The Department of Government
The Department of Government

American Politics

Waving American Flag. Photo by Bruce Mars on StockSnap.

American Politics includes the study of institutions and political structures, such as Congress, the presidency, the electoral and voting system, federalism, public administration, the party system, lobbying and interest groups; it encompasses ideas and ideologies, as well as the content of mass media and political campaign messages; it encompasses gender, ethnic/racial politics, religion and politics, and the formation of political identities; also included in the American field are political and governmental outputs, such as welfare, health, education, environment, and other policies and programs. Faculty in the American field use a variety of analytic techniques and research methodologies, including statistical analysis, historical research, legal analysis, formal modeling, and institutional theory.


The core seminar, GOV 381J American Institutions, Processes, and Behavior, is designed to acquaint the student with a range of approaches to the study of American politics, institutions, and policies, and is usually offered each year during the fall semester. Because of the diversity encompassed by the American field, the core seminar will sometimes be team-taught by two or more faculty. Students are advised to take the core course early in their program to achieve an overview of the field, although the sequence of coursework may vary among individual students. Subsequent course selection should be guided by students' own research interests in order that they acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to conduct original scholarly research in American politics. Preparation for research involves studying under relevant faculty inside and outside the department. For example, students who concentrate in American political development, constitutional theory, or political communication will want to take the relevant courses in the department, as well as related courses in history, law, and communication studies and journalism, respectively. Students are expected to be methodologically sophisticated and competent in the quantitative, formal, and/or qualitative methods necessary for their research.

Preparation for Preliminary Examinations

Preliminary examinations consist of three questions. One, a general question, may ask students to explain assumptions underlying a particular sub-field or cognate sub-fields, to situate their study of American politics in relation to current events or developments outside the United States, or to present and defend hypothetical course syllabi. A second question may address the controversies, evolution, etc., of political institutions, both formal (Congress, the executive) and informal (the electoral system, the bureaucracy, interest groups and lobbying, the mass media). A third question may ask about a student's specific substantive interests. Students are advised to take courses and read in several sub-fields in order to combine breadth of knowledge with specialized expertise in one or two sub-fields. Students are urged to discuss their progress with faculty advisers, faculty in the American field, and/or the American field chair.


Listing of Graduate Courses

  • America and the World Economy
  • American Political Development
  • American Presidency
  • Campaigns and Elections
  • Constitutional Conflict
  • Evolution of American Politics
  • Foundations of Public Policy
  • Gender, Race, and Ethnicity in American Politics
  • Interest Groups in American Politics
  • Political Communication and the Media
  • Political Institutions, Processes, and Behavior*
  • Political Participation
  • Political Parties
  • Political Psychology
  • Political Sophistication
  • Positive Political Economy
  • Public Administration, Bureaucracy, and Political Organization
  • Public Opinion and Voting Behavior
  • The U.S. Congress

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