New undergrad politics, policy course offers opportunities to work with survey research data

June 28, 2016
Caption: Michigan State Capitol Building
Credit: Photo by Matt Katzenberger, CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

The Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP) is offering a new undergraduate course for students looking for opportunities to work with survey research data.

“Michigan Politics and Policy” (PubPol 475), which will be offered by CLOSUP Project Manager Debra Horner this fall, uses datasets from the Michigan Public Policy Survey (MPPS) to investigate state and local politics and policy.

“Most courses in state and local government are very general,” says Horner, “but rather than focus on the theoretical side of federalism, we’ll be looking at practical policy applications in a particular context.”

Using Michigan as a case study, students will explore a broad range of state and local policy challenges:

  • Public education, including charter schools and the Detroit public school system;
  • Justice and corrections, including drug laws, public safety, and prisoner reentry programs;
  • Economic development, including diversifying Michigan’s economic portfolio with technology, green energy, service industries, and more; and
  • Local government finance, including Michigan’s controversial emergency financial management and right to work laws. 

In addition, the course will include an introduction to survey research with an opportunity to obtain hands-on experience interpreting and analyzing data from the Michigan Public Policy Survey. Students will have the chance to identify new findings using data sets that have been analyzed by few other researchers.

"Michigan is a particularly rich case study for anyone with an interest in state and local government," says Horner of the course. 

Michigan is one of the biggest states. With over 1,200 township governments, in addition to cities, villages, and counties, the number of local decision-makers in Michigan is enormous. The leadership is Republican, but the base is largely Democratic. And Michigan has been in the national spotlight over the last several years with the Flint water crisis, the Detroit bankruptcy, emergency financial management, right to work laws, and more.

After surveying the landscape of policy challenges, students will choose a policy area to explore in depth, using recent survey data in their analyses (some of these course papers may be disseminated via the CLOSUP website). 

“Michigan Politics and Policy” is the first course to be offered by the Ford School’s Center for Local, State, and Urban Policy (CLOSUP). In the winter 2017 semester, CLOSUP Project Manager Sarah Mills will offer a second course on energy and environmental policy.