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SPCM 420 - Political Communication

  • 3 credits

• Have you ever wished you knew more about politics?
• Have you ever wondered about how political communication in this country works?
• Have you ever felt confused or dismayed by election season?
• Are you looking for a class to take that can be applied to your life outside of the classroom?

An important goal of liberal arts education in a free society is to support “engaged citizenship.” Students and educators work together to create a citizenry who is interested in the public good, educated and exposed to a variety of opinions and perspectives, and equipped to put in the personal effort required to sustain democracy. Some have argued that democracy is at risk in the United States. Critics point the finger at a host of culprits: apathetic, disenchanted, or uninformed voters; greedy special interests and inadequate campaign finance laws; corrupt politicians; jaded media corporations who cover politics with an eye toward their business interests. It is impossible to fully assess the political state of our Union (or dis-Union) without considering politics from a rhetorical perspective. Through communication, candidates reveal their character and political agendas. Voters form opinions about politics by watching television, reading newspapers and magazines, going online, and talking with friends and family members. News organizations filter and frame the political information citizens receive. Many Americans form political opinions after viewing communication in alternative contexts such as late-night talk shows and comedy programs.

The purpose of this course is to promote engaged citizenship by exposing ourselves to the rhetoric of political campaigns and practicing the skills required to sustain democracy: participation, open-minded consideration, critical reflection, and the formation and justification of political judgment. We will examine the rhetoric of political campaigns, critically assessing the communication produced by candidates and campaigns (speeches, appearances, ads, Web pages, and debates), as well as the rhetorical nature of political journalism. The course focuses on contemporary and historical U.S. national political discourse; however, local information and examples will also be addressed.


CO 150 (College Composition (GT-CO2)) or SPCM 100 (Communication and Popular Culture (GT-AH1)) or SPCM 130 (Relational and Organizational Communication (GT-SS3)) or SPCM 200 (Public Speaking) or SPCM 201 (History and Theory of Rhetoric (GT-AH3)) or SPCM 207 (Public Argumentation); and junior standing.

Textbooks and Materials

Section 801


  • Demagoguery & Democracy (2020)
    ISBN: 978-1615196760

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

All other readings will be posted in Canvas and in the Library's E-Reserves.


Karrin Anderson

9704913445 |

Dr. Anderson is Professor of Communication Studies at Colorado State University. She teaches courses in rhetoric, political communication, and gender and communication. Dr. Anderson has published numerous books and scholarly articles on gender and political leadership, the U.S. presidency, and political pop culture. Her research awards include the National Communication Association’s James A. Winans and Herbert A. Wichelns Memorial Award for Distinguished Scholarship in Rhetoric and Public Address; the Outstanding Book Award from the Organization for the Study of Communication, Language, and Gender; the Michael Pfau Outstanding Article Award in Political Communication from NCA’s Political Communication Division; the Organization for Research on Women and Communication’s Feminist Scholarship Award; and the Carrie Chapman Catt Prize for Research on Women in Politics.