The UMass Amherst Poll provides opportunities for undergraduate students to work closely with faculty, become knowledgeable about central debates in the fields of political behavior and public opinion, and learn some of the most valuable and on-demand skills for employment including data collection and analysis. UMass Poll offers a new model for undergraduate education by making hands-on research for students a vital component of education.
Political Polling and Survey Research:
This undergraduate course leads students through the development, implementation, and analysis of exit polls during election seasons. The course teaches students how to constructively critique existing research and requires them to develop their research questions into a final paper. In 2010, 2012, and 2014, students in the course went to polling places in and around Massachusetts to conduct statewide exit polls.
In this course undergraduates learn how to conceptualize and measure public opinion, link it to characteristics of citizens, and why it matters. What is public opinion? How do we measure it? Where does it come from? Does it—and should it—matter for policies and political outcomes? The course broadly addresses fundamental questions about the sources of public opinion and how these opinions shape American democracy. Students learn about how members of the public think about issues, and why they think the way they do. It examines whether or not political leaders follow the "the will of the public" or manipulate public opinion to achieve their own aims.
This undergraduate course provides an introduction to the field of political psychology. It focuses primary attention on psychological explanations of individual political attitudes and actions, among both elites as well as the masses. Students examine the sources of public opinion, individual attitudes, and political behavior through the application of psychological theories and concepts.
Media in American Politics:
This course examines the changing role of media in American politics. Key issues include how media shapes citizens’ thinking about politics, how politicians and citizen activists try to advance their goals through media, and how media outlets themselves shape what is considered news. It also considers the rise of new media forms from 24-7 cable news to blogs and social media to new forms of entertainment media, and whether these new forms of communication can enhance democratic governance or simply accelerate the fragmentation of media and polarization of the American public.
Advanced Survey Data Analysis:
This course focuses on advanced topics in survey design and analysis. Topics covered include different approaches to sampling, how to construct and use survey weights, and tools for analyzing and enriching survey data, including approaches to conducting matching as well as the construction and analysis of panel data. The course will also focus on designing and analyzing survey experiments.