Undergraduate Modules: POL393 - Elections and Voting

Module Code

POL 393

Module Title

Elections and Voting


Level 3


Semester 2


20 credits

Taught by:

Dr Alistair McMillan, Senior Lecturer in Politics

Module Description:

Elections are one of the few methods that enable a society to reach a collective decision based on individual preferences. Elections serve as a means of linking citizens to government. Voting is the principal activity that binds the individual to the political system and legitimises the democratic process. National elections are widely considered to be the central focus of political activity in established democracies. This module focuses on the study of elections and voting behaviour. Particular emphasis will be placed on elections and voting patterns in Britain, although we will also consider other democratic states. Factors at the core of democratic legitimacy will be examined, such as why individuals vote (or do not vote) and why they vote the way they do.

Module Aims:

This module aims to deepen understanding of the decisions that voters make when electing a government. To this end it will consider competing theoretical and empirical explanations of both voting behaviour and political participation. Students are encouraged to apply their theoretical knowledge to empirical situations as we examine how theories of voting behaviour apply to election outcomes. By the end of this module, a candidate will be able to:

  • demonstrate knowledge of the main theoretical approaches to the study of voting behaviour.
  • critically appraise empirical studies of voting behaviour, including those that use both qualitative and quantitative methodologies.
  • critically appraise academic research on, and popular accounts of, voting behaviour.
  • apply conceptual tools to analyse concepts such as political participation, partisanship and political communication;
  • demonstrate appropriate cognitive, communicative and transferable skills, including understanding complex concepts and theories, exercising critical judgement, making effective oral and written presentations, utilising specialist primary and secondary sources, and deepening the capacity for independent learning.

This module also equips students with a range of important transferrable skills, which are vital in terms of employability, including working independently and as part of a team; managing a varied workload; assimilating and synthesising multiple data sources; constructing coherent arguments; and preparing written reports and verbal presentations.

Module Schedule:

1 Introduction and Overview
2 Turnout
3 Valence Politics and the Party Identification Model
4 Social Class and Social Cleavages
5 Economic Voting
6 Issue Voting, Rational Voting & Strategic Voting
7 The Impact of the Leader
8 Media and Campaigns
9 The Geography of Voting
10 Electoral Systems
11 Conclusion: Recap and evaluation

Teaching Methods:

  • 11 * 2 hour seminars


  • Essay - 50% of mark
  • Exam - 50% of mark

Resources Available:

  • Individual feedback and guidance sessions with module tutors.
  • Detailed 20-30 page module handbook
  • Dedicated module intranet site.
  • Extensive library materials, including a wide variety of electronic and digitised resources.

Opportunities for Further Study:

There is also the opportunity to deepen your knowledge by undertaking a supervised research project module an agreed topic arising out of work done on POL 393. Students meet with their tutor individually for tailored one-to-one supervision and tuition, which will enable them to undertake research and be assessed on the basis of a 7,000 word project.

To find out more about the research project modules on offer, click here

Indicative Reading:

Clarke, H., Sanders, D., Stewart, M.C. and Whiteley, P. (2009) Performance Politics and the British Voter. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

Denver, D. (2007) Elections and Voters in Britain, second edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Dalton, R. (2008) Citizen Politics: Public Opinion and Political Parties in Advanced Industrial Democracies, fifth edition. Washington: CQ Press.

van der Eijk, C. and Franklin, M. (2009) Elections and Voters. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.

Evans, J. (2004) Voters and Voting: An Introduction. London: Sage.

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