University of Essex

University of Essex

Public Opinion and Political Behaviour

Surveys provide political headlines and are increasingly used in political strategising and campaigning; but how do they work and what are their limitations? How do citizens acquire information and convert it into opinions? Can politicians and the media influence public opinion and if so, how? The 1st core module will introduce you to the latest theoretical debates about the nature, significance and measurement of public opinion. You then explore when and how these opinions translate into political participation and influence political elites. The 2nd core module allows you to develop sophisticated statistical skills and learn how to employ them in analysing public opinion. You can also take other compulsory and optional modules and write a dissertation on a topic in public opinion or political behaviour. We provide you with the background knowledge and practical skills needed to undertake surveys of public opinion and give you the skills required by anyone seeking employment in the polling and market research industry. You will develop key employability skills including analytical reasoning, survey design, polling, research design, quantitative analysis, data analysis and report writing.

Entry requirements

Our applicants should have a 1st, 2.1 or high 2.2 degree (or equivalent) in a relevant social science like politics, international relations, economics, political economy or sociology. Degrees from other subjects may be considered where there is evidence of some mathematical training, statistical background and relevant work experience, although you will be required to submit a personal statement with your application form. If English is not your 1st language, then we require IELTS 6.5 or equivalent.

Course modules

Core modules: Advanced research methods; public opinion and political behaviour; theory and explanation in political science; dissertation. Optional modules include: Advanced research methods; comparative European politics; conflict resolution; contemporary theories of justice; ideology and political discourse; international environmental politics; international security studies; political economy; political explanation; political parties in Britain and Europe; political theory; public opinion and political behaviour; research design; research seminar in political theory and methods; survey measurement and question design; theories of international relations; theory and explanation in political science.

Assessment methods

Coursework and exams, although some are 100 per cent coursework. Your coursework comes in the form of essays, simulations, presentations and in-class tests, with a dissertation required for all taught courses. Your research-based dissertation counts for 60 credits and you will take 120 credits of modules, 90 credits of compulsory modules and a further 30 credits made up from a selection of 30 and 15 credit modules. (If you are from the EU, then our Master's courses are regarded as 2nd-cycle qualifications under the Bologna Declaration and consist of 90 ECTS credits)

Sponsorship information

Research councils and some University of Essex studentships available.


Qualification Study mode Fee Course duration
MA Full-time £ 7,725 per Academic year (home fees) 12 months
MA Full-time £ 14,950 per Academic year (overseas fees) 12 months
MSc Full-time £ 7,725 per Academic year (home fees) 12 months
MSc Full-time £ 14,950 per Academic year (overseas fees) 12 months
MA Part-time £ 3,750 per Academic year (home fees) 24 months
MA Part-time £ 6,750 per Academic year (overseas fees) 24 months
MSc Part-time £ 3,750 per Academic year (home fees) 24 months
MSc Part-time £ 6,750 per Academic year (overseas fees) 24 months

Campus details

Campus name Town Postcode Region Main campus Campus Partner
Colchester Campus Colchester CO4 3SQ South East

Key information

Graduate Administrator, Department of Government
Telephone number: 
01206 872719