Public Opinion and Political Behaviour: Theories and Issues

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The details
Colchester Campus
Postgraduate: Level 7
Monday 22 April 2024
Friday 28 June 2024
07 July 2023


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

The module introduces students to the latest theoretical debates about the nature and significance of public opinion and political behaviour.

The course examines issues as described below:

  • How do we understand public opinion and political behaviour?

  • How do citizens acquire information and convert it into opinions?

  • Given that it is rational for individuals not to invest too much in acquiring political knowledge, how do they manage to learn what they know?

  • How does political information and public opinion influence political behaviour?

Module aims

The aims of this module are:

  • To introduce students to the latest theoretical debates about the nature, significance, measurement and analysis of public opinion.

  • To provide the theoretical background, up-to-date academic findings, and working knowledge needed to undertake surveys of public opinion. These are required by anyone seeking employment in polling and market research industry or who wishes to conduct further research in the fields of political attitudes and behaviour.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module, students should have:

  1. A good working knowledge of the latest theoretical debates about the nature and dynamics of public opinion and political behaviour

  2. An understanding of the processes of opinion formation, the nature of public reasoning about political issues and interpersonal influences on opinion

The intended learning outcomes and key skills are:

  1. Communications – oral presentations; writing clearly and working to a deadline

  2. Collaboration – interacting with others in academic debates

  3. Information Technology – online searching, word processing, statistical analysis

Module information

The module will cover the following topics:

  • History and the origins of public opinion

  • Theoretical approaches to political behaviour

  • Public opinion, political attitudes, and survey responses

  • Citizen competence and political knowledge

  • Political reasoning and misinformation

  • The formation and development of the political self: Genes, personality, and socialization

  • Models of voting behaviour

  • Media and political campaign

  • Social media and political behaviour

  • Public opinion and public policy

Learning and teaching methods

The module will be delivered via:

Two-hour weekly seminars (x 10 weeks).

The seminar will engage students in interactive discussions and group study skills. The seminar also includes student presentations. It will foster critical thinking, problem solving, collaborative learning and oral communication.


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 Coursework weighting

Exam format definitions

  • Remote, open book: Your exam will take place remotely via an online learning platform. You may refer to any physical or electronic materials during the exam.
  • In-person, open book: Your exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer to any physical materials such as paper study notes or a textbook during the exam. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, open book (restricted): The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may refer only to specific physical materials such as a named textbook during the exam. Permitted materials will be specified by your department. Electronic devices may not be used in the exam.
  • In-person, closed book: The exam will take place on campus under invigilation. You may not refer to any physical materials or electronic devices during the exam. There may be times when a paper dictionary, for example, may be permitted in an otherwise closed book exam. Any exceptions will be specified by your department.

Your department will provide further guidance before your exams.

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Seonghui Lee, email: s.lee@essex.ac.uk.
Dr Seonghui Lee
Module Supervisor: Seonghui Lee, s.lee@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Damien Bol
King's College London
Senior Lecturer
Available via Moodle
No lecture recording information available for this module.


Further information

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