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Political Research Seminar (395-0-20)


Party Polarization


Laurel Harbridge Yong
847 4671147
601 University Place #312A

Meeting Info

University Hall 118: Thurs 2:00PM - 4:50PM

Overview of class

Is the American public polarized? What about political elites? What do we mean by party polarization and what does this phenomenon mean for issues of representation, government productivity, democratic norms, and civic engagement? This research seminar explores these and other questions related to polarization in American politics, including timely topics related to the growing impact of the most ideological wings of the parties, gridlock in politics, and the ramifications of recent elections. Activities include in-depth discussion of the assigned readings, team debates over key questions in the literature, and documentary and media clips to consider the connections between popular conceptions of polarization and the evidence for those claims. Using the knowledge and skills that they gain in the course, students will each put together a research paper that answers a question of their own choosing. Small weekly assignments with faculty and peer feedback will help students build their paper over the course of the quarter.

Learning Objectives

1) Assess the degree of polarization in the public and among elites. 2) Critically evaluate claims about polarization in politics. 3) Synthesize and apply course concepts to contemporary issues facing this country. 4) Explain empirical evidence in scholarly works and assess the strength of this evidence. 5) Differentiate normative and positivist arguments. 6) Demonstrate research and writing skills.

Teaching Method


Evaluation Method

Grade is based on in-class debates, an individual research project, mini-assignments that build toward the final paper, presentation of the research project, seminar participation, and feedback on fellow student projects.

Class Materials (Required)

Thurber, James and Antoine Yoshinaka. 2015. American Gridlock: The sources, character, and impact of political polarization. New York: Cambridge University Press. ISBN: 978-1107534698 The NU Library has this required book available as an e-book online