POL30720 Parties and Party Competition

Academic Year 2022/2023

How can we identify differences between party systems, determine party positions, and measure public opinion? Do parties keep their promises, or are politicians “pledge breakers”? Are promises in certain policy areas more likely to be fulfilled? In what policy areas do parties differ in terms of their positions and issue emphasis? And do parties respond to changes in public opinion?

In this module, we first discuss the main functions of political parties, outline features of representative democracies, and identify ways of measuring public opinion. Next, we assess whether parties keep their promises, whether the “mandate model of democracy” is a desirable and realistic mode of political representation, and how we could improve existing studies on election pledge fulfilment. Afterwards, we investigate parties’ willingness and capacity to respond to changes in public opinion. Fourth, we discuss different approaches to measuring party positions, political ideology, and the salience of policy areas. Finally, we briefly discuss alternative types of political participation that go beyond representative government and electoral democracy.

N.B. Prior coding knowledge and knowledge of quantitative research methods are NOT required.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

1. Extensive knowledge of central theories of representation, the mandate model of democracy, and party competition
2. Detailed insights into past and current approaches to study questions about pledge fulfilment, party positions, responsiveness and issue ownership
3. Critical reading and discussing complex academic literature and diverse quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches

Indicative Module Content:

The following topics will be discussed in this module: parties and party systems; the “mandate model of democracy”; measuring and aggregating public opinion; economic voting; the cost of governing; responsiveness; party competition; party positions, salience, and issue ownership; campaign pledges; parties’ online communication and campaigning

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning






Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
• Active and task-based learning
• Group work and discussions
• In-class debates
• Problem-based learning 
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
POL30830 - Parties and Party Competition

Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Assignment: 1,000-word response paper Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Assignment: Descriptive data: assess and interpret results from an interactive interface on party competition in Europe Throughout the Trimester n/a Pass/Fail Grade Scale No


Assignment: 2,500-word essay; question to be selected by student from a defined set of possible questions. Week 12 n/a Graded No



Carry forward of passed components
Resit In Terminal Exam
Autumn No
Please see Student Jargon Buster for more information about remediation types and timing. 
Feedback Strategy/Strategies

• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment
• Group/class feedback, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

Not yet recorded.