Accueil > Public Opinion and Democracy

DSPO 2510A - Public opinion and democracy

Type d'enseignement : Elective

Semester : Autumn 2017-2018

Number of hours : 24

Language of tuition : English



Course Description

This course intends to examine the conditions under which public opinion can actually shape policy-making and electoral outcomes in modern political systems. During the semester, we will first explore the multiple meanings of public opinion in the scholarly literature. We will look at the different standards set by democratic theory in order for citizens to actually govern based on “enlightened preferences”. We will review empirical evidence showing how the public actually forms its political beliefs and how it connects those beliefs to a vote choice. Our main focus will be to evaluate whether the modern public is sufficiently informed to form stable and consistent opinions regarding the political realm, and whether this matters for elections and policy-making over time.


DEGEORGES, Adrien G. (Doctorant)

Course validation

Average quiz grade (30%) Research paper (40%) Oral presentation / Exposé (30%).

Required reading

  • Larry Bartels. 2008. Unequal Democracy: The Political Economy of the New Gilded Age. Princeton University Press.
  • Converse, Philip. 1964. “The Nature of Belief Systems in Mass Publics”. In David Apter (ed.), Ideology and Discontent. New York: Free Press.
  • Dahl, R. 1961. Who Governs, Yale University Press.
  • Dewey, J. 1927. The Public and Its Problems, Holt Publishers.
  • Key, V. O. 1961. Public Opinion and American Democracy. New York: Knopf. [ch 1]

Additional required reading

  • Lane, Robert E. 1962. Political Ideology: Why The American Common Man Believes What He Does. New York: Free Press. [Excerpts]
  • Page, Benjamin and Robert Shapiro. 1992. The Rational Public. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  • Walter Lippmann. 1922. Public Opinion. New York: MacMillan. [ch 1]
  • Zaller, John. 1992. The Nature and Origins of Mass Opinion. New York: Cambridge University Press.