Political Science | American Politics: Voting, Elections and Realignments
Y661 | 16118 | Carmines


Elections lie at the epicenter of democratic politics and voting is
the fundamental democratic act. It is not surprising, therefore,
that students of democratic politics have devoted a great deal of
attention to understanding the nature of modern democracy by probing
the causes, dimensions and consequences of citizensí voting
behavior. In this seminar we will examine what political scientists
have learned about the political behavior of American citizens
during the last half century. We will begin by examining the major
theoretical perspectives that have guided electoral behavior
research and then turn to six areas of empirical political behavior
research: citizen participation in politics; the role of party
attachments and candidate assessments in shaping electoral choice;
the extent to which economic evaluations affect electoral decisions;
how political issues can become politically salient and electorally
consequential; long-term changes in party attachment and partiesí
group coalitions;  and the impact of political campaigns on
citizensí attitudes and behavior. We will conclude by examining
political participation beyond the voting booth. In each of these
areas we will examine the fundamental normative questions underlying
this empirical research, questions that center on the role that
ordinary citizens should play and can realistically be expected to
play in a democratic polity.
The goal of the course is not only to introduce students to
the vast literature on elections, voting behavior and political
participation, but also to identify areas, issues, and questions
that should be the focus of new research. To that end, we will
analyze and critique current research with an eye toward laying the
foundation for making original contributions to political behavior
research