The U.S. Presidential Election

The details
Colchester Campus
Undergraduate: Level 5
Thursday 03 October 2019
Saturday 14 December 2019
02 October 2019


Requisites for this module



Key module for


Module description

The American political cycle yields what some commentators call "the never ending campaign." The aim of this module is to investigate the American presidential system with a focus on the electoral and party system. It will examine the primary system, Congressional and Presidential elections and the role of parties in each. In particular, it will examine how federalism affects US parties and elections. The module will cover the historical origins of the primary system in subnational, national, and presidential elections, the role of political parties in American society, the consequences of the electoral system on the ideological positioning of the parties and candidates, and attempt to place the US in comparative perspective. It will help students develop key skills in the areas of political analysis, using data to understand politics, and writing about data, and developing and writing about theoretical insights into politics.

Module aims

The aim of this module is to investigate the American electoral and party system. It will examine the primary system, Congressional and Presidential elections and the role of parties in each. In particular, it will examine how federalism affects US parties and elections.

Module learning outcomes

• To learn about and understand key features of American politics and the political system
• To learn how to use quantitative data to understand American politics
• To learn how to write about data within essays and to use data to support an argument
• 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 Professor Slapin providing an introduction to the topic and students expected to engage in discussion for the remaining time. Active participation is required.


  • Kernell, Samuel; Jacobson, Gary C.; Kousser, Thad; Vavreck, Lynn. (2016) The logic of American politics, Thousand Oaks, California: CQ Press.
  • 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.
  • Douglas A. Hibbs Jr. (2000) 'Bread and Peace Voting in U.S. Presidential Elections', in Public Choice. vol. 104 (1/2) , pp.149-180
  • 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
  • Abramowitz, Alan I. (2016-10) 'Will Time for Change Mean Time for Trump?', in PS: Political Science & Politics. vol. 49 (04) , pp.659-660
  • 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
  • Philpot, Tasha S. (2018-10) 'Race, Gender, and the 2016 Presidential Election', in PS: Political Science & Politics. vol. 51 (4) , pp.755-761
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • 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
  • Alvarez, R. Michael; Sinclair, Betsy. (2012-09) 'Electoral Institutions and Legislative Behavior', in Political Research Quarterly. vol. 65 (3) , pp.544-557
  • 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
  • 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
  • Rachel Bitecofer. (2018) 'The Party Decides?', in The Unprecedented 2016 Presidential Election, Cham: Springer International Publishing., pp.59-80

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 In Class Test 30%
Coursework Q-Step Data Analysis Project 14/11/2019 35%
Coursework Final Essay 16/01/2020 35%

Overall assessment

Coursework Exam
100% 0%


Coursework Exam
100% 0%
Module supervisor and teaching staff
Dr Ben Margulies
Module Supervisor: Dr Ben Margulies - wbmarg@essex.ac.uk / Module Administrator: Lewis Olley govquery@essex.ac.uk



External examiner

Dr Arzu Kibris
Associate Professor
Available via Moodle
Of 20 hours, 20 (100%) hours available to students:
0 hours not recorded due to service coverage or fault;
0 hours not recorded due to opt-out by lecturer(s).


Further information

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