Formal Theory & Quantitative Methods
Nearly all areas of political science draw on game-theoretic reasoning and statistical methods. Examples include: bargaining models in the study of international security and legislative policymaking; principal-agent models to study such seemingly different areas as terrorist organizations and elections; models of political-economic interactions to study topics such as redistribution, revolutions, and military capacity; and the use of social choice theory and mechanism design to study judgment, information and preference aggregation in a large array of institutions. Similarly, nearly all areas of political science rely on the analysis of data (either observational or experimental) to draw inferences of some kind. Examples include the use of maximum likelihood methods to test competing theoretical predictions about the effects of oil prices on democratization or the effects of polarization on election outcomes; the proper analysis of randomized experiments to conduct program analysis on policy interventions to influence electoral turnout or government involvement in healthcare; and the use of survey analysis to generate election forecasts or understand the relationship between attitudes toward minorities and politics.
The department of Politics at Princeton is one of the leading departments in the areas of game theory and quantitative methods. At the doctoral level we offer challenging two-year sequences of courses in these areas. The curriculum consists of a math course, four quantitative methods courses and two game-theoretic methods courses. Departmental teaching in formal and quantitative analysis is closely integrated with other parts of the department to help connect training in theory and methods with research traditions, questions and expertise from the other areas. The training at Princeton is designed both for students who plan to specialize in formal and quantitative methods and those who intend to concentrate in other areas but want to gain a strong background in the use of these tools.
For students interested in formal and quantitative analysis, the strengths of Princeton go beyond the Politics department. Students with strong interests in these areas (and certainly those that plan to specialize in either area) also attend graduate courses in the Department of Economics and Woodrow Wilson School. Additionally, students sometimes take undergraduate or graduate courses in the Department of Mathematics. The Political Economy Program, which is a joint doctoral program of the Politics Department, the Woodrow Wilson School and the Economics Department, also offers a field in Political Economy. In addition, the Research Program in Political Economy and Princeton Laboratory for Experimental Social Sciences (joint between Economics, Psychology and Politics) offer grants to support graduate student research, as does the Program in Quantitative and Analytical Political Science.