MA Political Science - European Politics & Policy Pathway (Research Route) / Course details

Year of entry: 2024

Course unit details:
Understanding Political Change

Course unit fact file
Unit code POLI71042
Credit rating 15
Unit level FHEQ level 7 – master's degree or fourth year of an integrated master's degree
Teaching period(s) Semester 2
Available as a free choice unit? Yes


•To outline the contemporary nature of citizens involvement in politics in advanced industrial democracies.

•To identify the key changes in citizens’ political orientations, attitudes and activities over time. This will focus particularly on the decline of more conventional modes of engagement and the growth of newer unconventional forms of participation as well as the rise in populist anti-elite political sentiment.

•To review the key theoretical and empirical literature relevant to explaining and interpreting change in citizen politics in the post WWII era.

•To examine role that longer-term socio-economic and cultural forces play in shaping citizen orientations toward political actors, organizations and institutions as well as other short-term factors such as the media and campaign environment.

•To critically review empirical measures and analyses of citizen political behaviour.

•To promote independent analysis by students of citizen politics using major comparative datasets.

Learning outcomes

On completion of this unit successful students will be able to:

•Identify different forms of political participation and their significance from a comparative perspective.

•Understand and critically assess the main theories explaining the changes that have occurred in citizens’ political behaviour and orientations across the post WW II period.

•Understand the rise of populism and related election outcomes, such as the election of Donald Trump and the UK’s vote for Brexit”

•Critically assess the role of a range of formal and informal actors, system-level forces and individual characteristics in influencing citizen politics.

•Read, interpret, critically evaluate and conduct empirical studies of citizen political attitudes, values and behaviour.

Teaching and learning methods

10 - 1 hour lectures
10 - 1 hour seminars (with student led discussion/presentations)
1 - 2 hour data workshops – sourcing and analysing election / social attitudes data

Assessment methods

Method Weight
Other 25%
Written assignment (inc essay) 75%

3000 word Essay (75%), 1000 word Critical Debate Exercise (25%) 

Recommended reading

  • Achen, C.H. and Bartels, L.M., 2017. Democracy for realists: Why elections do not produce responsive government (Vol. 4) Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  • Cramer, K. 2016. The Politics of Resentment University of Chicago Press.
  • Dahl, R. 1989. Democracy and its Critics. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  • Dalton, R.J. 2019 (7th Ed.) Citizen Politics: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies , CQ Press, USA
  • Fieldhouse, E, Green, J., Evans, G., Mellon, J., Prosser C., Schmitt, H. and van der Eijk C. (2020). Electoral shocks: The volatile voter in a turbulent world. Oxford University Press.
  • Gest, J., 2016. The New Minority: White Working Class Politics and Marginality. New York: Oxford University Press
  • Hay, Colin. 2007. Why We Hate Politics. Cambridge: Polity
  • Hibbing, J. R. and E. Theiss-Morse. 2002. Stealth democracy: Americans' beliefs about
  • how government should work. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Manin, B., 1997. The principles of representative government. Cambridge University Press.
  • Merkel, W. and Kneip, S. (eds.) 2018. Democracy and Crisis. Challenges in Turbulent Times. Cham, Switzerland: Springer.
  • Norris, P. 2011. Democratic Deficit: Critical Citizens Revisited Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Norris, P. and Inglehart, R., 2019. Cultural backlash: Trump, Brexit, and authoritarian populism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
  • Stoker, G. 2006. Why politics matter: making democracy work. Basingstoke: Palgrave
  • Van Beek, U. (ed), 2018. Democracy Under Threat: A Crisis of Legitimacy? Cham, Switzerland: Palgrave Macmillan, van Deth, J., J.R. Montero and A. Westholm (Eds) Citizenship and Involvement in European Democracies: A Comparative Analysis, London: Routledge.


Study hours

Scheduled activity hours
Lectures 10
Practical classes & workshops 2
Seminars 10
Independent study hours
Independent study 128

Teaching staff

Staff member Role
Ceri Fowler Unit coordinator

Additional notes



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