MC404      Half Unit
Political Communication in Democracies

This information is for the 2020/21 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Nick Anstead


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Politics and Communication. This course is not available as an outside option.

Note: MC404 is a core course for the MSc Politics and Communication. It is not available to students outside the programme. 

Course content

The aim of the course is to examine the relationship between the media and political processes in comparative perspective. It offers a critical review of key aspects of contemporary theory and research in political communications, examining a range of interconnected issues concerning the relationship between politics and media including: the political influence of the media; public opinion; election and referendum campaigning; political marketing and branding; political reporting; media and public knowledge; and public diplomacy.


This course is delivered through a combination of lectures and seminars totalling a minimum of 20 hours across Michaelmas Term. This year, some or all of this teaching will be delivered through a combination of virtual classes and flipped-lectures delivered as online videos. This course includes a reading week in Week 6 of term.

Formative coursework

All students are expected to complete advance reading, prepare seminar presentations, and submit one essay of 1,500 words.

Indicative reading

  • Bennett, W. L. & Segerberg, A. 2012. The Logic of Connective Action: Digital Media and the Personalization of Contenious Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Chadwick, A. 2013. The Hybrid Media System: Politics and Power. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Coleman, S. & Blumler, J. G. 2009. The Internet and democratic citizenship : theory, practice and policy. Cambridge ; New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Davis, A. 2019. Political Communication: A New Introduction for Crisis Times. London: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Esser, F. and Pfetsch, B. (Eds). 2004. Comparing Political Communications, New York, Cambridge University Press.
  • Issenberg, S. 2012. The Victory Lab: The Secret Science of Winning Campaigns: Crown.
  • Norris, P. 2000. Virtuous Circle, Cambridge University Press.
  • Scammell, M. and Semetko, Holli A. 2012. The SAGE Handbook of Political Communication. London: Sage.
  • Scammell, M. 2014. Consumer Democracy: The Marketing of Politics. New York, NY USA: Cambridge University Press.
  • Stromer-Galley, J. 2014. Presidential campaigning in the Internet age. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Willnat, L, and Annette A (Eds) 2009. Political communication in Asia. London ; New York: Routledge.
  • Wring, D., Mortimore, R., & Atkinson, S. 2018. Political Communication in Britain. London: Springer.


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in the LT.

Student performance results

(2016/17 - 2018/19 combined)

Classification % of students
Distinction 19
Merit 50.7
Pass 29.9
Fail 0.5

Teachers' comment

The course focuses on how politicians communicate with the public, and what developments in this area mean for democracy.

Students' comments

"The lectures are some of the most stimulating and interesting I've had in my education. Fantastic teaching"

"The student-led seminars were great... [I] enjoyed leading on one myself!"

Important information in response to COVID-19

Please note that during 2020/21 academic year some variation to teaching and learning activities may be required to respond to changes in public health advice and/or to account for the situation of students in attendance on campus and those studying online during the early part of the academic year. For assessment, this may involve changes to mode of delivery and/or the format or weighting of assessments. Changes will only be made if required and students will be notified about any changes to teaching or assessment plans at the earliest opportunity.

Key facts

Department: Media & Communications

Total students 2019/20: 47

Average class size 2019/20: 16

Controlled access 2019/20: Yes

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Personal development skills

  • Self-management
  • Team working
  • Communication