The United States is the greatest economic and military power in the contemporary world. It is also the oldest democracy, with the oldest written constitution. Colorful elections, a powerful judiciary, an independent national legislature, meaningful federalism, great racial diversity and conflict, frequent periods of heavy immigration, and a host of other distinctive features of American life have fascinated students of politics since the eighteenth century. In consequence, many central theoretical concepts that helped us understand other countries have had their origin in the study of American politics and institutions.
At Princeton, more than a dozen faculty members study the politics of the United States. The faculty provide substantial depth in nearly all aspects of the topic, and their work reflects a range of theoretical and methodological approaches.
American Politics as a field of study is conventionally divided into Institutions and Behavior. Institutions includes the study of the presidency, Congress, the bureaucracy, and the courts. State and local political institutions are also included, as is the study of public law.
Behavior comprises public opinion, voting, and empirical democratic theory, defined broadly to include the study of representation, protest, religion and politics, racial and other forms of prejudice, and gender equality.
Princeton’s great strength in both Institutions and Behavior, backed by deep expertise in modern research tools, means that no aspect need be neglected in a student’s education. Depth and breadth and powerful intellectual integration are the hallmarks of a Princeton education in American Politics.
A rich group of allied units in the University also support the study of American Politics:
The Center for the Study of Democratic Politics was created as a research program supporting empirical research on democratic political processes and institutions, primarily but not exclusively in the contemporary American setting. The Center sponsors graduate students whose research sheds light on fundamental issues of democratic governance. It also supports one-year pre- and post-doctoral fellows, and it maintains an ambitious schedule of outside speakers.
Princeton’s Program in American Studies and Program in African-American Studies are wide-ranging in their interests, some of which relates to American politics. Both programs facilitate interdisciplinary study by students and faculty.