Course Syllabus for "POLSC333: Campaigns and Elections".

Americans are known for their competitive nature.  Whether between two sports teams on a field or between candidates in the political arena running for office, competition is a fundamental part of the American culture.  For this reason, campaigns and elections are among the most exciting events in American politics.  In this course, you will explore campaigns and elections, learning their purpose and significance and observing the impact that they have on the American political system. Unit 1 will provide you with a basic understanding of the American electoral process by focusing on the history and evolution of elections and voting laws in the United States.  Unit 2 will look closely at what compels individuals to run for office and the many factors that must be considered when launching a campaign: strategy, organization, fundraising, themes, and messages.  In Unit 3, you will learn how political parties and interest groups play into the political drama of elections.  Units 4 and 5 will introduce you to the two remaining key players in the electoral process: voters and the media.  In Unit 6, we will take a closer look at electoral outcomes and the impact that elections have on public policy after votes are counted.  Unit 7 will examine what types of proposals or alternatives could be implemented to improve or reform the electoral system.  By the end of this course, you should have a deeper understanding of the role and impact of campaigns and elections in the United States.

Learning Outcomes

Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

Course Requirements

In order to take this course, you must:

√    Have access to a computer.

√    Have continuous broadband Internet access.

√    Have the ability/permission to install plug-ins or software (i.e., Adobe Reader or Flash Player).

√    Have the ability to download and save files and documents to a computer.

√    Have the ability to open Microsoft files and documents (.doc, .ppt, .xls, etc.).

√    Have competency in the English language.

√    Have read the Saylor Student Handbook.

√    Have completed all courses listed in the Core Program of the political science discipline

Course Information

Welcome to POLSC333.  Below, please find some general information on this course and its requirements.

Course Designer: Professor Angela Bowie

Requirements for Completion: In order to complete this course, you will need to work through each unit and all its assigned materials.  Pay special attention to Unit 1, as it lays the foundation for understanding the more advanced, in-depth material presented in latter units. You will also need to complete:

            - Sub-subunit 1.3.1 Assignment
            - Sub-subunit 4.1.3 Assignment
            - Sub-subunit 4.2.3 Assignment
            - Sub-subunit 5.2.2 Assignment
            - The Final Exam
Note that you will only receive an official grade on your final exam.  However, in order to adequately prepare for this exam, you will need to work through the assignments listed above.

In order to “pass” this course, you will need to earn a 70% or higher on the final exam. Your score on the exam will be tabulated as soon as you complete it. If you do not pass the exam, you may take it again.

Time Commitment: This course should take you a total of 113 hours to complete.  Each unit includes a time advisory that lists the amount of time you are expected to spend on each subunit. These should help you plan your time accordingly.  It may be useful to take a look at these time advisories and to determine how much time you have over the next few weeks to complete each unit, and then to set goals for yourself.  For example, Unit 1 should take you 11 hours.  Perhaps you can sit down with your calendar and decide to complete subunits 1.1.1 and 1.1.2 (a total of 3 hours) on Monday night.

Tips/Suggestions: Take notes on each resource in this course.  Your notes will serve as a useful study guide as you prepare for your Final Exam.

Course Overview

  • 1.2.2 Voting Systems  
  • 1.3 Types of Elections  
  • 1.3.1 The Presidential Election  
  • The Nominating System  
  • The Electoral College  
  • 1.3.2 Congressional, State, and Local Elections  
  • 1.4 Redistricting: Shaping the Electoral Landscape  
  • 1.4.1 What Is Redistricting?  
  • 1.4.2 The Politics of Gerrymandering  
  • Unit 2: Campaigns, Elections and Voting Behavior  

    In this unit, you will take a look at one of the most important components of the election process: the voters. You will first study the internal and external factors that compel people to vote the way that they do. You will then examine voter turnout trends over time and learn how different types of elections and issues result in greater or lesser voter turnout; for example, such high-profile elections as presidential or gubernatorial elections tend to see greater turnout than local elections for city council do.  Lastly, you will look at why people do not vote as well as the issues that arise around voter disenfranchisement and barriers to voting—either intentionally or unintentionally—among certain groups.

    Unit 2 Time Advisory

    Time Advisory: This unit should take you approximately 13.25 hours to complete.

    ☐Subunit 2.1: 2.75 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.1: 2.5 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 2.1.2: 0.25 hour

    ☐    Subunit 2.2: 3 hours

    ☐    Subunit 2.3: 4.5 hours

    ☐     Introduction: 0.75 hour
    ☐     Sub-subunit 2.3.1: 3.25 hours
    ☐     Sub-subunit 2.3.2: 0.5 hour
    ☐     Subunit 2.4: 3 hours

    Unit2 Learning Outcomes
    Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

    • Describe the individual characteristics and motivations of the American voter.

    • Evaluate the role of party identification, issue preferences and partisanship on voter decision-making.

    • Explain the historic trends of voter turnout in the United States.

    • Discuss the factors associated with nonvoting.

    • Summarize the issues surrounding voter disenfranchisement.
  • 2.1 Characteristics of the American Voter  
  • 2.1.1 Who Votes and Why?  
  • 2.1.2 The Calculus of Voting  
  • 2.2 Voters and Partisanship  
  • 2.2.1 The Role of Party Identification  
  • 2.2.2 Voter Issue Preferences  
  • 2.3 Voter Turnout  
  • 2.3.1 Historic Trends in Voter Turnout  
  • 2.3.2 Election Type, Competitiveness and Level: Degrees of Variation in Voter Turnout  
  • 2.4 Obstacles to Voting  
  • 2.4.1 Why People Do Not Vote  
  • 2.4.2 Voter Disenfranchisement  
  • Unit 3: Campaigns: Candidates, Strategies, and Money  

    In Unit 1, you gained a basic understanding of elections; in this unit, you will learn about campaigns.  This unit will first focus on candidates, asking: “Who runs for office and why?”  This unit will examine campaign organization and discuss different strategies for targeting voters and getting elected.  Some candidates look to engage the masses and attract a grassroots following, while others seek approval from party elites or other popular elected officials to try to attract votes.  Regardless of the approach, you will learn that candidates must consider their campaign strategies very carefully in order to have a successful day at the polls.  Finally, you will learn about the important role that money plays in American campaigns.  Money has influenced campaigns in the United States for more than a century, which has led to various government interventions and responses.  For example, you will learn the steps the government has taken to prevent money from making the electoral system undemocratic and the impact that these laws have had on campaigns.

    Unit 3 Time Advisory

    This unit should take you approximately 19 hours to complete.

    ☐    Subunit 3.1: 4.75 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 3.1.1: 1.25 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 3.1.2: 3.5 hours

    ☐    Subunit 3.2: 0.75 hour

    ☐    Subunit 3.3: 7.5 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 3.3.1: 2.25 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 3.3.2: 1.75 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 3.3.3: 2 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 3.3.4: 1.5 hours

    ☐    Subunit 3.4: 6 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 3.4.1: 0.75 hour
    ☐    Sub-subunit 3.4.2: 2.75 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 3.4.3: 2.5 hour

    Unit3 Learning Outcomes
    Upon successful completion of this course, the student will be able to:

    • Identify the reasons people have for seeking public office.

    • Explain the role and impact of women and minority candidates within the electoral process.

    • Assess the advantages of incumbency in electoral politics.

    • Explain how candidates develop campaign strategies and organizational capacity.

    • Describe the use of polling and opposition research in political campaigns.

    • Discuss the increasing role of consultants in today’s candidate-centered campaigns.

    • Examine the role of money in political campaigns.

    • Identify the various sources of campaign funding.

    • Assess the impact of campaign finance reform on contemporary elections.
  • 3.1 Candidates: Who Runs and Why?  
  • 3.1.1 Common Characteristics of Candidates  
  • 3.1.2 Women and Minority Candidates  
  • 3.2 Incumbency and Elections  
  • 3.2.1 The Incumbency Advantage  
  • 3.2.2 Historic Incumbency Trends  
  • 3.3 Campaign Organization and Strategy  
  • 3.3.1 Making the Decision to Run  
  • 3.3.2 Developing a Campaign Strategy  
  • 3.3.3 Polling and Research  
  • Campaign Polling  
  • Opposition Research  
  • Push Polls  
  • 3.3.4 Campaign Managers and Consultants  
  • 3.4 Financing Campaigns  
  • 3.4.1 The Role of Money in Political Campaigns  
  • 3.4.2 Sources of Campaign Funding  
  • 3.4.3 Campaign Finance Laws and Reform  
  • Unit 4: Campaigns, Political Parties, and Interest Groups  

    There are many factors that impact political campaigns in America.  In this unit, you will learn how political parties and interest groups shape the electoral landscape by influencing candidates and voters.  You will first focus on the role of political parties in elections, learning how parties have influenced elections in the past and in the present.  You will also discover how the American political system maintains a strong two-party system (i.e., a system of Democrats and Republicans) and makes it difficult for a third party to gain prominence.  Next, you will focus on interest groups, learning how they impact campaigns, candidates, and voters.

    Unit 4 Time Advisory

    This unit should take you approximately 14.25 hours to complete.

    ☐    Subunit 4.1: 8.75 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 4.1.1: 4 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 4.1.2: 1.75 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 4.1.3: 3 hours

    ☐    Subunit 4.2: 5.5 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 4.2.1: 1 hour

    ☐    Sub-subunit 4.2.2: 0.75 hour

    ☐    Sub-subunit 4.2.3: 3.75 hours

    Unit4 Learning Outcomes
    Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

    • Discuss the historic role of political parties in elections.

    • Explain the role of political parties in recruiting and nominating candidates.

    • Describe the evolution of the American two-party system.

    • Describe the factors preventing third parties from successfully competing for governing power.

    • Assess the role of interest groups and political action committees (PACs) in influencing elections.

    • Evaluate the impact of electioneering, issue advocacy, and the emergence of 527 groups in contemporary elections.
  • 4.1 The Role of Political Parties  
  • 4.1.1 Historic Role of Parties in Elections  
  • 4.1.2 Parties: Candidate Recruitment, Nominations, and Support  
  • 4.1.3 The Two-Party System and the Challenges for a Third-Party Candidate  
  • 4.2 The Role of Interest Groups  
  • 4.2.1 Evolution of Interest Groups and Their Impact on Elections  
  • 4.2.2 Interest Group Campaign Activities and Support  
  • 4.2.3 Impact of Political Action Committees (PACs) and 527s on the Electoral Process  
  • Unit 5: Campaigns and the Media  

    Another important component of the campaign and election process is the media.  The media plays a major role in shaping and defining the message that a given candidate communicates in a given election.  The media also ensures that citizens have access to information about candidates and elections.  However, note the give-and-take relationship between politicians and media; their codependence can impact how we perceive politicians.  In this unit, you will learn how candidates use the media and how the media covers politicians. 

    Unit 5 Time Advisory

    This unit should take you approximately 22 hours to complete.
    ☐    Subunit 5.1: 4 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 5.1.1: 3 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 5.1.2: 1 hour

    ☐    Subunit 5.2: 3.5 hour
    ☐    Subunit 5.3: 10.25 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 5.3.1: 0.75 hour
    ☐    Sub-subunit 5.3.2: 3 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 5.3.3: 4 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 5.3.4: 2.5 hours

    ☐    Subunit 5.4: 4.25 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 5.4.1 3 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 5.4.2: 1.25 hours


    Unit5 Learning Outcomes
    Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

    • Summarize the media’s historical and contemporary influence on elections.

    • Discuss the roles and functions of the media in campaigns and elections.

    • Explain the evolution of television as a medium for political candidates.

    • Assess the impact of negative advertising on candidates and campaigns.

    • Compare and contrast media coverage of national and local campaigns.

    • Explain the influence of cable news and the 24-hour news cycle on campaigns and elections.

    • Discuss the current and future role of social media in influencing elections.
  • 5.1 Campaign Communication and Print Media  
  • 5.1.1 Evolution of Print Media and Its Impact on Elections  
  • 5.1.2 Campaigns and Newspaper Endorsements  
  • 5.2 Campaign Communication and Television  
  • 5.2.1 The Evolution of Television in Political Campaigns  
  • Television Campaign Ads  
  • Presidential Debates  
  • 5.2.2 Going Negative”: The Impact of Negative Ads on Elections  
  • 5.3 News Coverage of Campaigns and Candidates  
  • 5.3.1 National vs. Local Campaign Coverage  
  • 5.3.2 Critiquing Campaign News Coverage  
  • Reading: Harvard University: John F. Kennedy School of Government: Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy: John Geer's: “Fanning the Flames: The News Media’s Role in the Rise of Negativity in Presidential Campaigns”

    Link: Harvard University: John F. Kennedy School of Government: Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy: John Geer's: “Fanning the Flames: The News Media’s Role in the Rise of Negativity in Presidential Campaigns” (PDF)
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, select the link to the title after the author’s name, and then read this entire PDF (22 pages).  According to Geer, how has the news media been complicit in negative reporting?  What are their motivations for doing this?

    Reading and answering the questions above should take approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes to complete.
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • Reading: Boston Globe: Craig Fehrman's: “The Incredible Shrinking Sound Bite”

    Link: Boston Globe: Craig Fehrman's: “The Incredible Shrinking Sound Bite” (HTML)
    Instructions: Please click on the link above, and read this entire webpage.  Make sure to click on “next” at the bottom of the first page to continue to all 3 pages of the article.

    This reading should take approximately 45 minutes to complete.
    Terms of Use: Please respect the copyright and terms of use displayed on the webpage above.

  • 5.3.3 CNN, Fox, and MSNBC: The Influence of Cable News  
  • 5.3.4 The “Horse Race” and Exit Polls  
  • 5.4 Campaigning and “New” Media  
  • 5.4.1 The Rise of the Internet Campaign  
  • 5.4.2 Blogs, Twitter, and Facebook: The Impact of Social Media on Political Campaigns  
  • Unit 6: Election Outcomes  

    In this unit, you will learn how election outcomes impact government actions and public policy.  Although elections often have immediate political consequences, the American political system is designed so major changes happen slowly.  Although the majority party often has more power in terms of shaping public policy than does the minority party, the design of the American political system (i.e., checks and balances, separation of powers) ensures that party dominance in the legislative branch does not mean that a given party has free rein in implementing public policy. 
    This unit will address important electoral outcomes and assess the impact that these outcomes have on the legislative process.  You will learn how party dominance can change (realignment), how political parties can enjoy a sense of power after winning a large majority in an election (political mandate), how bipartisanship has changed (or disappeared) over time, and how all this can impact policy implementation.  

    Unit 6 Time Advisory

    This unit should take you approximately 18 hours to complete.
    ☐    Subunit 6.1: 3 hours
    ☐    Subunit 6.2: 4.25 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 6.2.1: 2 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 6.2.2: 1.25 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 6.2.3: 1 hour

    ☐    Subunit 6.3: 3.75 hours
    ☐    Subunit 6.4: 7 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 6.4.1: 2.75 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 6.4.2: 3 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 6.4.3 1.25 hour

    Unit6 Learning Outcomes
    Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

    • Explain the concept of electoral realignment.

    • Describe the history of realigning elections in American politics.

    • Define and provide specific examples of political mandates throughout history.

    • Discuss the rise and impact of political polarization on campaigns and elections.

    • Analyze the connection between electoral outcomes and public policy implementation.
  • 6.1 Electoral and Party Realignment  
  • 6.1.1 Defining Realignment  
  • 6.1.2 Historic Realignments in American Politics  
  • 6.1.3 The Future of Realignments  
  • 6.2 Electoral Mandates  
  • 6.2.1 Defining a Political Mandate  
  • 6.2.2 Historic Cases of a Political Mandate  
  • 6.2.3 Assessing Political Mandates in American Politics  
  • 6.3 Political Polarization  
  • 6.3.1 Defining Political Polarization  
  • 6.3.2 Red vs. Blue: The Rise of Polarization in American Politics  
  • 6.3.3 The Impact of Polarization: Can the Government Still Govern?  
  • 6.4 Electoral Outcomes and Public Policy  
  • 6.4.1 From to Campaign Mode to Governing Mode: Making Good on Campaign Promises  
  • 6.4.2 Do Elections Really Matter? Problems and Obstacles of Policy Implementation  
  • 6.4.3 Electoral Impact: A Closer Look at Election Outcomes (Case Studies)  
  • Unit 7: Electoral Reform  

    No electoral system is without flaws; the United States has seen (and will continue to see) a number of electoral reforms designed to rectify its “imperfect” system.  Some of these changes were obvious “quick fixes” to clearly undemocratic practices.  Others are less obvious and tend to spark a great deal of debate within the public policy arena.  In this unit, you will first look at some of the electoral changes that have been enacted historically.  Many of these changes were implemented with the intention of developing a more open and democratic political system.  However, many still feel that reforms are necessary; reforms are constantly proposed and debated in the public arena and within government.  In the second half of this unit, you will take a closer look at some of these proposed reforms and their potential for implementation.  By the end of this unit, you should be aware that the American electoral system, like all electoral systems, is not perfect and that reform will continue to be an ongoing debate.

    Unit 7 Time Advisory

    This unit should take you approximately 17 hours to complete.

    ☐    Subunit 7.1: 2 hours
    ☐    Subunit 7.2: 0.75 hour
    ☐    Subunit 7.3: 5.5 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 7.3.1: 1.5 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 7.3.2: 0.75 hour
    ☐    Sub-subunit 7.3.3: 2.25 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 7.3.4: 1 hour

    ☐    Subunit 7.4: 9 hours

    ☐    Sub-subunit 7.4.1: 3 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 7.4.2: 4.5 hours
    ☐    Sub-subunit 7.4.3: 1.5 hours


    Unit7 Learning Outcomes
    Upon successful completion of this unit, the student will be able to:

    • Describe the historical evolution of election reform.

    • Compare and contrast contemporary electoral reform proposals.

    • Assess the impact of potential changes to the electoral system.
  • 7.1 Electoral Reform: Changes Over Time  
  • 7.1.1 President and Vice Presidential Election  
  • 7.1.2 Progressive Era (1900–1920) Election Reforms  
  • 7.2 Electoral Reform: Direct Democracy  
  • 7.2.1 Initiatives and Referenda  
  • 7.2.2 Voter Recall  
  • 7.3 Electoral Reform: Current Proposals  
  • 7.3.1 The Electoral College: Outdated or Necessary?  
  • 7.3.2 The Help America Vote Act  
  • 7.3.3 Campaign Reforms: Shorter Campaigns and Public Financing  
  • 7.3.4 Diminishing Corporate Influence?: The Citizens United Ruling  
  • 7.4 Election Reform: Potential Changes  
  • 7.4.1 Learning from the 2000 Election: Election Administration, Balloting, and Vote Counting  
  • 7.4.2 Voter Registration  
  • 7.4.3 Internet Voting  
  • Unit 8: Final Exam