American Politics

Rachel PotterAmerican Politics is a large and diverse subfield within the Department. Accordingly, we cover a lot of ground: our group is genuinely diverse and pluralistic in the ways we ask and answer questions about American politics. If there is a unifying theme running through our collectivity, however, it is our shared focus on the politics of democratic procedure in the case of the United States. We have scholars who study the historical development of American politics and the American state. Some of us focus on institutions, whether Congress, the Presidency, the courts, or the process of public policy formation and implementation. And a number of us look at how Americans think, feel and act as citizens, by examining voting, other forms of participation, and public opinion.

Students who embark on graduate work at the University of Virginia will be trained to use a broad set of methodological approaches to study American politics. The current faculty is particularly strong in political behavior, American institutions, and American political thought and development, with historical and quantitative methods predominant; however, Virginia graduate students are exposed to all major analytical approaches used by political scientists investigating the United States. In addition, our interests are significantly shared with other fields in the department: for example, our curiosity about elections and party systems is appreciated by our colleagues in Comparative Politics, and our interest in American political thought by the Political Theory wing of the Department. In short, our combination of substantive range and methodological scope makes Virginia a great place to study the ideas, individuals, and institutions of American politics.

The American Politics graduate curriculum is anchored by a core three-course sequence. These courses, which are generally offered one per term on a rotating basis, focus on American Political Development (PLAP 7000), Political Institutions (PLAP 7010), and Political Behavior (PLAP 7110). These courses are supplemented by more narrowly-focused seminars from across the field of American Politics.