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Masters in Political Science

Overview 

The Master of Arts in Political Science degree at Stony Brook University is an innovative program that uses the lens of psychology to better understand politics. Small courses taught by our full-time faculty focus on the psychology of public opinion, attitude change, persuasion, and political behavior. The program builds on our successful, internationally renowned PhD program in political psychology. The program teaches advanced skills in political psychology, public opinion, political attitudes, and mobilization. The Political Science M.A. program will introduce students to theories that help to make sense of public attitudes and behavior, familiarize them with core research on the dynamics of attitudes and opinions, and provide them with first-hand experience on the major research methods used to study the dynamics of public opinion and behavior. Students in the M.A. program also have the option to get involved in a research study with one of the faculty in the department and through the department’s two political psychology labs. The program may be completed in a calendar year by full-time students and within 2 years by students who select a part-time schedule.

 

The Faculty

Stony Brook's highly regarded Department of Political Science offers M.A. program students a world class instructional faculty. These faculty members include internationally recognized scholars in the fields of political psychology, public opinion, and political behavior who have all published extensively on these topics. M.A. program faculty members include Professors Stanley Feldman and Leonie Huddy who were co-editors of the international journal Political Psychology. Professors Huddy and Feldman were also recent presidents of the International Society of Political Psychology. Professor Huddy's research focuses on intergroup relations, prejudice, and emotions. Professor Feldman has published on the role of values and personality in politics, prejudice and intolerance, and emotion. Professor Gallya Lahav is an expert on immigration attitudes and policies, especially in Western Europe. Professor Jennifer Jerit studies public opinion, political psychology, and political communication. Professor Jason Barabas is an expert on experimental methods and the relationship between public opinion and public policy. Professor Peter DeScioli's research focuses on the role of morality and cooperation in politics. Professor Yanna Krupnikov has published extensively on partisanship, prejudice, negative advertising, and voting. Professor Andrew Delton uses principles of evolutionary psychology to study cooperation and generosity in humans.  

 

Opportunities for Students

The M.A. program is designed to benefit students with diverse interests and career goals. It will help to prepare students who wish to enter a PhD program in political science, communications, or social psychology. Students take graduate level courses in political psychology along with the statistics and research training that is critical for more advanced study. A number of our M.A. students have been admitted to top ranked PhD programs including Stony Brook University, the University of Maryland, Florida State University, the University of Houston, and the University of Pittsburgh.

The program will also benefit students interested in the fields of political campaigns, public relations, media, polling, or those who work for federal or local legislators or not-for–profit organizations. Courses in the program will illuminate the techniques that can be used to mobilize support for a specific political candidate, build support for a particular issue position, or alter public behavior such as electricity usage or the purchase of more energy efficient appliances. An internship opportunity gives students the chance to get experience working for a not-for-profit organization or a relevant business as preparation for the job market. M.A. students can take advantage of our participation in the SUNY Washington Internship Program which organizes internships with a wide range of major public, political, and not-for-profit organizations such as: The Brookings Institution, the American Enterprise Institute, the Pew Research Center, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Democratic and Republican National Committees, the Congressional Research Service, and many others. The Washington Internship Program also provides career advice, counseling and networking that can help students find interesting jobs after they complete the program.

 

Tuition and Fees

Tuition and fees at Stony Brook, set by the State University of New York, are considerably below those of comparable programs on Long Island and throughout the greater New York metropolitan area. Please visit the Bursar's Website for a current listing of fees.

To apply for need-based aid, including student loans, students should complete and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

 

Courses

POL570: Moral Politics
 Many political issues ranging from capital punishment to same-sex marriage to wealth redistribution are moral issues. This course will use moral psychology to better understand public opinion, political debates, and political behavior. We will examine how moral judgement differs from judgments based on self interest and altruism. We will address the role of moral condemnation in political debates and how moral accusations clash with arguments based on non-moral considerations such as economics, group loyalty, or authority. Topics include alternative moral frames, liberal-conservative differences, moral metaphors, and moral emotions. We will apply these concepts to understand public opinion about political issues surrounding property, fairness, sexuality, religion, and violence.
POL567: Culture, Values, and Public Opinion
This course investigates the evolution of values, cleavages, political space, and issues in cross-national perspective (with particular focus on the advanced industrialized countries of the US, Europe, Israel, Japan, and Australia). We begin our study with the analysis of traditional socio-economic cleavages in determining issue positions, and the ‘end of ideology’ theses propounded by comparative political scientists, such as Daniel Bell and Francois Fukuyama, and elaborated by scholars of the behavioral revolution such as Inglehart, Dalton, and Franklin. We then explore the strengths and weaknesses of paradigm shifts to values, buttressed by public opinion data. Bringing in cultural and neo-institutional explanations of political behavior and change, the course weds individual level analysis and group behavior theories with rigorous empirical testing. We will look at cross-national and longitudinal data sets to examine the evolving political space stemming from new politics, identity politics, immigration, and ‘new security’ threats in a global era. Finally, the course will conclude by looking at how different levels of analyses (individual, group, and institutions) contribute to explain contentious politics, ‘boundary-making (‘us’ and ‘them’), and the ‘politics of difference’ across cultures.
POL 566: The Psychology of Voting
The course examines the key motivations, attitudes, perceptions, and beliefs that guide voters in the process of making up their minds in choosing candidates in elections, including the decision to turn out at all in elections. The list of topics includes party identification (acquisition, genetic basis, development over the life cycle, and historic change); opinions about policy issues and the conceptualization of politics in ideological terms; the impact of valence issues (the economy and national security); perceptions of candidates (personal as well as political qualities); group influence on individual decisions, particularly racial attitudes; and the impact of the campaign (media ads, debates etc.) on vote choices.
POL565: Persuasion and Propaganda
Politics at its core is about persuasion. It is about argumentation and debate, and about bringing citizens to a particular way of thinking about an issue, candidacy, or event.  Given its centrality in the political process, understanding the dynamics of political persuasion should be a high priority for the discipline.  In a more theoretical vein, the concept of “attitude” is among the most indispensable in the social sciences.  This course is intended to provide a survey of contemporary theory and research on attitude formation and change.  It is not intended to be a general course on the mass media, but rather is concerned only with mass media research as it pertains to individual-level political attitude processes. The course is divided into the following three sections: (1) A consideration of basic concepts (e.g., what is an “attitude”), methodological challenges, and recent developments (e.g., the distinction between implicit and explicit attitudes); (2) An overview of major psychological theories of persuasion that attempt to answer Harold Lasswell’s classic question: Who says what, in which channel, to whom, with what effect? (3) An examination of the major agents of political persuasion – the mass media, political elites, social context, and interpersonal processes.
POL564: Social Influence
In studying public opinion, people often focus on the arguments, information, and overt attempts to persuade.  In doing so, we neglect the impact of the social environment in which an individual is situated.  Friends, family, and aspects of the broader social environment all deeply influence the attitudes people hold, the tenacity with which they hold them, and the political behaviors they engage in.  Rather than focusing on direct persuasion, this course emphasizes the effect social context can have upon people's opinions even without overt argumentation or even information exchange.  Students will learn about the influence of 1) other individuals (e.g. socialization, social network influence), 2) social roles (e.g. power, obedience) 3) societal influence (e.g. normative influence, conformity, deviance & rejection), and 4) influence from other environmental sources (e.g. priming).
POL563: Thinking and Emotion in Public Opinion
This course reviews recent research in cognitive, social, and political psychology on the interplay between cognition and emotion in explaining social and political behavior.  Traditionally, political science has viewed thinking as a conscious cognitive process of intentional deliberation.  Emotions and other feelings have been ignored or seen as interfering with rational thought.  Moreover, until recently there has been almost no consideration of what psychologists call implicit or unconscious thought processes in understanding public opinion.  Psychologists and communications researchers now understand that implicit events and processes (e.g., symbol or music cues in political advertising) can have profound effects on how citizens evaluate political candidates, groups, and issues.  We will examine the traditional approach to political cognition and consider how this recent research may alter our understanding of the formation of public opinion.
POL562: Passionate Politics: Mobilization, Interest Groups and Social Movements
This course discusses political mobilization: the factors that motivate political involvement and the consequences high levels of public engagement have on elections and the development of public policy. The course begins with several high profile examples of citizen engagement that have had noticeable impact on American politics. This first section also includes a discussion of the various ways in which Americans can be mobilized from involvement in election campaigns to the distribution of political information via social networks. The course then shifts focus to cover the psychology of political mobilization in detail, including the importance of group memberships and identities, emotions, and values. An entire unit of the course is devoted to the psychology of group membership in which the mobilizing power of identities and the role of politically motivating emotions are discussed at length. Finally the last section of the course is devoted to specific examples of political mobilization in the U.S. including the environmental /green movement, issue groups such as the right-to-life movement, racial politics, and highly polarized partisan politics. Overall, the course is designed to illuminate the psychology of political mobilization and apply these principles to contemporary American politics.
POL561: Dynamics of Public Opinion
This course provides an overview of the literature on public opinion. The course will start by considering the micro-foundations of opinions and the psychology of opinion holding. How much do people know about politics and other aspects of the social world? What are the consequences of differences in knowledge and attitude strength? Building from there, we will discuss the structure of attitudes and opinions, specifically, the nature of political ideology. Research on the determinants of public opinion will be considered, including theories of ideology. A number of determinants of opinions will be discussed including values and personality. Finally, the course will examine the dynamics of attitudes and opinions and their relationship to government policy and larger social trends.
POL504: Research Design
This course will cover a variety of research methods that can be used to study attitudes and opinions: Experimental methods (in laboratory and field settings), quasi-experimental designs, surveys and questionnaires,  and methods for studying various psychological characteristics of attitudes such as reaction time and lexical decision tasks.

 

graduate admissions information  -  Ma

Political Science Graduate Admissions - MA

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