state of knowledge about the issue, and then present relevant evidence (quantitative "data") derived from the American National Election Studies (ANES) database. The discussion section will provide training on accessing and analyzing ANES data. The deadline for selecting a paper topic is October 26.

Stanford University and its faculty are committed to ensuring that all courses are financially accessible to all students. The Diversity & First-Gen Office may be able to provide assistance by completing their questionnaire on course textbooks & suppliesor by contacting Joseph Brown, the Associate Director of the Diversity and First-Gen Office (; Old Union Room 207). Dr. Brown is available to connect you with resources and support while ensuring your privacy.

Students who may need an academic accommodation based on the impact of a disability must initiate the request with the Office of Accessible Education (OAE). Professional staff will evaluate the request with required documentation, recommend reasonable accommodations, and prepare an Accommodation Letter for faculty dated in the current quarter in which the request is being made. Students should contact the OAE as soon as possible since timely notice is needed to coordinate accommodations. The OAE is located at 563 Salvatierra Walk (phone: 650-723-1066,

Sep 14 – Overview

Sep 16, 21 – From Party to Media-Based Campaigns

Sep 23, 28, 30 – Changing Role of the News Media

Oct 5, 7 – New Platforms, New Rules

Oct 12, 14, 19 – Public Opinion
Oct 21 – Midterm Review
Oct 21 – Midterm Exam

Oct 26 – Party Polarization

Sample Papers

Oct 28 – Campaign Strategy – Free Media

Oct 30, Nov 2 – Campaign Strategy – Paid Media

Nov 4 – Analysis of the 2020 election

Nov 9 – Effects of Political Campaigns

Nov. 11, 16 – The Permanent Campaign

Nov 18 – Wrap up