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Programme & Unit Catalogues

PL30875: Comparative elections and voting

[Page last updated: 02 August 2022]

Academic Year: 2022/23
Owning Department/School: Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies
Credits: 6 [equivalent to 12 CATS credits]
Notional Study Hours: 120
Level: Honours (FHEQ level 6)
Semester 2
Assessment Summary: CW 33%, ES 67%
Assessment Detail:
  • Coursework (CW 33%)
  • Essay (ES 67%)
Supplementary Assessment:
Like-for-like reassessment (where allowed by programme regulations)
Learning Outcomes: By the end of this unit, students will be able to:
* demonstrate knowledge of, and critically assess, academic research on the main theoretical approaches to the study of voting behaviour and political participation in Britain and other modern democracies;
* critically appraise arguments about the nature of the modes of explanation and the electoral environment;
* investigate and critically assess the ideologies and electoral fortunes of parties across the political spectrum;
* critically appraise the main themes of electoral politics including questions relating to class and socio-demographics, issue voting, valence politics, rational choice, psychological affinity to political parties, and the influence of structural forces on voting behaviour, of the media, campaigning, political marketing and the emergence of new factors affecting the electoral process
* demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, including to understand complex theories and concepts, to recognise, deconstruct and assess key arguments, to make effective oral presentations, and to express themselves critically in assignments.

Aims: Elections are the very core of democracy. Voting is the key activity that binds the individual to the political system and legitimizes the democratic process. The main aim of the unit is to provide students with an understanding of psephological trends in Britain and other modern democracies including the US, France, Germany and Australia. To this end, it will examine why electors behave the way they do through the exploration of competing theoretical and empirical explanations of both voting behaviour and political participation. Students will learn to critically evaluate the impact of social cleavages; social-psychological, issue-based and rational choice approaches to voting; and assess how contextual influences such as election campaigning, electoral redistricting and local political cultures can influence the election outcome. They will also be able to critically examine the impact of the electoral environment, including the role of the media and polling, electoral system, party organisation, national and local campaigning, political marketing and advertising, and evaluate how they shape and influence elections and voting.

Skills: Skills in critical analysis, conceptual thinking, precision in the use of written and spoken language, exercise of independent judgement, reasoned argument, teamwork and the planning/conduct/reporting of research are developed and assessed in this unit.

Content: The content of the unit will include:
* Theories and approaches to voting behaviour - sociological model, socio-psychological, party identification, issue-voting, rational choice, valence models.
* Theories of participation - sociological, social capital, civic voluntarism, cognitive mobilisation, rational choice, voting as a habit.
* Structural impact of the electoral environment - role of the media/social media, political marketing, advertising polling organisations, electoral system, party organisation.
* Party Campaigning - national/regional/local, party organisation, targeting voters/seats, the long and the short campaign/get out the vote studies.
* Contextual influences on voting - local political cultures, local campaigning, electoral redistricting, neighbourhood and household effects, social networks.

Programme availability:

PL30875 is Optional on the following programmes:

Department of Economics
  • UHES-AFB01 : BSc(Hons) Economics and Politics (Year 3)
  • UHES-AAB01 : BSc(Hons) Economics and Politics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • UHES-AKB01 : BSc(Hons) Economics and Politics with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHES-ACB01 : BSc(Hons) Economics and Politics with Combined Placement and Study Abroad (Year 4)
Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies
  • UHPL-AYB13 : BA(Hons) French and Politics with Year Abroad (Year 4)
  • UHPL-AYB12 : BA(Hons) German and Politics with Year Abroad (Year 4)
  • UHPL-AYB16 : BA(Hons) Italian ab initio and Politics with Year Abroad (Year 4)
  • UHPL-AYB17 : BA(Hons) Spanish and Politics with Year Abroad (Year 4)
  • UHPL-AFB30 : BSc(Hons) Politics and International Relations (Year 3)
  • UHPL-AAB30 : BSc(Hons) Politics and International Relations with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • UHPL-AKB30 : BSc(Hons) Politics and International Relations with Year long work placement (Year 4)
  • UHPL-AFB10 : BSc(Hons) Politics with Economics (Year 3)
  • UHPL-AAB10 : BSc(Hons) Politics with Economics with Study year abroad (Year 4)
  • UHPL-AKB10 : BSc(Hons) Politics with Economics with Year long work placement (Year 4)


  • This unit catalogue is applicable for the 2022/23 academic year only. Students continuing their studies into 2023/24 and beyond should not assume that this unit will be available in future years in the format displayed here for 2022/23.
  • Programmes and units are subject to change in accordance with normal University procedures.
  • Availability of units will be subject to constraints such as staff availability, minimum and maximum group sizes, and timetabling factors as well as a student's ability to meet any pre-requisite rules.
  • Find out more about these and other important University terms and conditions here.