US Politics: Elections, Presidents, Laws


This unit offers a comprehensive understanding of US political institutions and political culture. The American electoral system and recent presidential elections are examined, as are the careers of American presidents from the 1960s onwards. US public policies in the areas of race, welfare, and criminal justice are also analysed. The unit addresses key questions such as: Why do Americans have such a strong sense of exceptionalism? How much can presidents really achieve? Is the Congress more powerful than the president? Is the Congress dysfunctional? Is the American electoral system a strength or a weakness? Why is inequality so pronounced in the US and are politicians serious about reducing inequality?

Sam Johnson
"The lectures were engaging and I enjoyed the unique approach the Centre took to studying US politics and culture." Sam Johnson, Bachelor of Arts

Learning outcomes

The central aim of the unit is to provide students with a strong understanding of US politics.

Students will receive a solid overview of the key areas of American political culture, institutions, elections and public policy. The unit will also examine public policy issues to provide students with a detailed knowledge of how US society is organised and what we can learn (both positive and negative) from American approaches.

The unit's systematic framework will give students the ability to analyse the US, while encouraging them to see the contradictions within, and the complexity of, American society.

Students will develop the following skills within this course:

  • Communication - oral and written skills
  • Research skills
  • Problem solving and decision making
  • Conceptual and analytical skills

The fine print

Taught in Semester 1, 2021
1 x 3-hour seminar per week

45% major paper (2000-2500 words)
45% exam (2 hours)
10% participation

More details
Visit the University of Sydney website for information about fees, cross-institutional and non-award study, and more.

Unit coordinator