Course Unit Page

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

The course introduces students to the intersection of political behavior and institutions. The course begins by considering some of the basic theoretical issues involved in studying political behavior and then moves to consider explanations for the most prominent issues within the field of comparative political behavior: political attitudes, voting patterns, and political participation. The course will then engage the argument of how political institutions influence accountability and responsiveness. By the end of the course, students will better understand how we study, model, and understand the quality of political representation in contemporary democracies

Course contents

This course will introduce students to some of the foundational understandings of political behavior in western democracies. It will also examine the role of institutions in shaping these behaviors.

We examine political attitudes, public opinion, political participation including voting and how different institutional configurations impact the ability to impact the political process. The goal is to understand how citizens can impact the political process and how this is guided by institutional design. We will familiarize ourselves with the main theoretical and empirical issues involved in the behavioral approaches to the study of politics. Each week, we will evaluate the main theories and models used to account for citizens’ attitudes and behaviors. We will as well draw on empirical evidence in the literature to explore the validity of these theories.

Further, we identify and explain how such attitudes and behavior affect the quality of democracy. The aim of this course it to be able to apply the theoretical and conceptual knowledge to understanding and resolving some key contemporary issues in the behavior of citizens in advanced democracies.


The full list of readings for students who regularly attend classes will be circulated on the first day of class and posted on the class website on “Virtuale” at https://virtuale.unibo.it/ . Any additional readings will be made available there.

Students who do not regularly attend classes should make themselves (very) familiar with…

Dalton, Russell. 2019. Citizen Politics: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies. CQ Press, 7th ed.

Converse, Philip. 1964 “The Nature of Mass Belief Systems in Mass Publics” in David E. Apter (ed.) Ideology and Discontent. London: Free Press. pp. 206-61.

Boix, Carles. 1999. "Setting the Rules of the Game: The Choice of Electoral Systems in Advanced Democracies." American Political Science Review 93(3): 609-624

Lijphart, Arend. 1994. Electoral Systems and Party Systems. Oxford University Press.

March, James and Johan Olsen. 1989. Rediscovering Institutions: The Organizational Basis of Politics. Free Pres. Chaps. 1 and 9

Ostrom. Elinor. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press.

Luebbert, Gregory. 1991. Liberalism, Fascism, or Social Democracy: Social Classes and the Political Origins of Regimes in Interwar Europe. Oxford University Press.

Teaching methods

The course will be taught as a seminar. Formal lectures by the instructor will be followed by guided discussions and exercises seminars to provide student opportunities to assess the topics and themes introduced in the readings and lectures.

Assessment methods

There are 2 different formats for the final mark: one for students that regularly attend and participate to classes and seminars, and one for students that do not regularly attend classes and seminars. A ‘regularly attending student’ is a student who miss no more than 5 classes and attend all seminars. Participation will be regularly checked.

Final Mark for regularly attending students

The final mark has 2 parts.

  • The first part consists in active participation during classes and seminars. Participation will be assessed in terms of attendance, active interaction, and group activities that will be organized during the seminars. This is 50% of the final grade.
  • The second part consists of an exam in which students will assess core concepts from the course as well as apply topics covered in the course to current challenges. This is 50% of the final grade.

NB: Students will have to take the exam by the final exam session scheduled for September 2022. To take the exam, students will need to sign up on Almaesami. If regularly attending students do not take the exam by the abovementioned deadline, their grade achieved in the first part will be automatically cancelled and they will have to take the entire exam as non-attending students.

Final Mark for non-attending students

The final mark has 1 part.

  • Written exam with 3 open-ended questions.

    NB: To take the exam, students have to sign up on Almaesami.

    For all students

    The only valid mark is the one achieved in the most recent attempt to pass the exam.

  • Students who pass the exam can refuse the final mark (thus requesting to re-take the exam) only once - in accordance with the university’s teaching regulations.
  • After having rejected a passing mark, any subsequent passing mark will be recorded in the candidate’s transcripts.
  • Each student is personally responsible for his/her registration to the exam session on AlmaEsami. Registration closes 5 days before the exam. Therefore, it is not possible to sign up for the exam in the 5 days before the exam date.
  • Students who change their minds must withdraw their registration no later than 5 days before the exam. Withdrawal from the exam allows students to sign up for the following exam session and avoid a penalization of 3 points applied to the final grade obtained in the exam.
  • Withdrawal during the last 5 days before the exam is possible only in case of unexpected events (i.e. sickness, bereavement). Students must send from their official account @studio.unibo.it an e-mail to paulmatthew.loveless@unibo.it providing justification. If this procedure is not followed, a penalization of 3 points will be applied to the final grade obtained in the exam.

Teaching tools

The slides of the lectures will be provided.

Office hours

See the website of Paul Matthew Loveless

See the website of