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Public Opinion and Political Behaviour

Course overview

(MA) Master of Arts
Public Opinion and Political Behaviour
University of Essex
University of Essex
Colchester Campus
Politics and International Relations

External Examiners

Dr Nicholas Walter Vivyan
University of Durham
Senior Lecturer

External Examiners provide an independent overview of our courses, offering their expertise and help towards our continual improvement of course content, teaching, learning, and assessment. External Examiners are normally academics from other higher education institutions, but may be from the industry, business or the profession as appropriate for the course. They comment on how well courses align with national standards, and on how well the teaching, learning and assessment methods allow students to develop and demonstrate the relevant knowledge and skills needed to achieve their awards. External Examiners who are responsible for awards are key members of Boards of Examiners. These boards make decisions about student progression within their course and about whether students can receive their final award.

eNROL, the module enrolment system, is now open until Monday 21 October 2019 8:59AM, for students wishing to make changes to their module options.


Core You must take this module You must pass this module. No failure can be permitted.
Core with Options You can choose which module to study
Compulsory You must take this module There may be limited opportunities to continue on the course/be eligible for the degree if you fail.
Compulsory with Options You can choose which module to study
Optional You can choose which module to study

Year 1 - 2019/20

Exit Award Status
Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Credits PG Diploma PG Certificate
01 GV900-7-FY or GV903-7-FY Compulsory with Options 30 Compulsory with Options Optional
02 GV917-7-FY Public Opinion and Political Behaviour Core 30 Core Optional
03 GV958-7-FY Theory and Explanation in Political Science Compulsory 30 Compulsory Optional
04 Option(s) from departmental list Optional 30 Optional Optional

Year 2 - 2020/21

Exit Award Status
Component Number Module Code Module Title Status Credits PG Diploma PG Certificate
01 GV993-7-FY MA Dissertation Core 60 Compulsory

Exit awards

A module is given one of the following statuses: 'core' – meaning it must be taken and passed; 'compulsory' – meaning it must be taken; or 'optional' – meaning that students can choose the module from a designated list. The rules of assessment may allow for limited condonement of fails in 'compulsory' or 'optional' modules, but 'core' modules cannot be failed. The status of the module may be different in any exit awards which are available for the course. Exam Boards will consider students' eligibility for an exit award if they fail the main award or do not complete their studies.

Programme aims

- To develop specific knowledge about theories and empirical evidence relating to mass public opinion in advanced democracies.
- To develop a thorough grounding in the major theoretical approaches to analysing public opinion.
- To learn to evaluate theoretical claims in the light of appropriate empirical evidence.
- To prepare to undertake independent research, grounded in the discipline and employing primary (quantitative or qualitative) data.
- To prepare to undertake further research or future employment in the polling industry.
- To develop an understanding of the interplay between methods, theories and evidence in the public opinion field.

What is the difference between the MA and the MSc variants?
The difference is determined by the methods module you take – Political Explanation (GV900) for the MA and Advanced Research Methods (GV903) for the MSc.

Learning outcomes and learning, teaching and assessment methods

On successful completion of the programme a graduate should demonstrate knowledge and skills as follows:

A: Knowledge and understanding

A1 Advanced knowledge of different modes of explanation and theoretical perspectives in public opinion at an appropriate level.
A2 Understanding of the main quantitative methods used in political analysis.
A3 Critical awareness of the use of evidence in political science.
A4 Knowledge of the main research findings, and main developments and debates in the analysis of public opinion.
A5 Systematic knowledge of the relevant sources of information.
A6 Knowledge of the design, implementation, processing and analysis of public opinion surveys
Learning Methods: A1-5 Lectures, computer laboratory sessions, participation in and presentations to seminars and classes, writing essays and dissertation, oral and written feedback on essays.

A1 specifically in GV917 Public Opinion and Political Behaviour.

A2 specifically in GV900 Political Explanation.

A3 specifically in GV900, GV917 and in supervision of individual dissertations

A4 specifically in option chosen in consultation with Scheme Director.

A5 specifically in independent learning and dissertation.

A6 specifically in GV917.
Assessment Methods: Outcomes A1-A5 are assessed through coursework.

Coursework includes oral presentations, assignments, class tests and essays.

In addition, the assessed work includes a dissertation.

B: Intellectual and cognitive skills

B1 To question received thinking.
B2 To develop independent thinking.
B3 To muster evidence.
B4 To evaluate and analyse evidence.
B5 To reason critically.
B6 To argue coherently and concisely.
B7 To communicate ideas effectively in writing.
B8 To carry out independent research.
Learning Methods: B1-7 participation in and presentations to seminars and classes, individual guidance on researching and writing essays, oral and written feedback on essays, individual interviews and group sessions with Study Skills Officer

B3 especially in supervised dissertation.

B4 especially in GV900 Political Explanation and GV917 Public Opinion and Political Behaviour.

B8 especially in dissertation.
Assessment Methods: B1-8 written assignments and essays, written examinations and dissertation.

C: Practical skills

C1 Organize and structure an extended argument.
C2 Use concepts correctly.
C3 Compile systematic bibliographies.
C4 Provide references according to accepted conventions.
C5 Use libraries and IT to access information and scholarly resources.
C6 Sift and synthesize complex information.
Learning Methods: C1-6 participation in and presentations to group seminars and classes, individual guidance for essayst and dissertations, oral and written feedback on class presentations and essays.

C5 specifically in induction sessions for library use.
Assessment Methods: C1-6 written assignments and essays, in class tests, closed examinations, supervised dissertation.

D: Key skills

D1 Clear, focused, relevant and effective expression and communication.
D2 Access and organise information from a variety of electronic sources.
D3 Understand the use of quantitative evidence.
D4 To manage projects and timetables. To find, understand and organise information. To work with ideas.
D5 Students will acquire advanced knowledge and understanding of the development of economic integration in Europe.
D6 Positive response to feedback and criticism.
Learning Methods: D1-5 participation in and presentations to seminars and classes, written assignments and essays, dissertation.

D3 specifically in GV900 Political Explanation and GV917 Public Opinion and Political Behaviour.

D4 specifically in scheduling and balancing requirements for four courses taught in parallel.

D5 working with other people in a commercial or public sector environment.

D6 specifically in individual guidance on essays, oral and written feedback on essays.
Assessment Methods: D1-4 written assignments and essays, examinations, dissertation.

D6 classroom presentations, written assignments and essays.


The University makes every effort to ensure that this information on its programme specification is accurate and up-to-date. Exceptionally it can be necessary to make changes, for example to courses, 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 courses may for example consist of variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses. The University will endeavour to keep such changes to a minimum, and will also keep students informed appropriately by updating our programme specifications.

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.

Should you have any questions about programme specifications, please contact Course Records, Quality and Academic Development; email: