American Politics

The American Politics program at Rutgers focuses on the meaning, sources, and consequences of citizenship in the United States.  We interpret and analyze the ways in which various principles of democracy are implemented -- or confounded -- in American institutions and practice.  In particular we ask:  What is democracy in America?  How does it work?  Can it be made to work better? 

Our theoretical consideration and empirical investigation of these essential questions takes shape around three related areas.  The first concerns the political behavior and attitudes of individual citizens in a democracy.  Here we interpret the meaning of citizenship in the contemporary American democracy by considering what ordinary people do in politics, how they come to be active in or alienated from politics, and what and how they think and make decisions about politics and leaders.  The second focus in the American Politics program considers the construction of the meaning of citizenship in the larger social context.  We consider the ways in which characteristics of individuals -- in particular, gender and race identities -- influence the practice of democracy.  Equally important in this second area is the question  of how nongovernmental institutions such as political parties, the mass media, and private business as well as interest groups and social movements interact with the political process and its actors to structure political outcomes.  The third area of focus within the American Politics field is the formal institutions of American government -- particularly Congress and the Presidency -- and their relationships to citizens.  How do these formal institutions shape what it means to be a citizen in the United States?  And how do relationships between the executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government affect their ability to perform their functions?  And how do the interactions of formal government institutions, nongovernmental institutions, and social groups structure state-society relations and democratic practice in America?  Students in American politics are encouraged to integrate rigorous theoretical inquiry regarding the nature and definition of citizenship and democracy with applied analysis of contemporary politics. 

The program features a diverse faculty with a commitment to innovative research and individualized teaching.  Further opportunities for graduate students are provided through the Eagleton Poll, the Center for the American Woman and Politics, excellent computing facilities, and the Bloustein School of Public Policy. 


Baker, Ross K.
Greene, Stacey
Lau, Richard
Leech, Beth
Matos, Yalidy
McCabe, Katherine
Miller, Lisa L.
Sanbonmatsu, Kira


Associated Faculty in other University Schools

  • Jocelyn E. Crowley (Bloustein)
  • Alan Rosenthal (Bloustein)
  • Carl Van Horn (Bloustein)
  • Cliff Zukin (Bloustein)


Formal Requirements

The curriculum includes three components:  (l) coursework in American politics; (2) coursework in methodology; and (3) directed, independent research.

Students selecting American politics as a major area concentration are expected to take the proseminar, at least four electives, and one methodology course beyond the department-wide requirements (generally 633, multivariate statistics or 634 Game Theory).  Most students will want to take a fifth elective in American politics to strengthen their knowledge of this broad field.  Students are strongly advised to take both seminars with a more behavioral perspective (e.g.,  571, 582, 586) and seminars with a more institutional perspective (e.g., 534, 552, 616).

 Students minoring in American politics must take the proseminar and at least two electives offered by faculty in the subfield (i.e., cross-listed classes do not count as electives for minors in American politics).  Minors should also strongly consider seeking additional training in methodology.

In all cases, students are advised to participate in as much collaborative and/or independent research as is possible during the course of their graduate training.

Students planning to major in American politics must have an American Politics field advisor.  Students should contact one of the faculty members whose primary affiliation is with the American politics field.



16:790:501  Proseminar in American Politics:  The Practice of Democracy

Investigates the democratic process in the United States.  The course covers a democratic theory and American political practice, social and institutional influences on the American democratic process, linkages between the mass public and governing elites, and the representation of popular preference in formal institutions.


16:790:524  Mass Media and Politics

The role, structure, and effects of mass media on individuals, political institutions, and society.  Topics include:  models of mass communication; government regulation; the media as information sources and agents of socialization.

16:790:531 Problems in American Politics

Selected specific problems in American Politics, currently emphasizing state and local elections and campaigning.

16:790:534  The Presidency

This course examines major theoretical approaches to studying the American presidency, and places special emphasis on the relationship between executive power and representative democracy.  Students are introduced to the structure, operations, and consequences of the presidency, focusing on important controversies in the scholarly literature.

16:790:552  Business, Power, and Politics

Relationship between economic and political power in the United States.  Impact of business interest groups, economic elites, and governmental recruitment on policy making.  Consideration of issues in power structure analysis.

16:790:553  New Institutionalism in American and Comparative Politics

Introduction to "new institutionalisms" in political science.  Topics covered include neoinstitutionalist analyses of formal and informal political institutions, social movements, and interest groups, social policy and the welfare state, and state-society interactions.

16:790:559 Metropolitan Politics

Conflict and consensus examined with respect to major urban problems; race, schools, housing, transportation, planning, renewal.

16:790:571  Elections and Participation

This course considers the determinants and consequences of various forms of political participation by examining the relationship between structures such as electoral systems and citizen behavior.  Theories of democracy are evaluated in light of empirical findings.

16:790:572  Political Parties

The structure and functioning of political parties. Emphasis on empirical studies of membership, nominations, party competition, campaigning, and finance.

16:790:573 Organized Interests

This course examnes the role of interest groups, citizen groups, lobbying, and social movements in policymaking, with particular attention to the American case.  Theories of collective action and pluralism are considered.

16:790:582  Public Opinion

Sources and consequences of public knowledge, beliefs, values, and attitudes about politics are covered.  The course also considers the measurement of public opinion, political ideology, and the linkages between public opinion and public policy.

16:790:586  Psychology of Political Behavior

This course provides an introduction to basic explanatory theories at the individual level of analysis, and an exploration of present and potential utility of these theories for the explanation of human political behavior.  Topics covered include personality and politics, attitudes and attitude change, information processing, group influence, and behavioral decision theory.

16:790:619/620 Advanced Topics in American Politics

This course addresses issues of particular pressing and topical concern in American Politics

16:790:616  The U.S. Congress

This course introduces students to the major components of Congress: congressional elections; the committees; congressional leadership; the legislative process, interest groups, and the relations of Congress with the president and the courts.

16:790:667 Research Seminar in Political Psychology

Advanced seminar examining in depth, through individual research, selected topics in political psychology.     


*790:514 American Political Thought (Political Theory)

*790:517 Democracy, Values, and Public Policy (Political Theory)

*790:588 Gender and Mass Politics (Women & Politics)

*790:589 Women and Political Leadership (Women & Politics)

*790:591 Women and Public Policy (Women & Politics)