POLI SCI 420b: Winter 2018-19

Monday, 1.30-4.20 pm
Encina West 400

Professor Shanto Iyengar (siyengar@stanford.edu)
Professor Morris Fiorina (mpfiorina@gmail.com)
Department of Political Science

This class surveys the principal topics and lines of research in the study of individual political behavior. The class will commence with consideration of classical perspectives on voting and public opinion. But even at the starting point its concern is with current approaches and open questions -- both very much in the plural. Specific research areas singled out for review include campaigns, political communication, and race in American politics.

I. Course Requirements


A course website (polisci420b.stanford.edu), will be the primary mechanism for distributing all course materials and important class announcements. All enrolled students should confirm immediately that they are able to access and view the website. Students are expected to check the site regularly for any updates.


The class will be run as a seminar and students will be expected to discuss the weekly readings, constructively and critically. Each week, one to two students will be designated as discussion leaders, effectively setting the agenda for that week’s seminar. We will rotate through the class such that everyone is a discussant at least once, but more likely twice. The weekly discussion leaders will be required to present a brief (~5 minutes) summary of the week’s reading and to pose 3-4 questions to their classmates to initiate the discussion.

Response Papers

Discussion leaders will submit a 2-3 page response paper on the weekly readings in which they should discuss the strengths and shortcomings of the argument and evidence presented in the readings. A barely adequate paper would provide a summary of the readings; a superior paper would identify weaknesses, unresolved questions, and the substantive implications of any deficiencies. At the end of each paper, students should identify at least two questions for future research.

Final Paper

The final paper provides an opportunity to draw connections among specific topics examined in the course, or investigate a particular topic in greater depth than a response paper allows, or both. The final paper, like the response papers, will be graded on the logic of the arguments, understanding of the material, creativity, and clarity of exposition. Details – e.g. length – will be announced.

II. Course Assessment

The final grade for the course will be calculated as follows:

RequirementPercent of Course Grade
General Seminar Participation30%
Assigned Topic Participation30%
Final Paper40%


Jan 7 – Organizational Meeting
Jan 14 – Foundations of Voting Behavior
Jan 21 – Martin Luther King Day – No Class
Jan 28 – The Minimalist Model of Public Opinion
Feb 4 – Party Identification and Partisanship
Feb 11 – Campaigns and Turnout
Feb 18 – Presidents Day – No Class
Feb 25 – Information Effects and Heuristics
Mar 4 – Polarization
Mar 11 – Measurement and Meaning of Racial Prejudice