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Elections, Public Opinion and Parties (MSc/PGDip)

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Course overview

The dynamic interactions between political parties and voters underpin the foundations of modern democratic politics. Our new MSc in Elections, Public Opinion and Parties provides students with a thorough grounding in the empirical theories and methods used for exploring and explaining models of party competition, public opinion and voting behaviour.

The degree’s substantive component gives you insights into the reality of political representation and accountability, as well as how political leaders and the media shape and respond to public preferences. The methodological component provides you with valuable analytical and research skills that will prepare you for careers in government, political consultancy, NGOs and research organisations.


Key facts

Key facts about the course
Qualification Master of Science or Postgraduate Diploma
Duration 1 year full-time or 2 years part-time
Department and Faculty Politics and International Relations, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences
Partner institution(s) N/A
Course director To be confirmed
Contact for more information caroline.shedden@rhul.ac.uk

Fees / funding

Please visit the Fees and funding pages for the latest information about tuition fees and the different sources of funding which may be available to you.

How to apply

Applications for entry to all our full-time postgraduate degrees can be made online.

Further information on making an application, including the documentation that you will need to submit with the application is available in the How to apply section of this site.

If you are interested in applying to Royal Holloway, why not arrange a visit to our campus to see for yourself what academic and student life is like here. More information on arranging visits is available on our Open days pages.


Entry requirements

Entry criteria:

A minimum of a 2:1 UK honours degree or overseas equivalent.

Mature students with substantial work experience will also be considered. 

English language requirements:

IELTS 6.5 overall with 7.0 in writing and a minimum of 5.5 in all other subscores. For equivalencies see here|.


Students from overseas should visit the International pages for information on the entry requirements from their country and further information on English language requirements. Royal Holloway offers a Pre-Master’s Diploma for International Students and English language pre-sessional courses, allowing students the opportunity to develop their study skills and English language before starting their postgraduate degree.


Additional requirements:

  • this course will attract those with backgrounds in politics, international relations and from allied disciplines such as history, economics, geography, and both recent graduates and mature students with work experience.


Why choose this course?

  • the Department of Politics and International Relations is a young, vibrant and rapidly-rising department and was ranked in the Top 10 small politics departments in the latest Research Assessment Exercise (RAE, 2008)

  • the course is taught by world-class scholars and informed by cutting-edge research

  • offers an advanced grounding in public opinion and political behavior at both a theoretical and empirical level

  • you will acquire valuable research methods skills that will equip you to carry out independent research and appraise both qualitative and quantitative research

  • you will acquire genuinely transferable skills that are highly prized in the job market

  • our international cohort of students will provide you with excellent opportunities to obtain global perspectives.

Department research and industry highlights

  • The Centre for European Politics was officially launched by Lord Mandelson in September 2007, with the mission of producing research in two principal areas: the study of democracy in Europe, and Europe as an actor in world politics. Under the leadership of Co-Directors Dr Alister Miskimmon and Dr James Sloam, it has hosted a number of high-profile speakers, including Lord Mandelson, Professor Simon Hix (LSE), Roger Liddle (Policy Network), John Peet (The Economist), Sir Stephen Wall (former European policy advisor to Tony Blair), David Willetts MP (Shadow Secretary of State for Innovations, Universities and Skills) and Dr Vince Cable. Recent funded research projects include: a European Union Committee of the Regions consultancy on EU External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy; an EU- funded Workshop on the Review of the European Union Budget; and Teaching Democracy. Recent publications include Bendetto and Milio (eds) European Union budget reform: intuitions, policy and economic crisis (Palgrave 2012) and James Sloam 'New Voice, Less Equal: the Civic and Political Engagement of Young People in the United States and Europe', Comparative Political Studies 2012.
  • The New Political Communication Unit's research agenda focuses on the impact of new media and communication technologies on politics, policy and governance. Core staff include Professor Andrew Chadwick, Professor Ben O'Loughlin, Dr Alister Miskimmon and Dr Cristian Vaccari. Recent books include Andrew Chadwick's The Hybrid Media System, Politics and Power (Oxford University Press 2013), Cristian Vaccari's Digital Politics in Western Democracies: A Comparative Study (John Hopkins University Press) and Alister Miskimmon, Ben O'Loughlin and Laura Roselle's Strategic Narratives: Communication Power and the New World Order (Routledge, 2013). Andrew Chadwick edits the Oxford University Press book series Oxford studies in Digital Politics and Ben O'Loughlin is co-editor of the journal Media, War and Conflict. The Unit hosts a large number of PhD students working in the field of new political communication.

Course content and structure

Core course units:

  • Elections and Voting Behaviour You will be introduced to the main theories of voting behaviour. We will examine why people vote for different political parties and how their behaviour is shaped by the different mobilisation strategies of political parties and other institutional arrangements. We will consider how social divisions are translated in to political divisions, and how the mechanisms of accountability and representation operate in different political and economic contexts. To what extent do people vote along policy lines? To what extent do they vote along social lines? How have these changed over time?

  • Public Opinion and political participation In this unit we will examine the various ways in which people try to influence the political process by participating in different types of political activity. We will examine formal types of participation, such as turnout as well as more direct forms of political action, such as participation in protests and social movements. In doing so we will look at how political behaviour has changed over time and consider the implications for representative democracy.

  • Introduction to Quantitative Research Methods in Politics and International Relations You will be introduced to quantitative methods commonly used in the study of Politics and International Relations. You will acquire the skills to understand, critically analyse and carry out a range of quantitative techniques, using statistical software packages such as SPSS. No prior expertise in maths or statistics is required.

  • Dissertation (MSc only) The dissertation gives you the opportunity to study an aspect of political behaviour in depth. You will be assigned a dissertation supervisor and the length of the piece will be 12-15,000 words.

Elective course units:

  • British Political Parties This unit explains what British political parties stand for and how they function and interact with other parts of the political system. You will gain knowledge of the 'nuts and bolts'of the parties in question, and will also gain useful insights into the difficulties of political leadership, the centrality of political executives and the interdependence of executives with other parts of the political system.
  • Public Policy This unit examines the policy making process in comparative context. You will gain knowledge about the actors involved in the policy making process: how policy is made and what impact it has on different policy domains in different institutional contexts.
  • Introduction to Qualitative Methods in Politics and International Relations You will be provided with an introduction to core theories and qualitative approaches in politics and international relations. You will examine a number of explanatory/theoretical frameworks, their basic assumptions, strengths and weaknesses, and concrete research applications.You will consider the various qualitative techniques available for conducting search research, the range of decisions qualitative researchers face, and the trade-offs researchers must consider when designing qualitative research.

On completion of the course graduates will have:

  • an advanced knowledge and critical understanding of key concepts, theoretical debates, and developments related to elections, public opinion, public policy and parties
  • a sound knowledge of the texts, theories and methods used to enhance understanding of the issues, processes and phenomena associated with particular fields of inquiry
  • an advanced knowledge and critical understanding of research methods within the disciplines of politics and international relations
  • a solid foundation for progression to either a politics-related career, public policy careers, research or continued academic study.


Assessment is carried out by a variety of methods including coursework, examinations and a dissertation.

Employability & career opportunities

Our graduates are highly employable and, in recent years, have entered many different politics and international relations-related areas, including roles as officials in local government, personnel officers and higher education lecturers. This course also equips you with a solid foundation for continued PhD studies.

Related courses

No related courses have been found.


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