Sociology 9N                                                                                                                                             Rev 11/1/2020

Title: The 2020 US election, understanding the national, participating in the local

Number of units: 3

Tuesdays and Thursdays, 4:30-5:50

Quarter offered: Fall quarter, 2020

Course Prerequisites: None


Instructor: Michael Rosenfeld, Professor of Sociology



                Specific Soc 9N information (including reading questions, class community guidelines, directions for presenters and directions for papers are here).

                Additional class material on Canvas


In this class we will read and discuss the literature on voting, voting rights, public opinion polling, and elections. The class will have a field component, as students will not only be obligated to register to vote (if they are eligible), but also make phone calls to talk to citizens about some issue or candidate. Students will learn to understand the election system through participation. Each student will pick an issue or candidate, and then the students will phone call around that issue or candidate and learn about what their fellow citizens have to say about their chosen issue. Professor Rosenfeld will help students of all political persuasions to find phone canvassing opportunities. Students will present a post-mortem about their chosen candidate or issue after the November elections are over.


The situation we are in: We have a worldwide coronavirus pandemic, a national economic recession, a political crisis and (as if that all were not enough) we have wildfires in California. The world is not normal right now. If the world-wide craziness is interfering with your ability to get things done, reach out to me and we will find an accommodation as best we can.


Students with Disabilities:
Students with disabilities that may necessitate an academic accommodation must initiate a request with the Stanford Office of Accessible Education,
If you need accommodations, please share your OAE letter with Professor Rosenfeld early in the quarter.


The Honor Code:
Students are responsible for understanding the University’s Honor Code policy and must make proper use of citations of sources for writing papers, creating, and presenting their work, and doing research. For tips on how to uphold the honor code in an online learning environment, read these recommendations. If you have any questions regarding this policy, please contact me.



Readings: Note: All required readings are available for free from the Stanford library.

General history and theory of American democracy:

*Dahl, Robert. 1989. Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City. Available Online at Stanford Libraries.

*Caro, Robert A. 2013. The Passage of Power: The Years of Lyndon Johnson, Vol. IV. New York: Vintage. (only some sections, on the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, because this book is massive). Available Online at Stanford Libraries, Read Ch 11-16 and Ch 23.


On Political lies:

*Allcott, Hunt, and Matthew Gentzkow. 2017. "Social Media and Fake News in the 2016 Election." Journal of Economic Perspectives 31 (2):211-236. Online here.

* Arendt, Hannah. 1971. "Lying in Politics: Reflections on the Pentagon Papers." The New York Review of Books, November 18 1971.

*Vosoughi, Soroush, Deb Roy, and Sinan Aral. 2018. "The Spread of True and False News Online." Science 359:1146-1151. Online here.


On felon disenfranchisement:

*Chris Uggen, Ryan Larson, and Sarah Shannon. 2016. 6 Million Lost Voters.

* Christopher Uggen, Mischelle Van Brakle, and Heather McLaughlin. 2009. “Punishment and Social Exclusion: National Differences in Prisoner Disenfranchisement.” Pages 59-78 in Criminal Disenfranchisement in an International Perspective, edited by Alec Ewald and Brandon Rottinghaus. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press. Available online at Stanford libraries,


On Voter Fraud:

*Ansolabehere, Stephen, Samantha Luks, and Brian F. Schaffner. 2015. "The perils of cherry picking low frequency events in large sample surveys." Electoral Studies 40:409-410.

*Goel, Sharad, Marc Meredith, Michael Morse, David Rothschild, and Houshmand Sirani-Mehr. Forthcoming. "One Person, One Vote: Estimating the Prevalence of Double Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections." American Political Science Review.

Levitt, Justin. 2007. "The Truth about Voter Fraud." New York: Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School.

Levitt, Justin. 2014. "A Comprehensive Investigation of Voter Impersonation finds 31 Credible Incidents out of One Billion Ballots Cast." The Washington Post, August 6, 2014.

*Richman, Jesse T., Gulshan A. Chattha, and David C. Earnest. 2014. "Do non-citizens vote in U.S. elections?" Electoral Studies 36:149-157.


On Shelby County:

* The Shelby County v. Holder decision ( and its aftermath, i.e. “How Shelby County v. Holder” broke America, by Vann R. Newkirk in the Atlantic.

* Blackshear, James, and Lani Guinier. 2014. "Free at Last: Rejecting Equal Soverignty and Restoring the Constitutional Right to Vote Shelby County v. Holder." Harvard Law and Policy Review 8 (1):39-70.


* Rachel Lears, Director. Knock Down the House (2019). Featuring Alexandria Occasio-Cortez. Available on Netflix.


On Political Polarization:

Baldassarri, Delia, and Andrew Gelman. 2008. "Partisans Without Constraint: Political Polarization and Trends in American Public Opinion." American Journal of Sociology 114 (2):408-446.

Lord, Charles G., Lee Ross, and Mark R. Lepper. 1979. "Biased Assimilation and Attitude Polarization: The Effects of Prior Theories on Subsequently Considered Evidence." Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37 (11):2098-2109.




Polling and politics:





Assignments and grades:
Students will sign up for days to present. Papers will be due before class when there is a reading assignment. Students decide which class readings to write about. The purpose of the short essays is to bring students to class ready to talk about the readings, so you must turn in the paper before class and you must also attend class to get credit for the short essay. Short essays and class presentations occur on different days, and cover different readings.


2 short paper assignments of 2-3 pages (or best 2 papers if you turn in more than 2)


Registering to vote and voting (if eligible)


In-class presentation on your candidate or issue before the election


In-class presentation post-election analysis about why your candidate or issue won or lost


One in-class presentation on a reading (or your best grade out of 2 in-class presentations)


Regular in-class participation, including reports on phone canvassing work






Week 1

Reading Assignment

In Class

Student presenters

Sept 15


Introduction to class


Sept 17

On democratic theory. Reading: Dahl, Who Governs? Book I and II, chapters 1-12

discuss democracy theory






Week 2




Sept 22

On Democratic theory. Dahl’s Who Governs? finish the book

discuss democracy theory


Sept 24


Students introduce their chosen issue and campaign






Week 3




Sept 29

Caro Ch 11-16, 23

discuss the origins of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act


Oct 1


Students describe their first phone canvassing experiences






Week 4




Oct 6

* Shelby Co  v Holder (US Supreme Court decision)

* Newkirk in the Atlantic

* Blackshear and Guinier


Discuss the state of voting rights now.


Oct 8


Pre-election First group of students present both sides of their chosen election and issues and then explain why they support one side.






Week 5




Oct 13

* Allcott, Hunt, and Matthew Gentzkow.

* Vosoughi et al

* Arendt 1971

Discussion of political lies and their impact


Oct 15


Pre-election second group of students present both sides of their chosen election and issues and then explain why they support one side.






Week 6




Oct 20

A report and a paper by Uggen


(note that 538 report on the 2016 election has 10 chapters)


Discussion of felon disenfranchisement and re-enfranchisement. Also, a discussion of polling


Oct 22


Discussion of what is on your ballot






Week 7




Oct 27

Netflix Movie Knock down the House. Also Lord et al and Baldassari and Gelman on political polarization

On running for office and campaigning, and on political polarization.


Oct 29







Week 8




Nov 3

Election Day

Discussion of what we think will happen in the election


Nov 5


Post-election presentation, group 1. Election post mortem






Week 9




Nov 10

* Richman et al

* Ansolabehere et al

* Levitt 2007 report, The Truth about Voter Fraud

* Levitt 2019 article

* Goel et al, One person One Vote

Discussion of the evidence of Voter fraud in the US


Nov 12


Post-election presentation, group 2






Week 10




Nov 17

 Final reading assignment: Muirhead and Rosenblum’s “A Lot of People are Saying

Visit to class by Jackie Fielder (confirmed)


Nov 19


Post-election presentation group 3