Public Opinion

Fall 2017

Pippa Norris


Class time: Monday/Wednesdays 2.45-4.00pm

Class place: Taubman Building 401, Harvard's Kennedy School of Government

Shopping: Monday 28 Aug 2017

First class: Wednesday 6 Sept 2017

Last class: Wednesday 29 Nov 2017

Class website: https://canvas.harvard.edu/courses/33400

Course synopsis

This course provides the core conceptual tools, theoretical insights, and practical skills for analyzing public opinion. The aim is to sharpen your analytical understanding of public opinion and develop practical skills in survey analysis.

Each week is divided into two sessions.

Monday classes provide the theoretical framework for understanding public opinion including the nature of mass beliefs, policy attitudes, political participation, value change, elections and parties, voting behavior, social cleavages and partisan orientations, knowledge and beliefs, the media and campaigns, and the nature of public opinion. It covers these issues by comparing the United States with other major comparable postindustrial societies as well as across a broader range of developing societies around the world. The course will use a broadly comparative methodology incorporating evidence from a wide range of data sources and countries, including developed and developing societies.

Wednesday classes provide analytical and statistical research skills to understand these topics and deepen applied skills, working hands-on from web-based applications and shared datasets, for example, the American National Election Survey, the U.S. General Social Survey, the Eurobarometer, the European Social Survey, the Afro-barometer, the World Values Survey, the International Social Survey Program, or equivalent. Students acquire the applied skills to use these resources for projects. The applied classes cover issues of valid and reliable research design, theory construction, model building, and hypothesis-testing; survey data sources; the appropriate statistical techniques for analyzing categorical and continuous survey data; and the professional presentation of results.

There are no prerequisites for taking the class but basic familiarity with statistics and programs, such as Stata, SPSS and R, would be advantageous.  

The course is designed for careers analyzing public opinion polling and survey research, campaign management, broadcasting and journalism, policy analysis, and statistics.