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DRPS : Course Catalogue : School of Social and Political Science : Politics

Undergraduate Course: Elite and Mass Political Behaviour (PLIT10167)

Course Outline
SchoolSchool of Social and Political Science CollegeCollege of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 3 Undergraduate) AvailabilityAvailable to all students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course compares explanations for political behaviour and how applicable they are to politicians and the public. The course considers and critiques three prominent accounts of behaviour, an array of different types of political participation and the boundaries of that concept, as well as the basis for the distinction between elite and mass behaviour. It approaches these ideas through discussion and simulations, and prompts students to develop understanding in the area by writing for both academic and public audiences.
Course description From the local campaigner gathering signatures on a petition to the opposition leader delivering a rousing speech at a mass protest, political behaviour is the lifeblood of democracy. Amongst its many forms, we might be interested in how political elites vote in legislatures, what they say in their speeches or tweets, or how they campaign during elections. Or we could concern ourselves with how the public engage with politics through voting, posting content online, joining organisations, protesting, or taking direct action. Whatever the behaviour that we are most interested in, we can draw on different approaches to explaining why, how, and to what extent people get involved in politics. This course begins by considering three of those approaches: rational choice; psychological; and sociological. It also considers the range of methods that can be used to investigate political behaviour before moving onto examine a range of kinds of political behaviour.

Throughout, the course will encourage students to consider whether different theories and methods are more or less applicable when accounting for elite or public behaviour, and whether we should distinguish between how those two groups act. Students will be expected to approach the course both as critical researchers and as citizens with an interest in understanding and solving problems affecting political behaviour in practice. The course will be taught via seminars and, in line with the general expectation in the School, students will be expected to arrive at each seminar having completed relevant readings and preparation in order to contribute to in-depth discussion of the topics.

Much of the research considered in the course is quantitative in nature, in line with the prevailing approach in political behaviour research. However, an interest in and knowledge of quantitative research methods are not a prerequisite of the course. Information will be provided on how to read quantitative research results and articles, and students who are unfamiliar with such approaches will be supported to engage with them. As such, the course is very much intended to be accessible to any student with an interest in political behaviour amongst elites and masses.

This course aims to:
- Build understanding of a range of political behaviours and their drivers
- Apply, critique, and extend rational choice, psychological, and sociological theories of political behaviour, as well as their relationships with each other
- Identify and address problems affecting political behaviour in practice
- Critically evaluate the distinction between elite and public political behaviour

By the end of this course students should be able to demonstrate understanding of the boundaries of political behaviour and offer explanations for an array of its forms. Students should also be able to critically evaluate rational choice, psychological, and sociological explanations for political behaviour, and their relationships with each other. Finally, students should be able to assess the applicability of those accounts of political behaviour to elites and masses, and relate the ideas we cover to live political debates and events.

By the end of the course students should also be able to articulate reasoned arguments relating to theories of political behaviour. Students should also be able to communicate complex concepts and ideas, and their relationships, in written and spoken form, both for academic and public audiences. Finally, students should be able to offer solutions relating to problems affecting political behaviour in practice, and do so via group work within time-constrained contexts.

Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: Politics and International Relations 1A: Concepts and Debates (PLIT08017) OR Politics in a Changing World: An Introduction for non-specialists (PLIT08012) OR Introduction to Politics and International Relations (PLIT08004)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements Students who lack the pre-requisites but have completed comparable courses should contact the Course Organiser to confirm if they are eligible to take this course.

It is not a prerequisite but Political Behaviour: Opinions, Choices and Movements (PLIT10132) and this course are complementary, so students with a particular interest in political behaviour may wish to take both.

Information for Visiting Students
Pre-requisitesVisiting students should have at least four Politics/IR courses at grade B or above (or be predicted to obtain this). Only university/college level courses will be considered.

High Demand Course? Yes
Course Delivery Information
Academic year 2023/24, Available to all students (SV1) Quota:  0
Course Start Semester 2
Timetable Timetable
Learning and Teaching activities (Further Info) Total Hours: 200 ( Seminar/Tutorial Hours 22, Programme Level Learning and Teaching Hours 4, Directed Learning and Independent Learning Hours 174 )
Assessment (Further Info) Written Exam 0 %, Coursework 100 %, Practical Exam 0 %
Additional Information (Assessment) Essay (2,500 words): 45%
Draft blog post (1,000 words): 10%
Blog response (500 words): 15%
Final blog post (1,000 words): 30%

The blog will address a practical problem relating to political behaviour, drawing on relevant academic literature but written for a public audience.

Each student will submit a draft, which will be anonymously reviewed and marked by a fellow student and the course organiser. This will be a process of marking and moderation, in which each student will review the draft blog allocated to them and offer feedback and a mark in their blog response. The course organiser will then review the blog responses and provide moderated feedback and marks on the both draft blog posts and the blog responses to students. Students will then have the opportunity to make revisions to their blog posts before submitting the final versions.
Feedback Feedback will be provided on all four of the written assessments within three weeks of submission. Where this is not possible, students shall be given clear expectations regarding the timing and methods of feedback. For the blog, feedback on the draft version will also be provided at least two weeks prior to the deadline for the final version.
No Exam Information
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. Demonstrate understanding of what constitutes political behaviour and offer explanations for an array of such behaviour.
  2. Critically evaluate the core assumptions of rational choice, psychological, and sociological, explanations for political behaviour.
  3. Make holistic arguments about the strengths and weaknesses of, and relationships between, different explanations for political behaviour.
  4. Analyse the applicability of rational choice, psychological, and sociological explanations for political behaviour in relation to elites and the public.
  5. Relate the key concepts of the course to live political debates and events.
Reading List
The seminars will largely focus on article-based readings so there is no set textbook for the course, though the following is a useful reference source relating to multiple forms of political behaviour:
- Russell J. Dalton (Ed.) and Hans-Dieter Klingemann (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Political Behavior (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2007). Available online via the University of Edinburgh Library.

Examples of articles that will be considered during the course include:
- John H. Aldrich (1993), 'Rational Choice and Turnout', American Political Science Review, Vol. 37, No. 1, pp. 246-278.
- Noam Gidron and Peter A. Hall (2017), 'The politics of social status: economic and cultural roots of the populist right', British Journal of Sociology, Vol. 68, No. 1, pp. S57-S84.
- Maria Teresa Grasso, Stephen Farrall, Emily Gray, Colin Hay and Will Jennings (2019), 'Thatcher's Children, Blair's Babies, Political Socialization and Trickle-down Value Change: An Age, Period and Cohort Analysis', British Journal of Political Science, Vol. 49, No. 1, pp. 17-36.
Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills By prompting students to think and write critically about theories of political behaviour, how they relate, and their applicability to elites and masses, this course contributes to students to taking an innovative, confident, and reflective approach to politics, inspired by world-leading research (mindsets: aspiration and personal development; enquiry and lifelong learning), and to use their personal an intellectual autonomy to critically evaluate ideas (skill: personal and intellectual autonomy).

Further, by giving students the opportunity to engage in simulations orientated towards problems solving and group work, the course encourages them to take personal responsibility for pursuing their goals (mindset: aspiration and personal development) and to be effective and proactive, and skilled in influencing positively and adapting to new situations, whilst also using skilled communication to enhance their understanding of a topic or context and to engage effectively with others. (skills: personal effectiveness; communication).

Finally, by requiring student to write a blog for a public audience, focusing on a real-world problem of political behaviour, this course encourages them to engage with and make a positive difference the world around them (mindsets: enquiry and lifelong learning; outlook and engagement). It also encourages them to use their highly-developed skills in research and enquiry to identify and creatively tackle problems and use skilled communication beyond the confines of academic writing (skills: research and enquiry; communication).
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Joe Greenwood-Hau
Tel: (01316) 517112
Course secretaryMs Ieva Rascikaite
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