GV329      Half Unit
Making Democracy Work

This information is for the 2022/23 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr George Ofosu CBG 3.04


This course is available on the BA in Social Anthropology, BSc in History and Politics, BSc in International Social and Public Policy with Politics, BSc in Philosophy, Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics, BSc in Politics and Data Science, BSc in Politics and Economics, BSc in Politics and History, BSc in Politics and International Relations, BSc in Politics and Philosophy, BSc in Social Anthropology and BSc in Social Policy with Government. This course is available with permission as an outside option to students on other programmes where regulations permit and to General Course students.


Students must have completed Introduction to Political Science (GV101).

Comfort with basic statistics as covered by Research Design in Political Science (GV249) or an equivalent course in research design or introductory statistics (such as ST102, ST107, ST108, GY140, SA201) is recommended but not required.

Course content

The extent to which electoral competition motivates elected officials to respond to the needs of citizens determines the quality of a democratic political system. This course examines the theoretical and practical challenges to how elections promote democratic responsiveness and accountability. The course will cover contemporary political science research on a series of topics. How do elections incentivize political responsiveness? How do politicians campaign and distribute state resources to win elections? Why do some voters support corrupt, underperforming politicians while others choose effective leaders? Why are some elections rigged while others are free and fair? Why do some elections spark violence while others are peaceful? Which interventions to promote the quality of democracy work? Readings will draw on empirical cases from many world regions, including Africa, Latin America, the post-Soviet countries, South Asia, and the historical United States. Students are expected to be active participants in this course, and will participate in several class debates and writing exercises.


This course provides a minimum of 20 hours of seminars in the Michaelmas Term. There will be a reading week in MT Week 6.

Formative coursework

There are two pieces of formative coursework: 2 presentations in the MT and a short proposal (800 -1000 words) for a final project in week 7.

The first formative coursework involves two-class group presentations. The assignment will help students to connect empirical work in the field of electoral accountability to the theories introduced in the first part of the course.

The second formative assignment will help students prepare an outline for their final essay. The short essay will comprise a research question, an overview of the argument, a draft structure and an indicative reading list.  Feedback will be provided via email and/or individual sessions with students.

Indicative reading

  1. Przeworski, Manin and Stokes (eds), Democracy, Accountability and Representation, Cambridge UP
  2. Diamond and Morlino (eds), Assessing the Quality of Democracy, A Journal of Democracy Book; Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005,
  3. Ferejohn J. 1986. “Incumbent Performance and Electoral Control.” Public Choice 50:5-26.
  4. Besley, T. 2005. “Political Selection.” Journal of Economic perspectives 19(3): 43-60
  5. Achen and Bartels. 2016. Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government. Princeton Studies in Political Behavior. Princeton University Press
  6. Simpser. 2013. Why Governments and Parties Manipulate Elections: Theory, Practice, and Implications. Cambridge University Press
  7. Stokes et al., 2013, Brokers, Voters, and Clientelism: The Puzzle of Distributive Politics, Cambridge University
  8. Ferraz and Finan, 2008, “Exposing Corrupt Politicians: The Effects of Brazils Publicly Released Audits on Electoral Outcomes,” Quarterly Journal of Economics.
  9. Grossman and Michelitch. 2018. “Information Dissemination, Competitive Pressure, and Politician Performance between Elections: A Field Experiment in Uganda.” American Political Science Review
  10. George Kwaku Ofosu (2019). Do Fairer Elections Increase the Responsiveness of Politicians? American Political Science Review


Essay (100%, 3000 words) in January.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2021/22: 17

Average class size 2021/22: 17

Capped 2021/22: Yes (15)

Value: Half Unit

Guidelines for interpreting course guide information

Course selection videos

Some departments have produced short videos to introduce their courses. Please refer to the course selection videos index page for further information.

Personal development skills

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