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Course content

When angry at a particular government policy, some people sit in their armchair and complain, others write letters and organise committees, some participate in social media campaigns, while others still protest or even riot in the street. Politicians care about public opinion, so how do we explain these choices? How are reactions shaped by people’s social background, their economic circumstances, their personality, or even their genetic inheritance? Can politicians and the media influence public opinion and if so, how?

MA Public Opinion and Political Behaviour explores the interaction between the mass public and political elites in advanced industrial democracies. You are introduced to the latest theoretical debates about the nature, significance and measurement of public opinion, exploring when and how these opinions translate into political participation, from voting behaviour and signing petitions to suicide bombing.

You also look at the main theoretical approaches in the study of politics, combined with a selection of optional modules including:
-Quantitative data analysis in political explanations
-Survey measurement and question design
-Political parties in Britain and Europe
-Measuring public opinion
-Democracies in Europe

Our Department of Government is one of the most prestigious in Europe, with an outstanding record of teaching, research and publication. We are rated top in the UK for research (REF 2014), and have consistently been the highest-rated politics department in the country since national assessments began. Ranked top 10 in the world for political science and international relations according to the Centre for World University Rankings (2017)

Our expert staff

Some of the biggest names in the field work at Essex, giving you unparalleled access to some of the best minds in politics. Our staff are advising the CIA on counter-terrorism, training politicians and civil servants in democratising countries, and commentating on political events in national and international media.

Our key academic staff for this course are Professor Paul Whiteley, who works on British elections, and Professor Lawrence Ezrow, who works on party ideology and strategy.

You join an active and prolific research team, with the opportunity to work alongside a member of staff on their research instead of completing a dissertation; some of these projects have even resulted in joint staff/student publications.

Specialist facilities

-Laboratories of networked computers featuring extensive software for political analysis
-The ESSEXLab provides opportunities for experimental lab research
-Student societies for politics, debating, and Model UN
-We organise the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis
-A programme of seminars and events run by the department

Your future

All Essex politics graduates have the distinction of a qualification from one of the world’s leading politics departments.

Our course can lead to a career in the polling industry, market research, British and European Politics or the private sector. You will develop key employability skills including analytical reasoning, survey design, polling, research design, and report writing.

Recent graduates have gone on to work for the following high-profile organisations:
-The Civil Service
-Local government
-The World Bank
-The United Nations
-NATO
-YouGov and YouGov America

We also offer supervision for PhD and MPhil in the following fields: government; ideology and discourse analysis; international relations; political behaviour; and politics.

Our academic reputation is illustrated by the fact that many of our graduates now teach or research at universities, colleges of higher education and schools. For example, recent graduates are now research fellows and academic staff at: Mannheim, Germany; ETH Zurich, Switzerland; Duke University, USA; NATO/SHAPE, Belgium; and University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

Example structure

-Political Explanation (optional)
-Advanced Research Methods (optional)
-Public Opinion and Political Behaviour
-Theory and Explanation in Political Science
-MA Dissertation
-International Security Studies (optional)
-Political Parties in Britain and Europe (optional)
-Contemporary Theories of Justice (optional)
-Environmental Politics (optional)
-Theories of International Relations (optional)
-Conflict Resolution (optional)
-Political Economy (optional)
-Political Theory (optional)
-Research Seminar in Political Theory and Methods (optional)
-Research Design (optional)
-Comparative European Politics (optional)
-Ideology and Political Discourse (optional)
-Survey Measurement and Question Design

Visit the Public Opinion and Political Behaviour - MA page on the University of Essex website for more details!

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