Inside the Mind of a Voter: Research in Electoral Psychology

This information is for the 2017/18 session.

Teacher responsible

Prof Michael Bruter CON 4.06


This course is available on the BSc in Government, BSc in Government and Economics, BSc in Government and History, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and International Relations and BSc in Politics and Philosophy. This course is not available as an outside option nor to General Course students.

Available to final year students in the programmes named above. Students from other degrees are not normally accepted on the course except with the exceptional discretionary approval of the course teacher.

This course is capped at one group.  The deadline for enrolments is 12 noon on Friday 29 September 2017.

Course content

This final year undergraduate course has three important ambitions.

Substantively, it aims to introduce students to the study of electoral psychology and electoral ergonomics, which represent novel and dynamic approaches to the study citizens’ electoral behaviour and the way voters’ psychology interacts with the organisation of elections.

Methodologically, it introduces students to some of the key methods used in the field and enables them to practice fieldwork in one of them through an empirical group project. That project will change each year in terms of topic and method, and will be discussed jointly by the course teacher and the students. It may include lab experiments, interviews, diaries, or any of the core methods used in the field.

Finally, it introduces students to the research process through the main assessment component, which is a supervised 7,000 words dissertation, and supports them through several research clinics whereby we discuss students’ dissertation issues and problems collectively throughout the year.



20 hours of seminars in the MT. 20 hours of seminars in the LT. 4 hours of seminars in the ST.

Teaching takes place on MT (10x2 hours), LT (10x2 hours), ST (1x4 hours). The department operates a reading week on week 6.

The course includes:

- 10 x 2 hour SUBSTANTIVE SEMINARS on key issues in electoral psychology

-  5 x 2 hour FIELDWORK SEMINARS focused on preparation and fieldwork for the group project

- 5 x 2 hour RESEARCH CLINICS on the preparation and discussion of analytical, methodological, and ethical issues faced by students with regards to their dissertation

- 1 x 4 hour CONFERENCE WORKSHOP where students will briefly present their findings to one another.

Formative coursework

Formative assessment includes:

- draft research synopsis and design (end of MT)

- draft research methodology (early in LT)

- unassessed critics of further readings (throughout MT/LT)

Indicative reading

Bruter, M. and Harrison, S. Understanding the emotional act of voting

Lipset, S., Lazarsfeld, P, et al. The psychology of voting

Sniderman, P. Personality and democratic politics

Bruter, M., and Lodge, M. Political Science research methods in action

Baddeley, A. The psychology of memory

Cammaerts, B.et al. Youth participation in democratic life

Harrison, S and Bruter, M. Mapping extreme right ideology


Other (70%) in the ST.
Research project (15%) in the MT.
Other (15%) in the MT and LT.

The summative assessment consists of:

• A final dissertation of 7,000 words (70%)

• Group work on project (15%)

• Critiques of further readings (15%)

The critics of further readings work as follow: to make the reading list more manageable for the 10 substantive seminars, all students will only be expected to familiarise themselves with the core readings, and will divide the further readings between themselves. Each student will be expected to be responsible for a total of 5-6 further readings throughout the year, all in different weeks.

Students responsible for a further reading will be asked to write a short (1-2 page) critic of it following a set format (1) what is the research question and why is it interesting, 2) what methods are the authors using, 3) what are the main findings, 4) what are the main shortcomings or what do you wish the authors had done differently) and post it on moodle by the Sunday before the seminar so that students can quickly browse the week’s ‘menu’ in advance. The students having each covered different further readings will bring them into the seminar discussion.

The critics count for 15% of the final mark as follows: 5% for completing 5 quality critics throughout the year, and 10% based on the average mark for what they choose as their two best critics.

The group work mark (15%) is based on the satisfactory completion of the tasks assigned to small groups of students during the fieldwork (e.g. conducting interviews or experiments, etc depending on the topic of the year).

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2016/17: Unavailable

Average class size 2016/17: Unavailable

Capped 2016/17: No

Value: One Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

PDAM skills

  • Leadership
  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Problem solving
  • Application of information skills
  • Communication
  • Application of numeracy skills
  • Specialist skills