U.S. Elections and Political Behavior

POL 413

TuTh 1:45 - 3:00 p.m. - ALC 202
Prof: Dr. Jim L. Riley  Regis University
Fall, 2008

Office Hours
 Monday & Wednesday:   10:30 - 2:00
Tuesday &Thursday:  3:00 -4:00
Friday:  By Appointment  
Office: Carroll Hall 215
 Office Phone: (303) 458-4974

e-mail:   jriley@regis.edu
web page -- http://academic.regis.edu/jriley

TEXT: Parties and Elections in America:  The Electoral Process (5th ed.)

            Authors:  L. Sandy Maisel and Mark Brewer  (text web site - student study guide )  NOTE:  These web sites are for prior editions but remain useful. 

            The publishers blog site is up-to-date and very informative.            

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The first sentence in the Regis Mission Statement reads:  "Regis University educates men and women of all ages to take leadership roles and to make a positive impact in a changing society."  Understanding the nature of politics in its broadest sense is crucial to this goal.  This course seeks to expand the political knowledge of students such that each of them is better able to become capable and responsible leaders in our society that is so deeply penetrated by things political.

1.USE AND SIGNIFICANCE OF SYLLABUS: This syllabus is a most important guide for your understanding what this course is designed to accomplish and how it is organized to achieve its stated goals. Moreover, specific ground rules, obligations and responsibilities are described below. By careful reading, you should obtain a clear idea of what we will be doing in this class throughout the semester. The dates and deadlines contained below will be adhered to, barring unforeseen exigencies requiring modification. A complete semester's assignments is included at the end of this syllabus. It is your responsibility to familiarize yourself with each day's assignment in accordance with those specifications.

2. COURSE PURPOSE: The focus of this course shall be upon American elections, parties   and political behavior. These most important phenomena will be examined with a view towards expanding the student's knowledge and interest in these subjects. At semester's end it is to be expected that class participants will have enhanced knowledge of the following subjects: American political parties, political behavior, campaign strategies and dynamics, trends in political participation, media role in elections, campaign finance, presidential campaigns and the significance of parties and elections on governmental policy-making. In addition, it is anticipated that students will also be imbued with a desire to know more about these and related topics

3. COURSE OBJECTIVES: The specific objective of the course is to achieve knowledge levels within students such that they will be able to perform "satisfactorily" or better in the following areas: (1) examinations -- students will be expected to respond accurately and completely to questions covering course material; (2) out-of-class projects -- students will be expected to complete a research project utilizing concepts presented in class; and (3) in-class-discussions -- students will be expected to participate frequently and positively in class. The quality of work will be judged in accordance with the degree to which the following criteria are present in written work: accuracy of information, critical thought, clarity of message, organizational coherency, use of the intellectual tools presented in the course, technical precision and correctness (especially in our-of-class papers), sharpness of focus, presence of indicators of thoughtful consideration of issues examined, depth of analysis, and creativity.

4. CLASS FORMAT: The size of this class is ideal for making use of the seminar approach. All members of the class will be expected to provide frequent in-class verbal contributions. The procedure will normally be one in which the Professor initiates the discussion and/or presentations by directing attention to matters under scrutiny. This may involve something of a brief "lecture" or visual presentation, but invariably with the expectation of student questions, observations, comments and criticisms. On other occasions, students may be asked to comment on topics covered in their reading and to explain phenomenon studied at some earlier point in the course. As will be seen below, the degree to which students provide positive in-class contributions will play a significant role in grade determination.

5. NOTE TAKING: In order to achieve a desirable grade in this class (presumably reflecting one's level of achievement), it is necessary to take "good" notes of three types: class notes, text notes, and research notes. Class notes should summarize material presented in class so that you may later recall what was put before you there. Ideally and desirably, these should be in the form of full and complete sentences, organized in outline form (major and minor headings being present). Text notes should condense and summarize the material given to you by the author. Research notes serve the purpose of recording that which you have gathered through your out-of-class digging.

Generally, the purpose of notes is to store, organize, and make information more readily available so that it can eventually become knowledge. It is utilitarian in nature, that is to say, it is designed to serve some larger purpose. If you find after a few meetings that your notes are not very accurate or helpful in organizing and understanding the material, meet with me at your first opportunity. One final point, you should review notes taken at the previous meeting before going to class on any given day. This five or ten minute review will prove most valuable in various ways

6. STUDENT RESPONSIBILITIES: Each member of the class is expected to read the assigned material prior to class time. A reading of the material must be accompanied by the taking of written notes on what has been read. These text notes will be supplemented with notes taken in class. Thus, it is necessary that students attend class regularly (see the attached policy regarding class absences). Finally, in addition to READING, TAKING NOTES, AND ATTENDING CLASS, students are expected to study and think about the material to which they are exposed and to be prepared to write on and discuss the subject examined. Also, students should keep abreast of events in the United States and the rest of the world that pertain to politics. This means reading a newspaper daily, watching the news on TV (especially the McNeill News Report on PBS TV), listening to NPR (FM 90.1) and reading a weekly news magazine such as Time, Newsweek, or U.S. News and World Report.

Moreover, students are expected to periodically access websites which contain information about current campaigns, issues, and candidates.  Utilization of the WWW is to be considered an integral part of this class.  In particular students should visit and peruse all "links" posted on the discussion outlines presented in class.

7. CLASS DECORUM AND ATTENDANCE POLICY:    Three unexcused absences are permitted without penalty. "Cuts" beyond this will result in the course grade being lowered by 0.2 points for each day missed beyond the allowable three "cuts". All absences are considered "cuts" unless explicitly excused.

    Once roll is taken students entering the class late will be counted as absent for that day. This policy is instituted to discourage chronic tardiness which has become increasingly prevalent in recent semesters. Moreover, students are expected to remain in the class for the entire duration of the class. If there is a need to leave prior to the end of the class period please have the courtesy to inform me prior to the beginning of the class.

    During class I would like to request that all students, as a matter of courtesy, remove their hats and refrain from eating during the class.   Remember to turn off cell phones, pagers and other communication devices. 

    Occasionally subjects of discussion will arise about which there will be differences of opinion.  While open and free discussion is encouraged, disagreements on these subjects will not be allowed to devolve into arguments or personal criticisms.

8. EXAMINATIONS: There will be two (2) essay examinations during the semester and a final examination at the end. Students may bring to the exam five 3" x 5" note cards with anything written on them. Copied material may not be used. The sharing of cards during the exam is prohibited. These cards may be used during the exam. Each examination will count for 25% of a student's course grade as will the out-of-class project. It is the policy of this class to permit no make up examinations, with two exceptions: (1) instances where a particular student has a verified medical excuse, and (2) instances of personal emergency requiring a written request for make-up examination. Only in the most pressing of circumstances will a non-medical excuse be accepted, and the likelihood of acceptance is much greater when the request is made prior to the scheduled exam date. Students missing a regularly scheduled examination and not meeting either of the two exceptions will receive a Fail for the examination.

9. GRADING POLICY: I shall make every effort to adhere faithfully to the grading standards set forth in the Regis University Bulletin while relying upon my professional judgment to make the necessary applications of these standards. Grades will be determined by student performance, both in and out of class as set forth in the section on examinations.   Borderline grades will be decided using class participation as the deciding factor. It should be noted that the examinations (and out-of-class papers) will be graded blindly. Each student will be assigned a personal code that will be affixed to papers. This will eliminate any personal factors from the grading process. Only the student identification number should be attached to papers and exam - no names.

If, after the first 3 grades (2 examinations and the out-of-class project) have been obtained, a student has a B average or better, he/she may choose to opt out of the final examination and complete a 3-5 page ungraded thoughtful  written evaluation of the course.  If this option is chosen the average of the 3 grades will constitute the grade for the course (with the possibility of being boosted to the next highest level through positive in-class contributions).  You will be notified in writing on the last day of class what your grade is to that point in time and whether you have the option of not taking the final examination.

10. STUDENT-PROFESSOR CONFERENCES:     You are invited and encouraged to meet with me at any time that is mutually convenient. My office hours are given above. If these times are not convenient to you, we can easily arrange some other time. Please do not adopt the view that conferences are only for addressing problems. I will be most pleased to chat with you about matters of common interest. Certainly, we should discuss any perceived difficulties you may be having in the course. While I will normally be available and in my office during scheduled hours, there may be occasions when exigencies arise requiring me to be elsewhere. Therefore, letting me know in advance that you wish to meet will make certain my being in my office.


A:    Each student will complete a research project involving  a description and analysis of one campaign and election for fall, 2008.   This may be a standard candidate choice campaign/election or an issue election (initiative or referendum).  As always,  proper form is required (table of contents, pagination, endnotes, bibliography, etc.)  On October 2 students will submit a one page prospectus of the intended project.  This will include a title, tentative table of contents, one paragraph narrative of the project and three sources that contain information regarding the subject under inquiry.  

The paper should include a description of  the following aspects of the race:   issues and/or candidates; its location;  tactics and strategies being used by the protagonists;  organizations involved in contest -- this might include interest groups, party organizations; mass media;  its significance, and ultimately its outcome.  Other matters may be included in your paper as you deem appropriate.  Congressional Quarterly Weekly Report has identified several pivotal election contests for this fall.  This publication is an excellent place to begin searching for an electoral race that you may be interested in studying.  The contests described there are by no means the only ones that you may choose from but they are potentially very interesting and significant.

On November 6 the results of the research project may be submitted. The submission should be at least 1,600 words in length (8-10  pages), computer printed and double spaced.   This paper will count for 25% of the course grade. This initial submission date is optional. I will review, evaluate, grade and return these papers within the week following the submission.  Those who meet this deadline will have the opportunity to revise their graded paper if they choose to do so. A second and final submission date is November 20.  The approved synopsis must be attached to the paper.  In addition,  if the project is re-submitted the original  graded paper must be attached to the second submission.  Late papers will be heavily penalized.

B.     Each member of the class will prepare one page synopsis of the out-of-class project. One copy will be given to each member of the class on December 4.   Students are responsible for bringing one copy for each member of the class on this date.  This will serve as the reading assignment for the final class meetings at which times member of the class will describe their out-of-class projects in an informal and non-threatening format. This will be an open class discussion and not a formal presentation.

12. QUALITY REQUIREMENTS: As a general rule, technical errors (i.e., typographical mistakes, misspellings, sloppy erasures, sentence fragments, etc.) totaling in number and amount greater than the number of pages in the body of the paper, will be heavily penalized. Moreover, papers which deviate significantly from acceptable form (i.e., incorrect or missing references -- footnotes, endnotes, etc. -- incorrect or missing bibliography, incorrect or missing table of contents, etc.) will likewise be graded down. Proper form may be gleaned from a careful review and use of Kate Turabian's A Manual for Writers of Term Papers or other acceptable guides such as the MLA manual.   There is much valuable information on proper form that can be found at the Regis University Writing Center web site.  Information on citing Internet sources may be gleaned from my webpage.  No less than five separate sources must be used in the completion of the project.

13. USE OF THE INTERNET: You are expected to use the Internet and especially the World Wide Web (WWW) to locate and access material suitable for the out-of-class assignment. A useful place to start is my web-page. It contains numerous links to useful web sites of a political nature. I also encourage you to locate any new web sites that other students of politics might find helpful and interesting. When appropriate I will add them to my web page with proper acknowledgment to the student who found it/them.

    Each student shall establish a valid e-mail address as soon as possible. I will collect these addresses on the second day of class and periodically send information by e-mail to each member of the class. Thus, students are expected to check their e-mail every day. I will post information to students via e-mail that will otherwise not be available.  Students may also submit their prospectuses to me via e-mail. I check my mail several times a day and will respond to each note I get in a very short time.

14.  COMPUTER USE IN CLASS:  Any student wishing to use a computer in class needs to speak with me regarding this request.   It is required that in-class utilization of the computer will be limited exclusively to class related matters:  taking notes or accessing material related to subjects under scrutiny in class.  Utilization of the computer for communication purposes or accessing of material unrelated to the class is prohibited and may result in the loss of in-class computer access privileges.

15.  Academic Integrity:  It is expected that students will act honorably in all activities related to this course and will refrain from any form of academic and professional dishonesty or deception in the classroom, clinical, and other learning settings. These behaviors include cheating, plagiarism, falsification of data, falsification of records, and aiding and/or abetting dishonesty.

16.    Accommodation of DisabilitiesFor information regarding Regis disability services policies, visit the web site of the Office of Disability Services.

17.    Course Withdrawal PolicyStudents are expected to know and observe the published deadlines for (a) dropping the course and (b) withdrawing from the course. These deadlines are published on the University's Academic Calendar, which is available in the Bulletin, the course schedule and is in the Dean's Office. THESE DEADLINES ARE NOT FLEXIBLE.


9/2 Course Introduction

9/4  Parties and Elections:  Overview (Ch. 1)

9/9 & 9/11 Development of American Parties and  Party Organizations (Ch. 2)

9/16 & 9/18 Voting and Political Participation (Ch. 3)

9/23 & 9/25 Organized Groups (Ch. 4)

9/30 Examination #1

10/2  Campaign Finance (Ch. 5)                 

10/7  State and Local Nominations (Ch. 6)

10/9 & 10/14  State and Local Elections (Ch. 7)

10/16 & 10/23  Presidential Nominations (Ch. 8)

10/28 Examination #2

10/30 The Best Campaign Money Can Buy

 11/4 & 11/6 Presidential Elections (Ch. 9)

11/11 & 11/13 & 11/18 The Media in the Electoral Process (Ch. 10)

11/20  & 11/25 The Party in Government (Ch. 11)

12/2 & 12/4 TBD (Ch. 12)

12/9 & 12/11 Student Reports (student synopses)

12/16 Examination #3, 1:15 - 3:15 p.m., Tuesday