American Politics POLITIC4001

  • Academic Session: 2023-24
  • School: School of Social and Political Sciences
  • Credits: 20
  • Level: Level 4 (SCQF level 10)
  • Typically Offered: Either Semester 1 or Semester 2
  • Available to Visiting Students: Yes

Short Description

The course provides a broad overview of all key aspects of contemporary American politics, including governmental and non-governmental institutions, elections and voting behaviour, and policy-making.


This course may not be running this year. For further information please check the Politics Moodle page or contact the subject directly.

Requirements of Entry

Mandatory Entry Requirements

Entry to Honours Politics requires a grade point average of 12 (Grade C) over Politics 2A and Politics 2B as a first attempt.

Excluded Courses





An essay with a maximum 2,500 words length will constitute 50% of the final grade with 50% based on an unseen two-hour exam in which students must address two questions out of six.

Main Assessment In: December

Are reassessment opportunities available for all summative assessments? Not applicable


Course Aims

The course provides a broad overview of key aspects of contemporary American politics, including governmental and non-governmental institutions, elections and voting behaviour and policy-making. It is set, implicitly, within a comparative context in order to analyse the similarities and differences between the American political system and equivalent advanced industrial nations in Western Europe. The US is often held up as the epitome of a free and democratic republic, and the course will critically examine this claim - as the world's most powerful and wealthy nation-state, it is important that we have a grasp of its role in twenty first century global politics. During a period marked by increasing political polarisation and decreasing public trust toward elected representatives, what are the key challenges facing the core political institutions (e.g., the Executive, Congress, Supreme Court, and states) in shaping public policy? Overall, the course will familiarise students with the main features of the American political system, teach them about the methodology that lies behind the academic study of an advanced industrial political system, and equip them to analyse the related issues in a critical way.

Intended Learning Outcomes of Course

By the end of this course students will be able to

■ Distinguish and differentiate the political institutions of the United States within the policy-making process.

■ Assess the ability of the key political institutions in the United States to check each other within the context of the American federal political system.

■ Appraise the political-cultural conditions which sustain the key American political institutions.

■ Assess the key challenges facing the core American political institutions within the context of America's increasingly polarised political and social conext.

■ Evaluate political change in the United States since the Cold War period.

■ Compare the American political system to those of the advanced industrialised countries of Western Europe.

Minimum Requirement for Award of Credits

Students must submit at least 75% by weight of the components (including examinations) of the course's summative assessment.