PLSC 130: American Political Campaigns and Elections

Undergraduate class, Penn State, Department of Political Science, 2018


Class description:

Campaigns and elections are the mechanisms used to place people into - and remove them from - office in American government. Electoral outcomes are the product of rules that govern who can run and participate in voting, the choices made by candidates and their campaigns, and the individual decisions rendered by voters at the ballot box. This course explores each of these items in more detail to provide a comprehensive understanding of how campaigns and elections operate in the United States.

This course is organized around three themes: electoral rules matter, the choices candidates make in their campaigns are consequential, and not all voters are motivated by the same factors. The first third of the course will explore the rules that govern who can run for office, how primary and general elections are conducted, and who can participate in politics. Next, we will explore how campaigns operate, including the formation of a campaign strategy, the development of polls and messages, soliciting donations, and campaigning with interest groups and parties. Finally, our class will address the decisions made by voters to first, participate in the electoral process and second, to choose one candidate over the others.

This course does not assume you have any prior understanding or experience with American politics, but will introduce you to the key rules, concepts, and theories important to understand electoral politics in the United States. Using social science research, I will strive to provide you with context to better understand how elections and campaigns operate in this country.