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Elections and Voting Behaviour

Key information

  • Module code:

    6SSPP360

  • Level:

    6

  • Semester:

      Spring

  • Credit value:

    15

Module description

This module introduces students to the study of elections and voting behaviour in democracies throughout the world. The organization of elections is a (if not the) key feature of modern democracies. It is therefore crucial for political specialists to be able to apprehend them, from the beginning of the campaign to the final results.

 

To do so, the module examines in details the act of voting and what motivates voters' behaviour. The questions tackled include how voters form preferences over parties, how they translate these preferences into a vote or an abstention, how they react to the policies implemented by the government and the electoral program developed by parties, how the campaign and their degree of information affects their decision, and how we can scientifically predict electoral results.

 

The aim of the module is threefold:

  • To makes sure students understand the key concepts and theories about elections and voting behaviour developed in the political science literature and are able to critically appraise them;
  • To provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to scientifically analyse any election that is organized in any democracy throughout the world using publicly available data;
  • To give students the knowledge and skills needed to come up with a scientific prediction of any future election that is organized in any democracy throughout the world.

 

The lectures are based on textbook chapters and key supplementary articles. They combine theoretical demonstrations and discussions, with illustrations from recent elections organised in various democracies throughout the world. The evaluation is based on a written exam aiming at the validation of the student's understanding of the political science literature on elections and voting behaviour, together with the completion of two essays. For the first (short) essay, students are asked to develop their own forecasting model and derive a scientific prediction of the upcoming election of their choice. For the second (long) essay, they are asked to scientifically analyse a past election of their choice in using publicly available data. This analysis consists in describing the evolution of the electorate compared to last election, and explaining this in light of the strategies developed by the parties during the campaign. The aim of these two essays is to validate the ability of students to mobilise the political science literature, and data analysis techniques, to make sense out of an election.

Assessment details

'An appropriate assessment pattern will be set which may include but not limited to one or several of the following; Written coursework, group work, unseen timed examinations, participation etc'

Educational aims & objectives

This module introduces students to the study of elections and voting behaviour in a comparative perspective. The goal is to familiarize them with the political science literature on the subject and give them the instruments to analyse any forthcoming election in any democracy throughout the world.

In particular, the aim of the module is threefold:

  • To makes sure students understand the key concepts and theories about elections and voting behaviour developed in the political science literature and are able to critically appraise them;
  • To provide students with the knowledge and skills needed to scientifically analyse any election that is organized in any democracy throughout the world using publicly available data;
  • To give students the knowledge and skills needed to come up with a scientific prediction of any future election that is organized in any democracy throughout the world.

Topics include the evolution of the structure of electorate in modern democracies these last 30 years, the decision to vote or to abstain, the decision to vote strategically, the impact of the campaign and of information

Learning outcomes

By the end of the module, students will be familiar with the political science literature on elections and voting behaviour and be able to apply this literature to scientifically analyse any election organized in any democracy throughout the world. In particular, they would be able to:

  • Identify the key structure of an electorate, and make sense out of the changes that occurred since last election;
  • Evaluate how the electoral context, including party strategies and campaign, affects voting behaviour;
  • Be able to give a scientifically sound narrative of the electoral results outcome that emerged after an election, and to come up with scientifically informed forecasts of future elections.