American Politics

American Politics

The United States is the world’s oldest continuous constitutional democracy. How is it that such a democracy can be created and sustained for over two hundred years? Will it survive and flourish in the 21st century? What role do public opinion and elections, political parties and social movements, legislatures, the presidency and executive institutions, federalism or the Constitution play in the maintenance and functioning of our democracy? How can it respond successfully to new societal conditions, such as growing cultural diversity, and to new international conditions, such as a globalized economy? Should the nation change its dominant policy agendas in response to new governing problems, or reform its electoral and institutional arrangements to insure more effective democratic governance?

These are some of the central questions addressed by the field of American Politics at the University of Florida.

Students begin their doctoral study in American government by taking the core seminar in American Politics (POS 6045) that covers the broad outlines of the field. They then choose from courses and seminars that highlight faculty expertise in American political institutions, political behavior, and public policy. Finally, students will take research seminars in American politics that provide them with guidance and experience in conducting systematic empirical and theoretical work on questions of special concern to them. The research seminars are particularly oriented towards helping students prepare research designs and initial empirical work that can serve as the foundations for their M.A. thesis, Ph.D. dissertation, as well as journal articles.

The faculty in the field of American politics are characterized by intellectual and methodological pluralism, and by a tolerant appreciation for the contributions of different approaches to political inquiry. This open and supportive environment is especially geared to help students discover their own scholarly interests and talents, the theoretical perspectives that they find most useful and compelling, and methodological approaches most appropriate to their interests and talents. Specific research interests of the faculty include the role of campaigns and elections and the role political institutions shape political behavior and democratic citizenship in America, the role of women and ethnic/racial minorities in politics, the effect of divided government on the success of president’s legislative proposals in Congress, reform and institutional change in Congress, the role of political parties, interest groups, and the media at the state and federal level, contextual effects on participation and public opinion, and the effect of electoral reforms on turnout and voting behavior.

Theoretical perspectives range from sociological analysis of ethnic, gender and racial politics to rational choice analysis of elite behavior to social learning perspectives on institutional change to social psychological studies of mass politics. Finally, faculty engage in a variety of methodological approaches to inquiry, including quantitative roll call vote analysis, public opinion survey analysis, elite interviews and participant observation, focus group analysis, and big data demographic and administrative data record analyses.

First Field Requirements

Summary of First Field Requirements (5 courses for a total of 15 credits)

  • One core course
    • POS 6045: American Politics
  • Four additional seminars with a focus on American politics, including courses from
    • American Political Institutions
    • Political Behavior
    • Public Policy

Field Examination

  • Written component: answer three questions, including a broad question that addresses the state of the field of American Politics, a question that is more focused on a particular subfield (Political Institutions, Political Behavior, or Public Policy), and a question more targeted to the student’s specific research interests. Choices may be offered in each question.
  • Oral defense: scheduled after written component

Committee Selection

Following department guidelines, the exam committee will consist of the dissertation chair and two other members to be randomly drawn among available faculty in the field (i.e., those not on leave or sabbatical). One of the two other members may be chosen by the field chair to reflect substantive expertise where deemed necessary, and the field chair may also consider recusals of particular faculty on request.

Second Field Requirements

Summary of Second Field Requirements (3 courses for a total of 9 credits)

One core course

  • POS 6045: American Politics
  • Two additional seminars with a focus on American politics, including courses from
    • American Political Institutions
    • Political Behavior
    • Public Policy

Field Examination

  • Written component: answer two questions, including a broad question that addresses the state of the field of American politics and a question that is more focused on a particular subfield (Political Institutions, Political Behavior, or Public Policy). Choices may be offered in each question.
  • Oral defense: scheduled after written component

Committee Selection

Following department guidelines, the exam committee will consist of one member chosen by the field chair to reflect a substantive expertise of the student, and two other members randomly drawn among available faculty in the field.

Third Field Requirements

Summary of Third Field Requirements (2 courses for a total of 6 credits)

Students are required to take at least two seminars in American Politics to obtain a third field minor in the area.