POL42480 Contemporary Election Campaigns: Democratic Norms and Empirical Research

Academic Year 2023/2024

Moral Agency in Election Campaigns (ELECT) is a five-year research programme funded by the Eruopean Research Council (2023-2028), led by Joseph Lacey as Principal Investigator. Contemporary Election Campaigns is a unique module that will be embedded in the themes, methods and problematics of the ELECT project. Thematically, module participants will be introduced to key concepts like moral agency, moral psychology and social and democratic norms. They will also be steeped in the empirical literature concerning the new era of election campaigning – defined by developments in big data and new media and the emergence of novel electoral challengers. In doing so, participants will become familiar with the core strategies and tools available to election campaigns and how those interact with the media and wider citizenry. Methodologically, module participants will be introduced to the “grounded normative theory” framework, which aims to combine normative political theory with empirical research. The empirical methods of the ELECT project and their design – surveys, interviews, focus groups and discourse analysis – will be explored. The core problematics will revolve around how to best study the moral agency of the key actors that constitute the lifeblood of election campaigns: candidates, campaign professionals, journalists and citizens.

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Curricular information is subject to change

Learning Outcomes:

On completion of this module, participants will:

a) Enhance their knowledge of political theory and the normative issues that arise in the electoral context
b) Enhance their knowledge of the contemporary campaign environment
c) Learn about the integration of normative theory and empirical methods
d) Develop skills in the design of surveys and semi-structured interviews
e) Learn about the research design of a major international research programme
f) Develop their oral and written skills through discussions and essays
g) Develop their teamwork skills through group work exercises

Indicative Module Content:

• Moral agency, moral psychology, democratic norms
• Contemporary electoral environment: big data, new media, campaign strategies and tools, interactions with media and citizens
• Grounded normative theory framework
• Design of surveys and semi-structured interviews
• Social and/or professional context of candidates, campaign professionals and citizens

Student Effort Hours: 
Student Effort Type Hours
Autonomous Student Learning






Approaches to Teaching and Learning:
• Classes will begin with a lecture, which will vary in length depending on the topic and other planned activities
• Class discussions will be continuous and smaller group discussions will be arranged for relevant sessions, both of which will be geared towards mutual learning and the stimulation of new ideas and critical thinking
• Some sessions will include group work and oral presentations, including for the design of surveys and semi-structured interviews
• There will be written work, including a final essay, designed to develop both substantive knowledge and critical thinking
Requirements, Exclusions and Recommendations

Not applicable to this module.

Module Requisites and Incompatibles
Not applicable to this module.
Assessment Strategy  
Description Timing Open Book Exam Component Scale Must Pass Component % of Final Grade In Module Component Repeat Offered
Attendance: Participants will be expected to participate in all sessions Throughout the Trimester n/a Graded No


Assignment: A response paper on one of the thematic sessions Unspecified n/a Graded No


Assignment: A report on one of the key actors: candidates, camapign pros, journalists, or citzens. Oral presentation of report. Varies over the Trimester n/a Graded No


Assignment: Survey design and short essay explaining the design. Unspecified n/a Graded No


Essay: A 3,500 word essay on a topic of your choice, pending approval by the Module Coordinator Coursework (End of Trimester) n/a Graded No



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

• Feedback individually to students, on an activity or draft prior to summative assessment
• Feedback individually to students, post-assessment

How will my Feedback be Delivered?

For written and oral work, students will receive feedback after submission/presentation. They will receive this through Brightspace In the case of the final essay, an abstract of a proposed topic will be submitted during the term break. Feedback will also be given on this proposal. This will be done through email. For the survey assignment, feedback from the wider class may also be provided.