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Political Psychology and Public Opinion - POL00069H

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  • Department: Politics
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Pavlos Vasilopoulos
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2020-21

Module summary

The objective of the course is to introduce undergraduate students to the psychological processes that underlie the public’s political decision-making.

Module will run

Occurrence Teaching cycle
A Spring Term 2020-21

Module aims

The course is designed to provide a versatile theoretical framework for the comprehension of the dynamics, depth and complexity of public opinion. Furthermore, the course aims at developing students’ analytical skills to draw on theoretical resources for the comprehension of political events, trends in public opinion and electoral outcomes. The course will draw on classic and contemporary readings from political psychology to introduce students to divergent theoretical approaches to the study of political behavior. Students will be invited to critically engage the question of how citizens make political judgments and explore the merits and limitations of different theoretical and methodological perspectives. Questions that will be examined in the course include: What is the relationship between personality and politics? What is ideology and how is it formed? What do citizens know about politics? How do citizens decide on complex political issues for which they lack information? Under which conditions do political attitudes change? How do emotions affect our political opinions? The overall aim of the course will be to introduce, rather than exhaust the above themes.

Module learning outcomes

Students will be invited to critically engage the question of how citizens make political judgments and explore the merits and limitations of different theoretical and methodological perspectives. By the end of the course students will be able to:

1. Demonstrate comprehensive knowledge of the origins and evolution of the major theoretical approaches in political psychology. Students will be able to demonstrate an understanding of explanations of: the relationship between personality and politics; the psychological bases of ideology; how citizens decide on complex political issues for which they lack information; the conditions under which political attitudes change; How emotions affect our political opinions.  (PLO 1)

2. To apply independently theoretical tools from political psychology to broader politics issues such as political participation, vote choice, and political communication. (PLO 2)

3. Demonstrate an awareness of the merits and limitations of different methodological approaches to the study of public opinion. These include focus groups, surveys, experiments, and field experiments. (PLO 3)

Module content

-This class introduces political psychology, which is a rapidly emerging subfield in political science to the students of the University of York.

-Political psychology is gaining increased attention within the social sciences providing important answers on voters’ political decision-making processes in a highly volatile political environment where social characteristics seem to play a diminished role compared to a few decades ago.

-I have taught a similar class at Sciences Po Paris with extremely positive feedback both from students and the administration.

- Several of my former undergraduate students now work in the field of political psychology either as PhD students, in NGOs, or polling firms.

Assessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Special assessment rules

None

Reassessment

Task Length % of module mark
Essay/coursework
Essay 3000 words
N/A 100

Module feedback

Students will receive written timely feedback on their formative assessment.  They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s feedback and guidance hours.

Students will receive written feedback on their summative assessment no later than 20 working days; and the module tutor will hold a specific session to discuss feedback, which students can also opt to attend.  They will also have the opportunity to discuss their feedback during the module tutor’s regular feedback and guidance hours.

Indicative reading

Adorno, T., Frenkel-Brenswik, E., Levinson, D. J., & Sanford, R. N. (1950). The authoritarian personality. Verso Books.

Brader, T. (2005). Striking a responsive chord: How political ads motivate and persuade voters by appealing to emotions’, American Journal of Political Science, 49 (2), 388-405

Caprara, G. V., & Vecchione, M. (2013). Personality approaches to political behavior. In Oxford Handbook of Political Psychology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Vasilopoulos, P., Marcus, G. E., Valentino, N. A., & Foucault, M. (2019). Fear, anger, and voting for the far right: Evidence from the November 13, 2015 Paris terror attacks. Political Psychology40(4), 679-704.

Zaller, J. R. (1992). The nature and origins of mass opinion. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.



The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.

Coronavirus (COVID-19): changes to courses

The 2020/21 academic year will start in September. We aim to deliver as much face-to-face teaching as we can, supported by high quality online alternatives where we must.

Find details of the measures we're planning to protect our community.

Course changes for new students