Comparative Political Behaviour

This information is for the 2023/24 session.

Teacher responsible

Dr Mathias Poertner


This course is compulsory on the MSc in Political Science (Political Behaviour). This course is not available as an outside option.

Course content

This course examines how citizens see the political world and form opinions about it, and how their political behaviour is shaped by those opinions and their social identities.

The course will start out by surveying some foundational work on different theoretical perspectives in political behaviour and central methodological challenges in political behaviour research. After that, we focus on research that addresses different voter motivations, the broader political and social context, and specific political behaviours. Throughout the course, we will pay special attention to the interplay between political institutions, contextual factors, and behavioural outcomes. Readings are drawn from all major world regions.


15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the AT. 15 hours of lectures and 15 hours of seminars in the WT.

Students on this course will have a reading week in Week 6 of the Autumn and Winter Terms, in line with departmental policy.

Formative coursework

Students will be expected to produce 1 piece of coursework in the WT.

This will consist of a research proposal (1500 words) outlining a research question and research design to be explored in the research paper.

Indicative reading

  • Achen, Christopher H and Larry M. Bartels. 2016. Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  • Aldrich, John H. 1993. “Rational Choice and Turnout.” American Journal of Political Science 37(1): 264-278.
  • Campbell, Angus et al. 1960. The American Voter. New York: John Wiley & Sons.
  • Downs, Anthony. 1957. An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper Collins, Chapters 2, 7-8.
  • Dunning, Thad et al., eds., 2019. Information, Accountability, and Cumulative Learning. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Foos, Florian and Eline A De Rooij. 2017. “All in the Family: Partisan Disagreement and Electoral Mobilizaiton in Intimate Networks—A Spillover Experiment.” American Journal of Political Science 61(2): 289-304.
  • Gerber, Alan S. et al. 2008. “Social Pressure and Voter Turnout: Evidence from a Large-scale Field Experiment.” American Political Science Review 102(1): 33-48.
  • Holmberg, Sören. 2007. “Partisanship Reconsidered.” In Rusell J. Dalton and Hans-Dieter Klingemann, eds., The Oxford Handbook of Political Behavior. New York: Oxford University Press.
  • Kalla, Joshua L. and David E. Broockman. 2018. “The Minimal Persuasive Effects of Campaign Contact in General Elections: Evidence from 49 Field Experiments.” American Political Science Review 121(1): 148-166.
  • Lupu, Noam. 2014. “Brand Dilution and the Breakdown of Political Parties in Latin America.” World Politics 66(4): 561-602.
  • Nichter, Simeon. 2008. “Vote Buying or Turnout Buying? Machine Politics and the Secret Ballot.” American Political Science Review 102(1): 19-31.
  • Poertner, Mathias. 2021. “The Organizational Voter: Support for New Parties in Young Democracies.” American Journal of Political Science 65(3): 634-651.
  • Stokes, Susan, Thad Dunning, Marcelo Nazareno, and Valeria Brusco. 2013. Brokers, Voters, and Clientelism: The Puzzle of Distributive Politics. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  • Zaller, John. 1992. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. New York: Cambridge University Press.


Assessment path 1
Presentation (20%).
Research paper (80%) in the period between WT and ST.

Assessment path 2
Presentation (20%).
Research proposal (80%) in the period between WT and ST.

Students can choose between submitting a) a fully executed research paper or b) a fully developed pre-analysis plan for a research project addressing one of the course topics that includes both a literature review and a research design.

The word count for the research paper/proposal will be 6000 words.

Key facts

Department: Government

Total students 2022/23: Unavailable

Average class size 2022/23: Unavailable

Controlled access 2022/23: No

Value: One 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