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 government at the University of Florida. In the effort to examine these questions in an in depth and systematic manner, the field is divided into five areas of specialty:

Students begin their doctoral study in American government by taking two broad-ranging core seminars in American Politics and Political Behavior that cover the broad outlines of these special topics. They then choose from courses and seminars that highlight faculty expertise in the different specialties outlined above, including regularly offered course work in legislative politics, the American presidency, parties and interest groups, intergovernmental politics, state politics, and the electoral process. In addition to such standard courses, a variety of seminars on specialized topics are offered by faculty on an occasional basis. Seminars in appropriate cognate departments, such as History and Sociology, also may be open to American Government students. 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 Masters Thesis, Doctoral Dissertations and 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 education and socialization processes in shaping 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 governors in state politics, and the effect of term limits and electoral reform on state legislatures.

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 interviewing and participant observation, focus group analysis, quantitative demographic and aggregate data analysis.

First Field Requirements

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

  • Any two of the following courses:
      • POS 6045: American Politics
      • POS 6207: Political Behavior
      • POS 6476: Bureaucratic Politics
  • Any three additional seminars selected from at least two of the substantive lists:
      • American Institutions
      • Political Behavior
      • Public Policy

Number of Electives

Students must take at least three additional courses in American Politics and Government beyond the two required core seminars as identified in #II above. These three courses must come from across at least two subfields of the American Politics and Government area (Political Behavior, Political Institutions, or Public Policy).

A Ph.D. candidate with a separate examination field in Political Behavior, Political Institutions, or Public Policy may not select the same courses (i.e. Congress, Political Participation, the Bureaucracy) taken in that area to qualify for prelims in the American Government Exams.

Within this constraint, students can take as many elective topical courses across the subfields of American Politics and Government as they wish, above the three that are required for a major, so long as those courses are not counted toward a major or minor in another subfield of American Politics and Government.

Field Examination

  • Written component: answer three questions
  • Oral defense: scheduled after written component

Committee Selection

Field examination committees will be composed of three members drawn from at least two of the three subfields of American Politics and Government. The Supervisory Committee chair will chair the prelim committee. The candidate will choose one regular member to serve on the committee and the Supervisory Chair will choose one member, taking care to insure that at least two subfields are represented on the committee.

The examination committee will work with the student prior to the examination to confirm areas of concentration and otherwise counsel the student in preparation for the examination. This includes delineation of appropriate, detailed, specialized reading lists. The examination committee will then compose the three questions for the exam, doing so in a manner specified by the Supervisory Committee chair. Generally, two members will prepare broad and synthetic questions, as detailed below, and one member will prepare specialized question or questions, as detailed below.

It is the responsibility of the candidate to arrange for the composition of his/her examination committee, and to consult with it on a regular basis as he/she prepares for examinations.

It is generally expected that the Supervisory Committee Chair will in fact chair the student’s dissertation committee, but students retain the right to shift dissertation foci and chairs as their interests mature, which can occur during and following the prelim examination process.

It is likewise expected that the three members of the examination committee will conduct the oral examination under conditions they collectively find agreeable. Should they collectively agree that the presence of additional members of the field is desired in a particular defense, perhaps because of the breadth of a student’s interests, they have the authority acting in concert to invite such an individual or individuals to the oral examination, after informing the candidate of this decision at least a day in advance of the oral exam.

Examination Questions

In no instance can questions duplicate or significantly overlap in subject matter the questions a student has addressed in other examination fields.

  • Section I: Students will be asked to answer two questions of a broad and synthetic nature drawn from the two subfield core seminars they designate as determining their primary areas of general interest within American Politics and Government. Exam writers in each subfield area can offer students a choice among two general questions in their subarea, if they so wish.
  • Section II: Students will be asked to answer one question of a specialized nature drawn from the topical research seminars they designate as the areas of concentrated interest. The exam writer or writers for the specialized question can offer the student choice among questions, if they so wish.

Examination Length: The length of the exam will be determined by the student’s examination committee. There are two standard alternatives.

  • Students can have a maximum of 8 to 10 double-spaced pages for each answer, excluding endnotes and bibliography. They can take no more than 30 pages across the three questions they answer, excluding notes and bibliography. They must use a font size of at least 12 (no smaller).
  • Students can have a maximum of 4 to 5 double-spaced pages for each answer, excluding endnotes and bibliography. They can take no more than 15 pages across the three questions they answer, excluding notes and bibliography. They must use a font size of at least 12 (no smaller).

The choice among these standard approaches, or mixing and matching them, will be based on the determination of the committee as to the breadth and analytic style of the area of training involved. Those areas that require more of an historical, contextual and theoretical answer may require the longer exam format and those of a more empirically-specific, universalist and hypothesis-centered nature may require the shorter exam format.

In either case, students must use ASA (APSR) style to cite the relevant literature and include a bibliography at the end. Endnotes are also permitted. Neither endnotes nor bibliography count against the page limits of an exam.

Second Field Requirements

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

Any two of the following courses:

  • POS 6045: American Politics
  • POS 6207: Political Behavior
  • POS 6476: Bureaucratic Politics

One additional seminar selected from the list of courses below.

Number of Electives

One.

A Ph.D. candidate with a separate examination field in Political Behavior, Political Institutions, or Public Policy may not select the same courses (i.e. Congress, Political Participation, the Bureaucracy) taken in that area to qualify for prelims in the American Government Exams.

Within this constraint, students can take as many elective topical courses across the subfields of American Politics and Government as they wish, above the three that are required for a major, so long as those courses are not counted toward a major or minor in another subfield of American Politics and Government.

Field Examination

  • Written component: answer two questions
  • Oral defense: scheduled after written component

Committee Selection

Field examination committees will be composed of three members drawn from at least two of the three subfields of American Politics and Government. The candidate will choose the chair of the prelim committee. The candidate will choose one regular member to serve on the committee and the Chair will choose one member, taking care to insure that at least two subfields are represented on the committee.

The examination committee will work with the student prior to the examination to confirm areas of concentration and otherwise counsel the student in preparation for the examination. This includes delineation of appropriate, detailed, specialized reading lists. The examination committee will then compose the two questions for the exam, doing so in a manner specified by the Supervisory Committee chair. Generally, one member will prepared broad and synthetic questions, as detailed below, and one member will prepare specialized question or questions, as detailed below.

It is the responsibility of the candidate to arrange for the composition of his/her examination committee, and to consult with it on a regular basis as he/she prepares for examinations.

It is expected that the three members of the examination committee will conduct the oral examination under conditions they collectively find agreeable. Should they collectively agree that the presence of additional members of the field is desired in a particular defense, perhaps because of the breadth of a student’s interests, they have the authority acting in concert to invite such an individual or individuals to the oral examination, after informing the candidate of this decision at least a day in advance of the oral exam.

Examination Questions

In no instance can questions duplicate or significantly overlap in subject matter questions from other examination fields, including the subfields within American Politics and Government.

  • Section I: Students will be asked to answer one question of a broad and synthetic nature, with the two question focused on one of the subfield seminars the student took to satisfy the core requirements of the American Politics and Government field. Writers preparing the question on each subfield can offer students a choice among two general questions regarding that subfield, if they so wish.
  • Section II: Students will be asked to answer one question of a specialized nature drawn from among the topical research seminars or from another core seminar taken to fulfill course requirements. The exam writer for Section II can offer the student choice among questions.

Examination Length: The length of the exam will be determined by the student’s examination committee. There are two standard alternatives.

  • A. Students can have a maximum of 8 to 10 double-spaced pages for each answer, excluding endnotes and bibliography. They can take no more than 20 pages across the two questions they answer, excluding notes and bibliography. They must use a font size of at least 12 (no smaller).
  • B. Students can have a maximum of 4 to 5 double-spaced pages for each answer, excluding endnotes and bibliography. They can take no more than 10 pages across the two questions they answer, excluding notes and bibliography. They must use a font size of at least 12 (no smaller).

The choice among these standard approaches, or mixing and matching them, will be based on the determination of the committee as to the breadth and analytic style of the area of training involved. Those areas that require more of an historical, contextual and theoretical answer may require the longer exam format and those of a more empirically-specific, universalist and hypothesis-centered nature may require the shorter exam format.

In either case, students must use ASA (APSR) style to cite the relevant literature and include a bibliography at the end. Endnotes are also permitted. Neither endnotes nor bibliography count against the page limits of an exam.

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. These two courses must be drawn from two separate lists identified below.

Number of Electives

Any two courses listed in the subfields of Political Behavior, Political Institutions or Public Policy can be taken to satisfy the requirements for a third field minor in American Politics and Government, so long as they do not come from the same subfield.

A Ph.D. candidate with a separate examination field in Political Behavior, Political Institutions or Public Policy may not select the same courses (i.e. Congress, Public Opinion, the Bureaucracy) taken in that area to qualify for American Government as their third field.

Within this constraint, students can take as many elective topical courses across the subfields of American Politics and Government as the wish, above the two required for third field status, so long as those courses are not counted toward a major or minor in another subfield of American Politics and Government.

Courses that Satisfy Field Requirements

American Institutions List

  • POS 6045: Seminar in American Politics
  • POS 6048: American Political Development
  • POS 6279: The Politics of Direct Democracy
  • POS 6427: Legislative Process
  • POS 6453: Political Parties and Interest Groups
  • POS 6712: Empirical Theories of Politics
  • POS 6933: Judicial Behavior (Also taught as “Proseminar in the Judicial Branch”)
  • POS 6933: Presidency
  • POS 6933: American Legislative Development
  • POS 6933: Legislative-Executive Relations
  • POS 6933: Inter-Institutional Politics (Political Interactions Among Branches)
  • POS 6933: Institutions and Public Ethics
  • POS 6933: Political Communications
  • POS 6933: Interest Groups
  • POS 6933: Politics of Reform

Political Behavior List

  • POS 6207: Political Behavior
  • POS 6208: Empirical Political Research
  • POS 6247: Seminar in Political Socialization and Political Cognition
  • POS 6272: Political Participation
  • POS 6292: Religion and Politics
  • POS 6458: Politics of Campaign Finance
  • POS 6757: Survey Research

Public Policy List

  • PAD 6108: Public Administration Theory
  • PAD 6434: Leadership and Ethics in Public Agencies
  • PAD 6476: Bureaucratic Politics
  • PUP 6006: Policy Evaluation
  • PUP 6007: Policy Process
  • PUP 6009: Public Policy Analysis
  • PUP 6315: Race, Gender, and Politics
  • POS 6127: State Government and Politics
  • POS 6146: Urban Politics
  • POS 6157: Community Analysis