American Government

GOVT 30.02 (Identical to PBPL 52)

Leadership and Political Institutions

Course Description

GOVT 30.04

Political Misinformation and Conspiracy Theories

Course Description:

Why do people hold false or unsupported beliefs about politics and why are so those beliefs so hard to change? This course will explore the psychological factors that make people vulnerable to political misinformation and conspiracy theories and the reasons that corrections so often fail to change their minds. We will also analyze how those tendencies are exploited by political elites and consider possible approaches that journalists and civic reformers could employ to combat misperceptions.

GOVT 30.12 (Identical to PBPL 027)

Affirmative Action in Higher Education

Course Description:

Since John F. Kennedy's 1961 executive order to implement affirmative action policies, institutions of higher education have looked for ways to encourage minority and low-income students to matriculate.  Some public and private institutions have experienced lawsuits against the policy's implementation.  As universities stress their desire for a diverse, well-rounded, high achieving student body—and a healthy balance sheet, there is disagreement about which method of selecting students is both effective and fair.  How can educational administrators, parents and community members work together to improve college access?  Has affirmative action outlived its original purpose or must we continue taking "affirmative action to ensure that applicants are…treated…without regard to their race, color, religion, sex, or national origin"?  Has the college access gap widened or shrunk?  Do students' lived experiences match the goal of equal opportunity?  In this course, students and guest lecturers from a full range of political perspectives will explore the topic of affirmative action through some traditional classroom techniques (reading/ writing/ discussion) as well as experiential education techniques (creating public policy proposals, conversing with affirmative action professionals at Dartmouth, and pitching proposals to a panel of policy experts). 


Campaigns and Elections

Course Description:

Do campaigns change election outcomes? When do they matter and when do they not? How should campaigns be conducted for optimal results on Election Day? This course will seek to answer these questions from both academic and practical perspectives. Particularly, it will investigate campaign strategies; issues, money and communications in political races; the behavior of voters; and possible election reforms. Students should leave this class with a deep understanding of political campaigns for elective office.


Congress and The American Political System

Course Description:

This course introduces students to the analysis of public policy making in the U.S. Congress. Special attention is paid to the evolution of the House and Senate as institutions, to elections and to the interactions among elections, institutional arrangements, and policy making. Prerequisite: Government 3, or instructor permission.


Polling and Public Policy

Course Description:

The results of public opinion polls frequently dominate political news coverage and they often alter the behavior of politicians; moreover, political polls have started becoming news in their own right in recent years.  In this course, we will explore the techniques that pollsters use to examine public attitudes and we will consider how that information can, and should, be used to formulate public policy.  We will engage questions such as: To what degree can the public form meaningful preferences about complex political issues?  What does a political opinion consist of, and how can it be measured?  How can potential errors in polls be avoided?  How does partisanship influence public opinion, and where do Americans stand on key policy issues?  To what extent should politicians try to change public opinion rather than respond to it?  How has the nature and role of public opinion shifted in an era of rapidly advancing polling technology and a changing media environment?  In addition to examining the pertinent literature on topics such as these, we will conduct and analyze an actual public opinion survey as a class.  Through a combination of theoretical and hands-on learning, students will leave the course with a firm understanding of these dynamics.


Political Psychology

Course Description:

This class examines the psychological origins of citizens' political beliefs and actions. We analyze different aspects of human psychology, including personality, motivation, values, information processing and emotion. This course is for anyone who has ever wondered how people form their political opinions, why they vote the way they do, and whether ordinary citizens are well suited to democracy.  Readings will be drawn from political science and psychology. GOVT 3 is a prerequisite for this class.