Postgraduate Course

MA Public Opinion and Political Behaviour

MA Public Opinion and Political Behaviour

Overview

The details
Public Opinion and Political Behaviour
October 2020
Full-time
1 year
Colchester Campus
Government

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.

With this course you also have the opportunity to study abroad at one of our partner institutions and achieve a dual award, which means you’ll receive two Masters degrees in two years. Find out more on our dual award webpage.

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.
THE Awards 2018 - Winner University of the Year

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.

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.

"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

Entry requirements

UK entry requirements

You will need a degree with a 2.2 in Political Science, International Relations, American Studies, United States Politics, Business - ( finance related), Economics or Statistics.

Applications from students with a degree below a 2:2 or equivalent will be considered dependent on any relevant professional or voluntary experience, previous modules studied and/or personal statement.

We will accept applicants with a degree in an unrelated field but you must have studied at least two relevant modules with marks at 2:2 level in the final two years of study. Relevant modules include, but are not limited to:

Comparative Political Systems, Constitutional Democracy, Contemporary World Affairs, Democratic Theory, Econometrics, European Integration, Foreign Policy, Game Theory, Governmental processes, Human Rights, Ideology & Political Analysis, International Economic Law, International Economic Relations, International Trade/Business Law, International Law, International Public Relations, International Security, Law of Armed Conflict, Micro/Macro Economics, Peace Studies, Political Conflict, Political Decision Making, Political Economy, Political Sociology, Public Administration, Public International Law, Public Policy Analysis, Quantitative reasoning, Strategic Studies, Theories of Development, Current Affairs, Political Economy, Terrorism, Security Studies.

We will also consider applicants with a non relevant degree but at least six months relevant work experience such as working with a NGO.

International & EU entry requirements

We accept a wide range of qualifications from applicants studying in the EU and other countries. Get in touch with any questions you may have about the qualifications we accept. Remember to tell us about the qualifications you have already completed or are currently taking.

Sorry, the entry requirements for the country that you have selected are not available here. Please select your country page where you'll find this information.

English language 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.

Additional Notes

The University uses academic selection criteria to determine an applicant’s ability to successfully complete a course at the University of Essex. Where appropriate, we may ask for specific information relating to previous modules studied or work experience.

Structure

Example structure

Most of our courses combine compulsory and optional modules, giving you freedom to pursue your own interests. All of the modules listed below provide an example of what is on offer from the current academic year. Our Programme Specification provides further details of the course structure for the current academic year.

Our research-led teaching is continually evolving to address the latest challenges and breakthroughs in the field, therefore to ensure your course is as relevant and up-to-date as possible your core module structure may be subject to change.

The example structure below is representative of this course if taken full-time. If you choose to study part-time, the modules will be split across 2 years.

Political Explanation (optional)

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 R, 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.

View Political Explanation (optional) on our Module Directory

Advanced Research Methods (optional)

Master the quantitative methods that are essential for testing hypotheses. You will study hypothesis testing, linear regression models, and more advanced regression models ubiquitous in political science, accompanied by data science and R programming skills.

View Advanced Research Methods (optional) on our Module Directory

Public Opinion and Political Behaviour

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?

View Public Opinion and Political Behaviour on our Module Directory

Theory and Explanation in Political Science

This module outlines a series of topical issues in political science research. Using a positivist paradigm the module explores a variety of methodological approaches to answer substantive questions. This module seeks to provide students with an overview of how political scientists study the social world and the types of questions they ask. You will learn become familiar with current research in the discipline and learn how to synthesise and extrapolate core concepts from it.

View Theory and Explanation in Political Science on our Module Directory

MA Dissertation

Your dissertation gives you an opportunity for independent learning on a topic of your choice, with one-to-one supervision from a member of staff. You write a dissertation of up to 10,000 words, which is due at the end of the summer.

View MA Dissertation on our Module Directory

International Security Studies (optional)

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.

View International Security Studies (optional) on our Module Directory

Political Parties in Britain and Europe (optional)

How does ideology shape the policies of British political parties? How do those parties choose their leaders, determine their policies, campaign in elections and fund their activities? This module examines how political parties in the UK compete for votes and asks whether their leaders or their members take the key decisions.

View Political Parties in Britain and Europe (optional) on our Module Directory

From Cradle to Grave: Social Justice in Childhood, Adulthood, and Death (optional)

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.

View From Cradle to Grave: Social Justice in Childhood, Adulthood, and Death (optional) on our Module Directory

Environmental Politics (optional)

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 international affairs.

View Environmental Politics (optional) on our Module Directory

Theories of International Relations (optional)

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.

View Theories of International Relations (optional) on our Module Directory

Conflict Resolution (optional)

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.

View Conflict Resolution (optional) on our Module Directory

Political Economy (optional)

The course bridges together topics in international relations, comparative political economy, and economics. The goals of the course are to (a) introduce students to contemporary scholarly research on political economy topics, (b) introduce students to strategic models in political science using substantive applications, and (c) stimulate students to form original ideas for promising quantitative research projects in the area of contemporary political economy.

View Political Economy (optional) on our Module Directory

Political Theory (optional)

This module introduces historical and contemporary traditions within political theory, and applies these theories to pressing policy debates.

View Political Theory (optional) on our Module Directory

Research Seminar in Political Theory and Methods (optional)

Evaluate a variety of foundational questions in the philosophy of science about how and to what extent we can obtain certain, value-free knowledge and make laws about the social world. Explore the methodology of normative political theory and the role and importance of ideals and utopias in political thinking.

View Research Seminar in Political Theory and Methods (optional) on our Module Directory

Research Design (optional)

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.

View Research Design (optional) on our Module Directory

Comparative European Politics (optional)

The objective of this module is to provide a better understanding of democratic political and economic processes in Europe. The first part of the module will be devoted to studying the origins of party systems, party competition, electoral systems, the rise of populist and extremist parties, referendums, and linkages between citizens and politicians in West and East European countries. In the second part, we will examine the institutional foundations of welfare-capitalism and analyse the incentives of different actors (labour unions, employers, lobbyists, etc.) to maintain or undermine certain regulatory arrangements. Furthermore, we will study how coordinated and liberal capitalism types responded to challenges such as globalisation and deindustrialization. A large part of the module is devoted to studying the power-sharing arrangements in the European Union. In this context, we will analyse the new trade agreements the EU has struck in light of rising global trade tensions, and what the euro crisis, influx of refugees, and disintegration referendums might mean for the future of the EU. The module also provides an accessible introduction to research design and methods that political scientists have used to address these topics.

View Comparative European Politics (optional) on our Module Directory

United States Politics (optional)

This module is designed to survey a wide range of topics in the study of political institutions, policy-making, and elections in the United States. You explore the American political system and gain a deep understanding of both theoretical perspectives and contemporary practical issues facing the US political system, as well as providing a framework for students to develop an original perspective on each.

View United States Politics (optional) on our Module Directory

The Analysis of Conflict and Peace (optional)

Explore the relationship of power, preferences, economic relations, domestic politics and international organisations in relation to conflict and peace. You investigate the underlying theoretical arguments about war and peace, consider the implications entailed by these different theories, and evaluate these using empirical data.

View The Analysis of Conflict and Peace (optional) on our Module Directory

International Negotiation (optional)

Master the explanatory and practical value of negotiation style, strategies and tactics in the context of theories of international relations.

View International Negotiation (optional) on our Module Directory

Multiparty Systems and Coalitions (optional)

European multiparty systems differ in a variety of ways, including how their parties compete and how they form governments. This module compares a range of party systems in Western Europe, Scandinavia and the Mediterranean, looking at the decline of social-democratic and Christian-democratic parties, and the rise of green parties and the radical right.

View Multiparty Systems and Coalitions (optional) on our Module Directory

Applied Research Design (optional)

You replicate an already published paper to better understand the details of the empirical analysis, assess its robustness, and develop the paper in a new direction by changing one element. For example, include a new control variable, introduce an interaction term, or extend the time period or the sample size.

View Applied Research Design (optional) on our Module Directory

Concepts and Measurements in Comparative Political Research (optional)

On what ground can we conclude that government A performs better than government B? Are elections more competitive in country B than country A? Are citizens in country A more knowledgeable about politics than citizens in country B? How do we know the relative importance and salience of a specific policy issue or policy dimension in country A compared to that in country B? This module offers an in-depth and thorough understanding of (conventional and alternative) measurements for the core concepts in comparative political research.

View Concepts and Measurements in Comparative Political Research (optional) on our Module Directory

Teaching

  • Courses are designed to provide you with an advanced understanding of either the politics of a geographical area or an aspect of the discipline
  • Courses include both compulsory and optional modules, so the course can be tailored to fit your interests and aspirations
  • Learn through discussion and problem-solving
  • Lab sessions allow you to improve your technical research skills
  • We encourage students to attend national conferences to meet researchers and discuss their work

Assessment

  • Your coursework comes in the form of essays, simulations, presentations and in-class tests

Dissertation

  • You are given guidance on how to prepare a Masters dissertation by our Graduate Director in the spring term
  • We link you with an appropriate supervisor at the earliest opportunity

Fees and funding

Home/EU fee

£8,340

International fee

£17,900

Fees will increase for each academic year of study.

What's next

Open Days

We hold 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.

2020 Open Days (Colchester Campus)

  • Saturday, September 19, 2020
  • Saturday, October 24, 2020

Applying

You can apply for this postgraduate course online. Before you apply, please check our information about necessary documents that we’ll ask you to provide as part of your application.

We aim to respond to applications within two weeks. If we are able to offer you a place, you will be contacted via email.

For information on our deadline to apply for this course, please see our ‘how to apply’ information.

Colchester Campus

Visit Colchester Campus

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The Campus is set within 200 acres of beautiful parkland, located two miles from the historic town centre of Colchester – England's oldest recorded town. Our Colchester Campus is also easily reached from London and Stansted Airport in under one hour.

 

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Find out more

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