POL S 299 Special Topics: Public Opinion Research
Fall 2011: Tuesday & Thursday, Noon - 1:20 pm, Smith 102
Professor: Matt A. Barreto
This class is a special topics, American Politics class, focusing on public opinion research, as well as the 2011-12 elections. This class will go beyond text books and articles, and provide students with a hands-on opportunity to learn what constitutes public opinion, how it changes, and how it influences American politics, all during an important an exciting election year here in Washington state. In addition to some light course readings, students will design their own short public opinion survey, pre-test the survey, and then eventually run the survey with a live group of registered voters in Washington state, using the political science survey research center. Following the data collection, students will learn how to manage, and analyze the data, and present their findings to the class.
Each week there will be required from course text book, as well as from newspapers, and political blogs. In addition to the course text book, you should be looking for news coverage of polls and surveys, which we will discuss in class. The complete, week-by-week reading list is also posted on the course website.
Newspapers/Blogs: Pick your favorites
Throughout the quarter, there will be opportunities to attend various events, talks, and symposiums on campus that are related to the 2011 election or American politics in general which will count for small, but important, extra credit points. You must get approval from your TA or from the Professor before an extra credit opportunity. You will be required to write up a one-page summary of the event and turn it in within one week.
Participation in survey lab. There will be two different times that you are asked to collect public opinion survey data as part of your grade. The first will be in conjunction with on-going academic surveys that are overseen by UW faculty and PhD students in Political Science. The second is to implement your own public opinion survey that you will have designed with your team. The survey lab is open 4pm – 9pm Monday – Thursday, and then 12pm – 5pm on Saturday/Sunday. You can sign up for days via the Doodle schedule (Click Here to Sign-up)
Development of your own survey. After learning the do’s and don’ts of writing a survey, you will be asked to write your own original questions, in collaboration with a few other classmates. The survey must be up to AAPOR standards and you can consult closely with the Asher book on best practices, as well as the class lecture notes. The survey will be among registered voters in Washington state and you can develop any questions you want, so long as you can justify them as being relevant to politics and interesting.
Analysis of your survey data. Your survey is no good without tabulating the results and analyzing the data. After collecting your survey data, you will learn some very basic techniques for tabulating the results, making tables and charts, and writing a simple report.
Final Presentation. With your team members, you will create a powerpoint (or similar) presentation to deliver to the class which summarizes your results. All team members will be expected to be involved. Presentations during Week 10 (and maybe Finals day)