POLS 302 - U.S. Political Parties and Elections

  • 3 credits
  • Online

Foundational, institutional, and behavioral features of American political parties and elections.

Elections are the cornerstone of America’s representative democracy. In this course, we will examine U.S. political parties and their role in elections at the local, state and national levels. We will explore the underlying questions regarding political parties in a democratic system, such as:

  • Why do we have a two-party system?
  • Why do people vote, and why do they vote the way they do?
  • What other institutions (such as the media) play a role in our election process, and how?
  • What role does money play, particularly the way we regulate campaign finance?
  • How fair are our elections, and what might we do to improve them?

This course is designed to provide you with the skills to achieve the following:

  • Understand and apply the key debates and theories about the roles and possibilities surrounding political parties and elections in the U.S.
  • Understand the key actors and their interactions in key policy debates
  • Understand the key debates, current trends, and issues in our two-party system, as well as the tradeoffs and problems inherent in the system
  • Critically evaluate parties and elections as linkage institutions – are they effective in what they do, and why or why not?

This course can be applied toward:


POLS 101 (American Government and Politics).

Textbooks and Materials

Textbooks and materials can be purchased at the CSU Bookstore unless otherwise indicated.


  • Party Politics in America, 17th Ed. (2017)
    Hershey, Marjorie Randon
    ISBN: 978-1138683686
  • Political Participation in the United States, 3rd Ed. (2000)
    Conway, M. Margaret
    ISBN: 978-0871877925

Additional articles will be posted on Canvas.

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