American Elections, Polarization, (In)Equality, and Presidents

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 07 October 2021
Friday 17 December 2021
11 May 2021


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

This module is designed to promote strong analytic thinking with respect to political institutions in the United States (e.g. Presidency, Congress, Electoral Campaigns, and other American institutions). Students should be reasonably familiar with the American political system so that these topics can be studied in more depth than a general introduction class.

Module aims

After taking the class, students should be able to have a strong working knowledge of the American political system, and they should also be able to understand how research takes place within each topic area.

Module learning outcomes

1. To learn about and understand key features of American politics and the political system
2. To learn how to use quantitative data to understand American politics
3. To learn how to write about data within essays and to use data to support an argument
4. To develop writing and analytic skills

Module information

No additional information available.

Learning and teaching methods

The module will be run as in a weekly seminar format with an introduction to the topic and students expected to engage in discussion for the remaining time. Active participation is required.


  • Lewis-Beck, Michael S.; Tien, Charles. (2016-10) 'The Political Economy Model: 2016 US Election Forecasts', in PS: Political Science & Politics. vol. 49 (04) , pp.661-663
  • Kernell, Samuel; Jacobson, Gary C.; Kousser, Thad; Vavreck, Lynn. (2016) The logic of American politics, Thousand Oaks, California: CQ Press.
  • Alvarez, R. Michael; Sinclair, Betsy. (2012-09) 'Electoral Institutions and Legislative Behavior', in Political Research Quarterly. vol. 65 (3) , pp.544-557
  • Philpot, Tasha S. (2018-10) 'Race, Gender, and the 2016 Presidential Election', in PS: Political Science & Politics. vol. 51 (4) , pp.755-761
  • Mersheimer, John; Walt, Stephen. (2008-09-02) Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
  • Bawn, Kathleen; Cohen, Martin; Karol, David; Masket, Seth; Noel, Hans; Zaller, John. (2012-9) 'A Theory of Political Parties: Groups, Policy Demands and Nominations in American Politics', in Perspectives on Politics. vol. 10 (03) , pp.571-597
  • Douglas A. Hibbs Jr. (2000) 'Bread and Peace Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections', in Public Choice. vol. 104 (1/2) , pp.149-180
  • Rachel Bitecofer. (2018) 'The Party Decides?', in The Unprecedented 2016 Presidential Election, Cham: Springer International Publishing., pp.59-80
  • Abramowitz, Alan I. (2016-10) 'Will Time for Change Mean Time for Trump?', in PS: Political Science & Politics. vol. 49 (04) , pp.659-660
  • Meernik, James; Krueger, Eric L.; Poe, Steven C. (1998-02) 'Testing Models of U.S. Foreign Policy: Foreign Aid during and after the Cold War', in The Journal of Politics. vol. 60 (1) , pp.63-85
  • Anthony Downs. (1957) 'An Economic Theory of Political Action in a Democracy', in Journal of Political Economy: The University of Chicago PressThe University of Chicago Press. vol. 65 (2) , pp.135-150
  • Steger, Wayne P. (2016-10) 'Conditional Arbiters: The Limits of Political Party Influence in Presidential Nominations', in PS: Political Science & Politics. vol. 49 (04) , pp.709-715
  • Cohen, Marty; Karol, David; Noel, Hans; Zaller, John. (2007) The Party Decides: Presidential Nominations Before and After Reform, Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press.
  • McGhee, Eric; Masket, Seth; Shor, Boris; Rogers, Steven; McCarty, Nolan. (2014-04) 'A Primary Cause of Partisanship? Nomination Systems and Legislator Ideology', in American Journal of Political Science. vol. 58 (2) , pp.337-351
  • DellaVigna, S.; Kaplan, E. (2007-08-01) 'The Fox News Effect: Media Bias and Voting', in The Quarterly Journal of Economics. vol. 122 (3) , pp.1187-1234
  • Enli, Gunn. (2017-02) 'Twitter as arena for the authentic outsider: exploring the social media campaigns of Trump and Clinton in the 2016 US presidential election', in European Journal of Communication. vol. 32 (1) , pp.50-61
  • Abramowitz, Alan; McCoy, Jennifer. (2019-01) 'United States: Racial Resentment, Negative Partisanship, and Polarization in Trump’s America', in The ANNALS of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. vol. 681 (1) , pp.137-156
  • Kolodny, Robin; Dwyre, Diana. (2018-05) 'Convergence or Divergence? Do Parties and Outside Groups Spend on the Same Candidates, and Does It Matter?', in American Politics Research. vol. 46 (3) , pp.375-401
  • Stephen Ansolabehere; Shanto Iyengar; Adam Simon; Nicholas Valentino. (1994) 'Does Attack Advertising Demobilize the Electorate?', in The American Political Science Review: American Political Science Association. vol. 88 (4) , pp.829-838
  • Morris, Errol; McNamara, Robert S. (2004) The fog of war, London: Columbia Tristar Home Entertainment.
  • Judt, Tony. (April 19, 2006) 'A Lobby, Not a Conspiracy', in The New York Times.

The above list is indicative of the essential reading for the course. The library makes provision for all reading list items, with digital provision where possible, and these resources are shared between students. Further reading can be obtained from this module's reading list.

Assessment items, weightings and deadlines

Coursework / exam Description Deadline Weighting
Coursework   Essay  20/01/2022  65% 
Practical   Presentation  16/12/2021  35% 

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Prof Lawrence Ezrow, email: ezrow@essex.ac.uk.
Professor Lawrence Ezrow
Module Supervisor: Professor Lawrence Ezrow - ezrow@essex.ac.uk / Module Administrator: Lewis Olley - govquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

No external examiner information available for this module.
Available via Moodle
Of 622 hours, 20 (3.2%) hours available to students:
602 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

Disclaimer: The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its Module Directory is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to programmes, modules, facilities or fees. Examples of such reasons might include a change of law or regulatory requirements, industrial action, lack of demand, departure of key personnel, change in government policy, or withdrawal/reduction of funding. Changes to modules may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery or assessment of modules and other services, to discontinue modules and other services and to merge or combine modules. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications and module directory.

The full Procedures, Rules and Regulations of the University governing how it operates are set out in the Charter, Statutes and Ordinances and in the University Regulations, Policy and Procedures.