COMM 3320.1 — POLITICAL COMMUNICATION
In this course, you will learn about the major areas of research in political communication, connecting this scholarly work to insights from leading political strategists and journalists, and to contemporary trends and issues. We will focus on the varying ways that campaigns, news, advertising, and entertainment shape political perceptions, emotions, and behavior and what this means for our democracy. Drawing on relevant scholarship we will critically examine current debates over the impact and performance of the press; the future of the major political parties and related social movements; concerns over free speech and dialogue on college campuses and in public life; and a variety of efforts to overcome extreme political polarization and to promote collaboration on behalf of urgent problems.
Class Participation (10%): You are expected to attend every class unless you have an excused absence. Please email me in advance if you will not be in attendance. You are also expected to actively participate in class, to do the reading in advance, and to share readings, news articles, and examples that you encounter outside of class that may be relevant to discussion.
In Class Exam #1 (20%) & In Class Exam #2 (20%): You will be completing two in-class essay exams that test your understanding of key theories and concepts and your ability to apply these principles to political communication strategy.
Annotated Bibliography (15%): In consultation with me, you will be choosing a final research topic related to political communication and compiling an annotated bibliography of 10-15 scholarly sources on the subject to inform your analysis and writing. More details on this assignment will be provided.
Class Presentation (10%): Based on your annotated bibliography and progress on your paper, at the end of the semester you will be giving a 25 minute powerpoint presentation to the class. More details on this assignment will be provided.
Final Paper: (25%): Drawing on the sources from your bibliography along with recent news analysis and popular articles, you will be researching and writing a 10-15 double-spaced final paper. More details on this assignment will be provided.
- Oct 16 — First In Class Exam
- Oct 26 — Annotated Bibliographies Due in Class
- Nov 13 — Draft of Final Paper Due in Class
- Dec 4 — Second In Class Exam
- Dec 13 — Final Paper Due in Class
ON LEARNING STRATEGIES
There are challenging readings and topics in this course. It won’t be easy. Yet there are a few strategies that are likely to bring success. One of the best ways to understand any subject is to actively try to make connections between a new topic and information you already have stored in memory. The more you can make connections between the new material you encounter in this class, and what you already “know” (like things you’ve read in the news or learned in other classes), the better you will be able to remember it, and ultimately apply it.
The ultimate goal is “knowledge integration,” connecting the dots between what at first might appear to be disparate concepts, but are in fact ideas that fit together into a bigger picture, thereby providing a broader context for understanding. The best way to achieve knowledge integration is to:
- Make sure you do all the reading before class, actively drawing out the implications of the readings to things you already know, have read in the news, or are learning in other classes.
- Participate actively in class, challenging the propositions and evidence provided in the studies, by the professor, or other students; and asking questions about things you may not understand. Disagreement is good.
- Discuss the readings outside of class, at office hours, or informally with fellow students and/or the professor.
- Review the readings again in doing weekly assignments, preparing for the final exam, and in working on your group project.
- Think. Talk. Think. Talk. The more times you engage with the material in this course–and talk to others about it–the more successful you will be.
*All readings are either available freely online or accessible if you click on the link to the article from campus or when logged into the Northeastern University library portal from off-campus.
Sept 7 — Introductions
Sept 11 & 18 — Foundational Concepts and Current Debates
- Price, V. (2008). The public and public opinion in political theories. In W. Donsbach & M. Traugott (Eds). Sage Handbook of Public Opinion Research. Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications.
- Ferree, M. M., Gamson, W. A., Gerhards, J., & Rucht, D. (2002). Four models of the public sphere in modern democracies. Theory and Society, 31(3), 289-324.
- Sullivan, A. (2016, May 1). Democracies end when they are too democratic. New York Magazine.
- Klein, N. (2017, If It’s All About the Trump Brand: Let’s Jam It. Boston Globe. [Also watch video]
- Bejan, T.M. (2017, Dec. 7). The Two Clashing Meanings of ‘Free Speech’. The Atlantic.
- Halpern, S. (2017, June 18). How He Used Facebook to Win. New York Review of Books.
Sept 21 & 25 — The Social Psychology of Political Communication
- Nisbet, M.C. & Feldman, L. (2011). The Social Psychology of Political Communication. In D. Hook, B. Franks and M. Bauer (Eds.), Communication, Culture and Social Change: The Social Psychological Perspective. London: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Nisbet, M.C. (2018). Scientists in Civic Life: Facilitating Dialogue-Based Communication. Section II: The Social Context for Dialogue, pp 6-19. Washington, DC: American Association for the Advancement of Science.
- Pew Research Center (2017, Oct. 5). The Partisan Divide on Political Values Grows Even Wider. Washington, DC.
- Mutz, D. C., & Rao, J. S. (2018). The Real Reason Liberals Drink Lattes. PS: Political Science & Politics, 1-6.
- Nisbet, M.C. & Scheufele, D.A. (2012, Aug.) The Polarization Paradox: Why Hyperpartisanship Promotes Conservatism and Undermines Liberalism. Breakthrough Journal, 3, 55-69.
Sept 28 & Oct 5 — The 2016 U.S. Elections, Social Media, and Journalism
*No class on Oct 2
- Patterson, T. (2016, Dec. 7). News Coverage of the 2016 General Election: How the Press Failed the Voters. Harvard University: Shorenstein Center.
- Francia, P. L. (2018). Free media and Twitter in the 2016 presidential election: The unconventional campaign of Donald Trump. Social Science Computer Review, 36(4), 440-455.
- Allcott, H., & Gentzkow, M. (2017). Social media and fake news in the 2016 election. Journal of Economic Perspectives, 31(2), 211-36.
- Benkler, Y., Faris, R., Roberts, H. & Zuckerman, E. (2017 March 3). Study: Breitbart-led right-wing media ecosystem altered broader media agenda. The Columbia Journalism Review.
- Watts, D.& Rothschild, D. M. (2017, Dec. 5). Don’t Blame the Election on Social Media. Columbia Journalism Review.
- Mayer, J. (2018, Sept. 18). How Russia Helped Swing the Election for Trump. The New Yorker.
OCT 16 — FIRST IN CLASS EXAM
OCT 19 & 23 — Right Wing Movements, Media, and Authoritarianism
- Inglehart, R., & Norris, P. (2017). Trump and the populist authoritarian parties: the silent revolution in reverse. Perspectives on Politics, 15(2), 443-454.
- Kincaid, J. D. (2017). Theorizing the radical right: Directions for social movements research on the right‐wing social movements. Sociology compass, 11(5), e12469.
- Gray, P. W. (2018). ‘The fire rises’: identity, the alt-right and intersectionality. Journal of Political Ideologies, 23(2), 141-156.
- Taub, A. (2016, March 1). The Rise of American Authoritarianism. Vox.com.
- Chait, J. (2016, Oct.) The GOP’s Age of Authoritarianism Has Only Just Begun. New York Magazine.
- Morgan, M., & Shanahan, J. (2017). Television and the cultivation of authoritarianism: A return visit from an unexpected friend. Journal of Communication, 67(3), 424-444.
- Singal, J. (2018, July 18). How Social Science Might Be Misunderstanding Conservatives. New York Magazine.
OCT 26 & 30 — Political Communication and the Trump Resistance
- Fisher, D. R., Dow, D. M., & Ray, R. (2017). Intersectionality takes it to the streets: Mobilizing across diverse interests for the Women’s March. Science advances, 3(9), eaao1390.
- Ley, B. L., & Brewer, P. R. (2018). Social Media, Networked Protest, and the March for Science. Social Media+ Society, 4(3), 2056305118793407.
- Putnam, L. & Skocpol, T. (2018). Middle America Reboots Democracy. Democracy Journal.
- Frum, D., Mair, L., Rubin, J. & Wehner, P. (2018). What’s Left of the Right? Democracy Journal.
- Nisbet, M.C. (2017, July/Aug). The March for Science: Partisan protests put public trust in scientists at risk. Skeptical Inquirer Magazine, 41 (4).
OCT 30 — ANNOTATED BIBLIOGRAPHIES DUE IN CLASS
NOV 2 — Young News Consumers and Journalists on Twitter [Special Guest John Wihbey]
- Wihbey, J. (2018). “It Is Really Hard to Know What is Real” — A new report from Project Information Literacy offers insights about engaging younger consumers with the news. Nieman Reports.
- Wihbey, J., Joseph, K., & Lazar, D. (forthcoming). The Social Silos of Journalism: Twitter, News Media, and Partisan Segregation. New Media & Society. [Distributed to Class]
Nov 6 & 9 — Debates Over Campus Free Speech
- Lukianoff, G. and Haidt, J. (2015, Sept.) The Coddling of the American Mind. The Atlantic.
- Davies, W. (2018, July 26). The free speech panic: how the right concocted a crisis. The Guardian.
- Gerstmann, E. (2018). Protests, Free Expression, and College Campuses. Social Education, 82(1), 6-9.
- Beinart, P. (2017, March 6). A Violent Attack on Free Speech at Middlebury. The Atlantic.
- Ceci, S. J., & Williams, W. M. (2018). Who Decides What Is Acceptable Speech on Campus? Why Restricting Free Speech Is Not the Answer. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 13(3), 299-323.
- Taylor, B. (2018). Free Speech Conflict: What We Learned at Middlebury College. Journal of Dispute Resolution, 2018(2), 7.
- Pew Research Center (2018, July 26). Most Americans say higher ed is heading in wrong direction, but partisans disagree on why. Washington, DC.
NOV 13 — Political Communication, Hollywood Dramas, and Comedy
- Baym, G. (2005). The Daily Show: Discursive integration and the reinvention of political journalism. Political communication, 22(3), 259-276.
- Bowyer, B. T., Kahne, J. E., & Middaugh, E. (2017). Youth comprehension of political messages in YouTube videos. new media & society, 19(4), 522-541.
- Sullivan, J. M., & Platenburg, G. N. (2017). From Black-ish to Blackness: An analysis of Black information sources’ influence on Black identity development. Journal of Black Studies, 48(3), 215-234.
- Jones, P., & Soderlund, G. (2017). The Conspiratorial Mode in American Television: Politics, Public Relations, and Journalism in House of Cards and Scandal. American Quarterly, 69(4), 833-856.
- Gleiberman, O. (2018, Sept. 23). How Michael Moore Lost His Audience. Variety.
NOV 16 — Presentations
TUES. NOV 20 — DRAFT FINAL PAPER DUE
NOV 27 & 30 — TBA
DEC 4 — REVIEW FOR SECOND “TAKE HOME” EXAM
DEC 13 — FINAL PAPER DUE