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American Politics Group Data Projects

Steven E. Schier, Carleton College
Author Profile
This material was originally developed by the QuIRK at Carleton College
as part of its collaboration with the SERC Pedagogic Service.

Summary

Using data from the University of Michigan's National Election Study, students work in groups of 4-5 to develop 20-30 minute Powerpoint presentations that explore variations in social issue opinions, economic issue opinions, presidential candidate preference, and media use habits. Suggested independent variables include respondents' demographic characteristics and foundational orientations such as party identification, ideology and religiosity. Two additional groups will employ data analysis as political consultants, one group providing strategic advice to the Democratic party and another to the Republican party regarding the forthcoming 2010 and 2012 elections. A final exam essay question will require students to analyze the data analysis reports.

Learning Goals

The project facilitates student learning of data analysis basics. Students also apply data analysis to scholarly literature, and gain insights into American politics though their independent investigation of topics regarding American Government.

Context for Use

This approach can be used in introductory American Government courses and perhaps in intermediate courses in American electoral politics. Students work in 6 teams of 4-5 members each. If class size is larger than 30 students, the assignment could be adapted by either having multiple groups of each type or expanding the number of issues explored.

Description and Teaching Materials

The data used by students come from the SETUPS (Supplemental Empirical Teaching Units in Political Science) program of the American Political Science Association. SETUPS employs 160 variables from the 2008 American National Election Study. SETUPS includes this plus comparisons of sample means, multiple regression and logit/probit. SETUPS is free to use.

The actual project will involve six group reports. Each group will create a PowerPoint presentation of 20-30 minutes duration. Each group also will create a brief outline of theeir presentation for hard copy distribution to the class. Additionally, all PowerPoint presentations will be placed in a common course file for student use.

Four groups will focus on explanations of variation in particular types of dependent variables: social issue opinions, economic issue opinions, presidential candidate preference, and media use habits. Suggested independent variables include respondents' demographic characteristics and foundational orientations such as party identification, ideology and religiosity. Two additional groups will employ data analysis as political consultants, one group providing strategic advice to the Democratic party and another to the Republican party regarding the forthcoming 2010 and 2012 elections.

A final exam essay question will require students to draw upon at least three group presentations in discussing new understandings of American politics resulting from the reports. These essays must also draw upon class readings.

Assignment Handout (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 13kB Aug4 09)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Be sure to provide adequate time both in and out of class sessions for student to acquaint themselves with basic data analysis techniques.

Assessment

A final exam essay question will require students to employ findings from student PowerPoint reports on the SETUPS data.

Students will also evaluate SETUPS in their course evaluations.

References and Resources

The 2004 SETUPS, including its instructional materials, can be accessed at http://www.icpsr.umich.edu/SETUPS/index.html.