Campaign 2012 Course Description

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Professor Jamie Druckman PoliSci 101 Freshman Seminar Fall Quarter, 2012

211 Scott Hall Office Hours: By appointment

Campaign 2012
Course Description

How do political campaigns work? What campaign strategies work best? How do the media cover campaigns? Are voters manipulated by slick media-based campaigns? Do polls help or harm voters? What about campaign ads? These are some of the questions that we will explore in the class “Campaign 2012.” The goal of the seminar is to enhance our understanding of how politicians conduct campaigns, how the media cover campaigns, and how campaigns and media coverage affect voters. We will not only examine the academic literature on these topics, but we also will follow the ongoing events of the 2012 presidential and congressional campaigns. Through a combination of group projects, short assignments, and essays, we will learn what makes a campaign effective, and what can be done to improve campaign quality.

Assignments and Grades

The class meets in Scott Hall 319 on Wednesday from 9:00pm-11:50pm. Students are expected to attend all classes, to complete all assigned readings and assignments on time, and to actively participate. Classes will include discussions of the latest campaign events and the assigned readings, as well as class activities/assignments.

Students will be involved in three formal activities, as follows.

  1. Each student will be appointed to a campaign team, consisting of approximately three other students. Each campaign team will be assigned an ongoing presidential campaign that it will follow. This will involve a series of assignments including in-class presentations (described below). The goal is to assess the campaign, evaluate its prospects, and provide advice on how the campaign could be improved. This will make up a total of 25% of each student’s grade. Each member of the team will receive the same grade.

  1. Two individually completed short assignments. These assignments may involve multiple drafts (i.e., revisions after receiving comments from other students and/or the professor.) These assignments will make up a total of 35% of each student’s grade.

    1. As we will discuss, candidate websites have become a major part of campaigns and offer a unique opportunity to assess candidates’ strategies (since virtually all candidates have websites). They also allow us to examine how technology is used in campaigns. Together with students at Oberlin College and High Point University, we will engage in a detailed coding of congressional candidate websites, followed by an examination of the data. Students will write about their experience examining and coding the sites. Each student will be assigned to code no more than 8 sites.

    1. Each student will write a short paper on either voting turnout or debates.

  1. A final essay will make up a total of 25% of each student’s grade. The essay assignment will be distributed in class, and it will be due during finals week.

The remaining 15% of each student’s grade will be based on attendance and the quality of participation. If a student misses a class, it is the student’s responsibility to provide written documentation of a legitimate excuse (see course policies); otherwise, it will be counted as an unexcused absence. Also, if a student misses class (excused or unexcused), it is the student’s responsibility to learn about any missed assignments, discussion, and so on. The student should do this by talking to other students (first), and, if necessary, the professor. Participation involves taking part in class activities, discussing class readings in an informed way, and discussing ongoing campaign events.


Each student is expected to read major news articles on the campaigns. (The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and USA Today are available to students at the dorms.) We will discuss the events covered in these articles at the start of many classes.

The other assigned readings come from the following sources:

  1. Articles available on Blackboard or from the Professor.

  2. Media Politics: A Citizen’s Guide, by Shanto Iyengar, Norton: New York, 2011 (Second Edition). (In the list of assigned readings, this book is just called “I.”) The accompanying videos with this text are recommended but not required. The book is available at the Norris Bookstore.

Students are expected to read all of the assigned readings before each class. Surprise quizzes on the readings are possible (and would become part of the students’ participation grade). If a student misses a class without a legitimate excuse, he or she will receive a 0 on any quizzes. It also will be necessary for students to include direct references to the readings in their assignments and a bibliography.
Course Policies

It is the student’s responsibility to obtain an assignment if he or she is absent during the class in which the assignment is distributed or discussed. Assignments are due at the start of the class period on the days they are due. Make-up in-class exams and/or late papers will be permitted only if the student presents written documentation of legitimate circumstances that prevented the student from completing the assignment on time. This documentation must be provided in a timely manner (i.e., within a week); failure to provide such documentation will result in the student receiving a 0 on the assignment in question. Challenges to this policy will be not be accepted. Legitimate circumstances include religious holidays, illness (verified by a note from a medical authority), serious family emergencies, subpoenas, jury duty, military service, and participation in group activities sponsored by the University. Each of these circumstances requires written verification from another source.

If a student wants to appeal an assigned grade, he or she must submit a written statement to the professor explaining why the grade should be changed (within two weeks of receiving the assignment back). Incompletes will be granted in the case of documented illness, and if the student completes the Petition for an Incomplete.
A significant amount of work will be done in teams. Working with others invariably leads to some disagreement. Students should approach their partners/team with an open and flexible mind. If there are major problems, students should notify the professor.
Finally, students are expected to type each written assignment. The assignments should be proofread; spelling, grammar, and writing style will make up part of a student’s grade. Assignments CANNOT be e-mailed to the Professor and MUST be stapled or no credit will be given.
Technology Course Policy

Cell phones many not be used in any way during class. Students who use a cell phone will be asked to leave the class on that day. Additionally, laptop computers may be used for note-taking only. Students seen using a laptop for other purposes (unless requested to do so by the Professor) may be asked to leave the class on that day.

Course Outline
October 3 Campaigns, Democracy, and the 2012 Presidential Campaign

  • Assignment:

  • Access the campaign Web pages of Obama, Romney, and a congressional (House or Senate) candidate of your choosing. There will be a “candidate quiz” at the start of the next class.

  • Readings (to be done by 10/3)

    • I, pages 181-186.

    • I, pages 21-27, 43-45.

    • The Electoral College Primer 2000, by Lawrence D. Longley and Neal R. Pierce, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1999, pages 1-38.

    • “Governor Morris in the Philadelphia Convention,” by William H. Riker, 1986 (from The Art of Political Manipulation, New Haven: Yale University Press, pages 34-51, optional).

    • “The 1968 Democratic National Convention,” by Jill A. Edy, 2006 (from Troubled Pasts, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, pages 43-58).

  • Campaign teams (and candidates) assigned. Team Meetings.

  • Campaign team assignment: Create a persuasive message to be presented to the class on 10/17. Teams can attempt to persuade about anything! Draw on next week’s reading. The presentation should include a persuasive communication, and then an explanation of the persuasive strategy employed (e.g., in light of the reading for next week). The entire presentation should last approximately five minutes, including the explanation part (it is important to adhere to this time limit – thus it is short!). No written component.

  • Last Day to Add Classes.

October 10 How to Persuade Voters and How the Media Influences Voters

  • In-class quiz on candidates.

  • Readings:

    • I, pages 272-275; 149-160, and 229-263.

    • “The Message-learning Approach,” by Richard E. Petty and John T. Cacioppo, 1981 (from Attitudes and Persuasion, Dubuque, IA: Wm. C. Brown, pages 59-94).

    • “The Jury Is Still Out: Academic Evidence on Media Bias,” by David Niven (from Tilt? Westport, CT: Praeger pages 51-71).

  • Campaign team persuasion presentations.

October 12 Last Day to Change to P-N option
October 17 Campaign Strategies: Communication and Mobilization

  • Readings:

    • I, pages 276-303.

    • “Winning and Holding Elective Office,” by William T. Bianco, 2001. (from American Politics: Strategy and Choice, New York: Norton, pages 91-106).

    • “Lincoln at Freeport,” by William H. Riker, 1986. (from The Art of Political Manipulation, New Haven: Yale University Press, pages 1-9.)

    • “Voter Ignorance and Democracy,” by Ilya Somin, Critical Review 12: 413-419, 1998.

    • “Prologue,” by Samuel L. Popkin, 1991. (from The Reasoning Voter: Communication and Persuasion in Presidential Campaign, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, pages 1-6).

    • “The Political Logic of Political Participation,” by Steven J. Rosenstone and John Mark Hansen, 1993. (from Mobilization, Participation, and Democracy in America, New York: MacMillan Publishing Company, pages 1-37).

    • “Does Canvassing Increase Voter Turnout: A Field Experiment,” by Alan S. Gerber, and Donald P. Green. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 96: 10939-10942, 1999.

    • “Punishment and Democracy: The Voting Rights of Nonincarcerated Criminal Offenders in the United States,” by Jeff Manza and Christopher Uggen. Perspectives on Politics 2: 491-505, 2003.

  • Discuss “Campaign Internet Project” and HANDOUT CODING SCHEME AND ASSIGNMENTS.

  • Campaign team assignment: each team should conduct detailed background research on their candidate’s personal/professional history, issue positions, or running mate (as assigned). Analyze the candidate’s strength and weaknesses and speculate on what strategy seems best. Each team will turn in a two page summary and present their findings on 10/31. Presentations should last approximately three to five minutes (again be brief!).

October 24 Internet Project Coding

  • Readings:

    • I, pages 113-145.

    • “Web 2.0 and Politics,” by Sunil Wattal et al., MIS Quarterly 34: 669-688.

  • Internet Project Coding.

  • Campaign team assignment: Create an ad for your candidate, to be presented on 11/7 (approximately three minutes). Write a one to two page explanation for why you used the persuasive techniques you did, why you focused on certain issues and/or images, and what you hoped the ad would accomplish.

October 31 Campaigning on the Internet

  • Internet Project Coding.

  • Individual assignment: Write an approximately four page paper that describes what you found in your coding of candidate websites. What strategies did you see being employed? Do you think they were effective? (In discussing this, draw on what we have learned about campaign strategy.) What technological innovations were used (media, interactivity, etc.)? If you were to design a website, what choices would you make in terms of technology and content? Why? Due 11/14.

  • Campaign team background research presentations. Background paper due.

November 2 Last Day to Drop Classes.
November 7 Discuss Election; Candidate Ads and Debates

  • Readings:

    • I, pages 160-181, 187-190.

    • See and explore the website for Commission on Presidential Debates. Available at:

  • Campaign team ad presentations. Ad paper due.

  • Individual assignment: Choose one of the following (due 11/28):

    • Write an approximately two page paper either for or against compulsory voting. This will involve some background research concerning what compulsory voting is, what its variations are, what countries have used it, what have effects it seems to have, and so on.

    • Write an approximately two page paper that describes how you would regulate presidential debates, and explain your rationale. What inclusion criteria would you use? How many debates? When? What format(s) would be used? Who would moderate? What topics would be included? Would you regulate news coverage before and/or after the debate?

  • Discuss courses for next quarter (registration begins November 12).

November 14 Using Polls.

  • Readings:

    • The Voter’s Guide to Election Polls, by Michael W. Traugott and Paul J. Lavrakas, Chatham, NJ: Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 2004, pages 1-28, 52-111.

  • Campaign team assignment: Prepare a presentation and essay describing your candidate’s election result. How did the result compare with the polls? What do you think your candidate did well? What did he/she do poorly? Prepare a brief presentation (approximately seven minutes) and a four page paper. Due 11/28.

  • Internet paper due.

November 21 Thanksgiving – optional class where we will discuss Election Reform (with readings from the Professor in advance), or another topic of the students’ choosing!
November 28 Campaign Presentations and Pizza Party.

  • Campaign team presentations and written component due.

  • Compulsory voting or debate paper due.

  • Final essay distributed. Final draft due 12/7 in Scott Hall. Do NOT e-mail.

December 3 Reading Week Begins

Assignment and Due Date Summary

Due Date



Quiz on Presidential Websites


Campaign team persuasion presentation


Campaign team background research presentation and paper


Campaign team ad presentation and paper


Internet paper


Compulsory voting or debate paper


Campaign team final presentation and paper


Final essay

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