COURSE: An American Perspective on Political Campaigns

Course content

The course will examine the operations and tactics of modern political campaigns in the United States and explore the effects - positive and negative - that the campaigns have on the surrounding citizenry.


In order to reflect how the 2016 campaign season - from the primaries throughout the general election – has upended some assumptions about effective campaigning and reconfirmed others, the syllabus will be adjusted to include material published between now and the beginning of the spring semester.


The course will cover


  • An overview of how political campaigning has evolved historically in the United States

  • The primary system and the Electoral College system

  • The influence of the winner-take-all system

  • Voter behavior patterns and causes

  • Voter segmentation and targeting

  • On-the-ground campaigning and volunteer operations

  • Candidate positioning

  • Campaign finance

  • The role of parties

  • Comparative excerpts from classic campaign literature

  • The increasing role played by Big Data

  • The ways in which the rise of round-the-clock news coverage and the rapidly growing reach of social media have influenced and continue to influence campaigning

  • Real-life examples of effective campaigns, negative campaigning, campaign ads, televised debates, controversial campaign strategies and methods, voter manipulation and voter disenfranchisement



Bachelorlevel: 10 ECTS

Masterlevel: 7,5 ECTS



Learning outcome

Will follow

Core readings:


‘Campaigns and Elections’

John Sides, et. al.


W.W. Norton


‘Game Change’

John Heilemann and Mark Halperin


Harper Collins


‘The Victory Lab’

Sasha Issenberg


Broadway Books


Online material:


‘What is political dark money’


‘Take the Money and Run for Office’


Contribution limits


‘The Hardest Job in Washington’


‘Campaign Consultants’


‘Are Campaign Consultants Valuable?’


‘Show and Tell’






Morning in America










No Maverick


Yes We Can




The Virtues of the Super PAC


‘Trial Lawyers to Obama […]’


Data on 2014 donations by the American Association of Justice


Communicating with Congress


‘Robo-Calls’,8599,1853436,00.html (make sure to also listen to the audio when you read the text)


‘The Top 10 Political Robocalls of 2008’


Robocall case


‘Black Voters Told […]’


 ‘The Truth About Push Polls’


‘The Trashing of John McCain’


‘Is ‘Popular Rule’ Possible?’


‘Our Friend the Smear’


Swift Boat


‘The problems of the permanent campaign'


7,5 ECTS
Type of assessment
Oral examination
Marking scale
7-point grading scale
Censorship form
External censorship
Criteria for exam assessment
  • Grade 12 is given for an outstanding performance: the student lives up to the course's goal description in an independent and convincing manner with no or few and minor shortcomings
  • Grade 7 is given for a good performance: the student is confidently able to live up to the goal description, albeit with several shortcomings
  • Grade 02 is given for an adequate performance: the minimum acceptable performance in which the student is only able to live up to the goal description in an insecure and incomplete manner

Single subject courses (day)

  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 28
  • English
  • 28