University of Massachusetts Amherst

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American Politics

AMERICAN POLITICS is the study of the political system of the United States, including the people, groups, ideas, and institutions that make up that system. Scholars may focus on political behavior (voting, public opinion), or on political institutions (Congress, parties, interest groups), or on the relationships between institutions and behavior. Many scholars focus on contemporary politics but some study the evolution of political processes and institutions over time.

  • The American Politics field at UMass has become a leader in the discipline over the past decade thanks to the department’s ability to hire and retain world-class award-winning scholars. The faculty conduct numerous active research programs, and offers a broad array of training in the field of American Politics. Yet, while the American Politics field is the largest in the department, it is also a tightknit community that supports active research groups and provides plentiful opportunities for collaborative research. Indeed, every recent PhD student in American Politics has co-authored publications with faculty in the field.
  • Some recent PhD students in our program have chosen to capitalize on our strengths in Political Psychology to focus their research on questions of public opinion and mass behavior. These students also benefit from the presence of additional political psychology scholars with strong international reputations who are based in the psychology department here at UMass. Other recent PhD students have taken advantage of our faculty’s expertise in American Political Development to examine the evolution of presidential rhetoric and the development of American political parties as extended networks of activists and interest groups. Still other recent American Politics PhD students have taken advantage of the Computational Social Science Initiative to develop extended training in advanced methodologies for analyzing big data, social networks, and text-as-data. And students interested in US Judicial Politics benefit from strong ties to award-winning Public Law faculty at UMass-Amherst.
  • Finally, in partnership with Harvard University, the UMass American Politics field is home to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study, the largest annual political survey of the American public. This gives American Politics students the opportunity to obtain sophisticated training and practical experience in survey research methods. They also can often field their own survey questions on representative national surveys at no cost, and present their findings at a range of venues from informal workshops of UMass students and faculty to the biennial CCES Sundance Conference.

SUBFIELD STRENGTHS: American Politics faculty at Umass have national and international reputations in a range of topics central to understanding the political system of the United States.

  • American Political Development and Political Institutions
  • Political Psychology / Political Communication
  • Race, Ethnicity, Gender and Politics
  • Parties, Elections, and Campaign Finance

CROSS-FIELD STREAMS: In addition to the strengths in the American Politics subfields, our research and teaching centers around several cross-cutting themes that connect these subfields both to one another and to faculty in other fields.

  • US and Comparative Judicial Politics. Americanists at UMass work closely with Public Law faculty interested in US Judicial and Legal Institutions. US Judicial Scholars from Public Law participate actively in the American Politics working group and work closely with PhD students in American politics; and they work with PhD students and Comparative scholars to compare US institutions to those elsewhere in the world.
  • Immigration & Refugees. Americanists’ work on public opinion, media coverage and immigration policy in Great Britain and Germany connects to scholars in Public Law and International Relations working on immigration and refugee issues, as a component of the domestic and global response to human security crises; and to Comparativists studying political behavior in multiple country contexts.
  • US, Comparative and Global Social Policy. Americanists work on US and comparative social policy connects them to scholars in Public Policy and Organizations and International Relations. Faculty in this cluster study US education policy, health policy in the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, gender, race and family policy in the US, science and technology policy and global human security policy.
  • Computational Social Science. Methodological rigor is prized at UMass, and American Politics scholars at UMass been particularly involved in the UMass Computational Social Science Research Cluster, which ties them to scholars in Public Policy and International Relations – as well as to other scholars across the university in statistics, economics, sociology and computer science.
  • History & Politics. Big data can inform some questions, but an appreciation of history, archival research and process-tracing can inform others. American Politics scholars use historical methods to study education policy; Public Policy faculty use them to study sports policy; Comparative Politics faculty use them to study US and European electoral institutions; and Political Theorists use them to study democracy, decolonization and US nation-building.



Albert, Zachary and Raymond J. La Raja. Forthcoming. “Political Parties and Policy Analysis” in Policy Analysis in the US, eds. John Hird (Bristol, UK: Policy Press).

Albert, Zachary and Raymond J. La Raja. 2017. “Campaign Spending” in Sage Handbook of Electoral Behavior, eds. Kai Arzheimer, Jocelyn Evans and Michael LewisBeck (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage).

Mia Costa, Kaylee Johnson, and Brian Schaffner. 2017. “Rethinking Representation from a Communal Perspective.” Political Behavior, In press.

Jesse H. Rhodes and Kaylee T. Johnson. 2017. “Welcoming Their Hatred: Class Populism in Democratic Rhetoric in American Presidential Campaigns, 1932-2012.” Presidential Studies Quarterly.

Mia Costa, Bruce Desmarais, and John Hird. 2016. “Science Use in Regulatory Impact Analysis: The Effect of Political Attention and Controversy.” Review of Policy Research 33(3): 251-269.

Justin H. Gross and Kaylee T. Johnson. 2016. “Twitter Taunts and Tirades: Negative Campaigning in the Age of Trump.” PS: Political Science and Politics 49 (4): 748-754.

Nteta, Tatishe, Rebecca Lisi, and Melinda Tarsi. 2015. “Playing the Race Card from the Bottom of the Deck: Elite Cues, Partisanship, and Racial Priming.” Politics, Groups, and Identities: 1-29.

Rhodes, Jesse H. and Zachary Albert. 2015. The Transformation of Partisan Rhetoric in American Presidential Campaigns, 1952–2012. Party Politics, DOI: 10.1177/1354068815610968.

Desmarais, Bruce, Raymond J. La Raja and Michael Kowal. 2014. “The Fates of Challengers in US House Elections: The Role of Extended Party Networks in Supporting Candidates and Shaping Electoral Outcomes.” American Journal of Political Science 59(1): 194-211.