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MSc Public Opinion and Political Behaviour

Why we're great

  • We have been ranked first in the UK for political science research since national league tables began.
  • You have unrivalled one-to-one access to the best minds in politics and international relations.
  • We are the only political science department to receive the prestigious Regius Professorship.

Course options2017-18

Duration: 1 year
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £7,200
Fee (International): £15,450
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
PGT fees information

Duration: 2 years
Start month: October
Location: Colchester Campus
Based in: Government
Fee (Home/EU): £3,600
Fee (International): £7,725
Fees will increase for each academic year of study.
PGT fees information

Course enquiries

Telephone 01206 872719
Email pgadmit@essex.ac.uk

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About the course

When angry at a particular government policy, some people sit in their armchair and complain, others write letters and organise committees, some participate in social media campaigns, while others still protest or even riot in the street. Politicians care about public opinion, so how do we explain these choices? How are reactions shaped by people’s social background, their economic circumstances, their personality, or even their genetic inheritance? Can politicians and the media influence public opinion and if so, how?

MA Public Opinion and Political Behaviour explores the interaction between the mass public and political elites in advanced industrial democracies. You are introduced to the latest theoretical debates about the nature, significance and measurement of public opinion, exploring when and how these opinions translate into political participation, from voting behaviour and signing petitions to suicide bombing.

You also look at the main theoretical approaches in the study of politics, combined with a selection of optional modules including:

  • Quantitative data analysis in political explanations
  • Survey measurement and question design
  • Political parties in Britain and Europe
  • Measuring public opinion
  • Democracies in Europe

Our Department of Government is one of the most prestigious in Europe, with an outstanding record of teaching, research and publication. We are rated top in the UK for research (REF 2014), and have consistently been the highest-rated politics department in the country since national assessments began.

"My MA gave me a thorough grounding in research methodologies and statistical analysis, neither of which I had any significant training in beforehand. I have since continued my research through a funded PhD, and have taken some periods out of my studies to work at YouGov."

Joe Greenwood, MA Political Behaviour, 2012

Our expert staff

Some of the biggest names in the field work at Essex, giving you unparalleled access to some of the best minds in politics. Our staff are advising the CIA on counter-terrorism, training politicians and civil servants in democratising countries, and commentating on political events in national and international media.

Our key academic staff for this course are Professor Paul Whiteley, who works on British elections, and Professor Lawrence Ezrow, who works on party ideology and strategy.

You join an active and prolific research team, with the opportunity to work alongside a member of staff on their research instead of completing a dissertation; some of these projects have even resulted in joint staff/student publications.

Specialist facilities

  • Laboratories of networked computers featuring extensive software for political analysis
  • The ESSEXLab provides opportunities for experimental lab research
  • Student societies for politics, debating, and Model UN
  • We organise the Essex Summer School in Social Science Data Analysis
  • A programme of seminars and events run by the department

Your future

All Essex politics graduates have the distinction of a qualification from one of the world’s leading politics departments.

Our course can lead to a career in the polling industry, market research, British and European Politics or the private sector. You will develop key employability skills including analytical reasoning, survey design, polling, research design, and report writing.

Recent graduates have gone on to work for the following high-profile organisations:

  • The Civil Service
  • Local government
  • The World Bank
  • The United Nations
  • NATO
  • YouGov and YouGov America

We also offer supervision for PhD and MPhil in the following fields: government; ideology and discourse analysis; international relations; political behaviour; and politics.

Our academic reputation is illustrated by the fact that many of our graduates now teach or research at universities, colleges of higher education and schools. For example, recent graduates are now research fellows and academic staff at: Mannheim, Germany; ETH Zurich, Switzerland; Duke University, USA; NATO/SHAPE, Belgium; and University of Amsterdam, Netherlands.

We also work with the university’s Employability and Careers Centre to help you find out about further work experience, internships, placements, and voluntary opportunities.

One Masters not enough for you?

We offer a number of postgraduate taught double degrees with our international partners. You work for two Masters degrees, one at Essex and another at a prestigious university across the globe, gaining them both in a shorter time than studying them separately. This unique opportunity gives you a competitive edge when applying for jobs or prepares you for PhD study.

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Year 1

Master the quantitative methods which are essential to test hypotheses. You study hypotheses testing, hypotheses testing using Least Squares, and some classic violations of the Gauss-Markov conditions, before continuing to learn some more advanced models ubiquitous in political science.

On this module you explore a variety of questions concerning public opinion: How do citizens acquire information and convert it into opinions? Can politicians and the media influence public opinion and if so, how? How do we select representative samples in order to understand what the public really thinks? How do we measure opinion accurately? What type of measurement scales are available to help us do this?

Studying philosophy of science is not necessarily about becoming a philosopher; it can also help us to do political science better. You cover the main theoretical approaches to the study of politics, including both models of political actions that inform and are derived from the empirical study of politics, and normative theories of politics. This enables you to ask questions from the philosophy of sciences concerning how we can study social and political phenomena.

The field of security studies has become increasingly important over the last decade. While old conflicts are reigniting and new ones are emerging, scholars and decision-makers debate about changes to the concepts of security, the redundancy of military force, and the centrality of the state in order to face these ever-important issues.

Question party motivations, electoral strategies, ideologies and leaderships in Britain and Europe as you explore the changing nature and role of political parties in advanced liberal democracies.

Theories of justice are still being worked on and developed today. You question contemporary theories of justice through applying them to some of the most controversial issues dominating contemporary politics.

Study one of the most important contemporary aspects of political action: the natural environment. You consider the state of the environment and possible paths along which it might change, before exploring environmental policies from the level of individual values, to the environmental movement, to political parties, and finally to the level of the EU.

This module offers you an introduction to the theory and practice of quantitative data analysis techniques. You will also be introduced to the computer package Stata, which is widely used by academics and practitioners for the analysis of quantitative data. As the work becomes more challenging, the relevance of the techniques to modern social science research becomes more apparent.

This module provides you with a graduate-level introduction to both foundational and contemporary international relations research. The emphasis will be on evaluating arguments, understanding the development of the field, and identifying unresolved questions.

In this module you focus on conflict resolution in inter- and intra-state issues. You gain experience in the practical as well as in the theoretical aspects of negotiation and mediation, exploring the applicability of various tools and techniques in problem-solving real cases of international conflict, and making use of negotiation and mediation techniques in role playing exercises and other types of simulations.

The rational choice approach uses methods derived from microeconomics to study a wide range of political phenomena, and is now of considerable significance. This constructs explanations on the assumption that individuals are rational and often self-interested. You learn to apply these methods to a range of phenomena in the fields of politics and political economy.

This module introduces you to two main traditions within contemporary political theory: analytical political theory, and ideology and discourse analysis. You explore a range of ideas and concepts within these traditions in relation to central discussions in contemporary political theory.

Evaluate a variety of perspectives on post-structuralist and post-analytical research, gaining an appreciation of the assumptions underpinning different approaches to questions of description, explanation and critique. You explore a range of prominent perspectives including empiricism, rationalism, conventionalism, positivist, hermeneutics, and critical realism.

In this module you gain an overview of the logic of social science research designs that includes the goals, theories and strategies of social science research, and develop a research agenda for potential use as publication in a peer reviewed journal, MA or PhD dissertation.

This module is about how representative democracy works in Europe. You explore several topics within the European context, including: public opinion, political participation, political parties, electoral systems, party competition, and how to evaluate democracies. You also develop specific knowledge about several European countries by learning how the political institutions function within them.

You are introduced to key strands of poststructuralist discourse theory, including post-marxism, deconstruction, structural linguistics, and psychoanalytic theory. You also engage with a set of contemporary debates in political and social theory, using the economy (eg., the global financial crisis and public service reforms) as a central theme and reference point.

Wish to design questionnaires? Build your theoretical knowledge and the practical tools to develop and write survey questions, and to construct questionnaires. Apply your understanding to the development of your questionnaire and implementation materials. Receive feedback on your questionnaire design.

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Qualifications

UK entry requirements

A degree with an overall high 2:2.

International and EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Email pgadmit@essex.ac.uk for further details about the qualifications we accept. Include information in your email about the undergraduate qualification you have already completed or are currently taking.

IELTS entry requirements

IELTS 6.5 overall with a minimum component score of 5.5

If you do not meet our IELTS requirements then you may be able to complete a pre-sessional English pathway that enables you to start your course without retaking IELTS.

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Visit us

Open days

We hold postgraduate events in February/March and November, and open days for all our applicants throughout the year. Our Colchester Campus events are a great way to find out more about studying at Essex, and give you the chance to:

  • tour our campus and accommodation
  • find out answers to your questions about our courses, student finance, graduate employability, student support and more
  • meet our students and staff

If the dates of our organised events aren’t suitable for you, feel free to get in touch by emailing tours@essex.ac.uk and we’ll arrange an individual campus tour for you.

Virtual tours

If you live too far away to come to Essex (or have a busy lifestyle), no problem. Our 360 degree virtual tour allows you to explore the Colchester Campus from the comfort of your home. Check out our accommodation options, facilities and social spaces.

Exhibitions

Our staff travel the world to speak to people about the courses on offer at Essex. Take a look at our list of exhibition dates to see if we’ll be near you in the future.

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Although great care is taken in compiling our course details, they are intended for the general guidance of prospective students only. The University reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of programmes, courses and other services, to discontinue programmes, courses and other services and to merge or combine programmes or courses, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University.

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