I have two objectives in assigning this type of empirical research paper in this introductory class. The first is to help you learn about American politics. The second is to equip you with important analytical skills that will serve you in academic life and in your career after leaving Northwestern.
You will use a computer to analyze responses from over 7,700 respondents in the U.S., U.K., France, and Germany interviewed during 1990-91. The data available for analysis are described in Appendix B of Russell J. Dalton, Citizen Politics, 2nd ed. (1996). The dataset consists of some 70 variables on citizens' attributes and attitudes in these countries. By analyzing these data, you can compare public opinion and citizen behavior in the U.S. with the opinions and behavior of citizens in other countries.
This report suggests several likely paths of investigation to guide your research. It identifies some promising topics that you can analyze with these variables, it proposes lines of analysis, and it warns you about certain pitfalls. You can take it from there. You will be expected to generate the appropriate tables with the Crosstabs procedure in the SPSS statistical package, to interpret the results, and to present your findings in a short paper. (Another section of our web site provides guidelines for writing up your research.)
These suggestions assume that you have read the assigned
chapters in Citizen Politics and The Challenge of
Democracy. Of special help will be Chapter 5 of The
Challenge of Democracy on"Public Opinion and Political
Socialization, for most of the variables deal with public
On page 290, Russell Dalton groups the variable in his dataset under various categories. Here is the same grouping of his variables but this list reports the variables by their names in the SPSS file. So what he calls "V03" is named DISCUSS in the SPSS file and needs to be referenced by DISCUSS and not V03.
As I mentioned in class, the media refers to U.S. citizens as being politically apathetic, but both your texts (Dalton and Janda-Berry-Goldman) say that's a bad rap. True, American tend to vote in elections are lower rates than citizens in most other emocracies, but they participate as much or more in other ways. Why not see for yourself what U.S. respondents claim to do compared with respondents in the other three countries?
As you become familiar with the data and the method, you will probably develop other topics for your papers, but these ideas should get you started.