Fall 2021 - CMNS 432 E100

Political Communication, Public Opinion and Political Marketing (4)

Class Number: 6089

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Mo 4:30 PM – 8:20 PM
    AQ 3003, Burnaby

  • Prerequisites:

    75 units including at least two CMNS or DIAL upper division courses, with a minimum grade of C-.



Examines the core paradox of the political discourse in a democratic society today. Despite rising levels of education and citizen access to 24-hour news, public affairs and contemporary forms of satire, voting turnout in most advanced democracies is declining. We look at how politics is defined and meaning is mediated within the communicative public sphere during and between elections. Students with credit for CMNS 486 under this topic may not take this course for further credit.


This course develops a critical understanding of political discourse in our evolving democratic society, working from theories of political economy, media studies, as well as feminist, postcolonial, and critical theory. As a participatory seminar, students will engage with different understandings of power, communication, social relations among groups, as well as issues of governmentality. We will look at how politics is defined and meaning is mediated through different elements of political communication, such as political speeches, government policy, and electoral politics.

We look at how governments, ‘states’, and other dominant groups use power and communication to govern, persuade, and control populations; and ask questions such as: what are “good” politics and “bad” politics? Conversely, what makes “good” political communication that empowers citizens, allows collective decisions, enables sustainable democracies, and mediates extremism?  And how does one pass judgements about “bad” political communications, that demobilize citizens, deceive political actors, or drive wedges amongst peoples to help the powerful preserve power?

This seminar places a strong emphasis on engaging with political discourse by participating in discussion, analyzing rhetoric and writing opinion pieces. As part of the course, students will create and present their own political communication--including a short public speech. It is open to students taking the Dialogue Minor.


  • To enable students to identify different types of power, and how political institutions channel power through communicative media.
  • To explore and critically analyze contemporary forms of political communication.
  • To produce two short, expressive pieces of political writing: a speech, and an editorial.
  • To write an advanced academic argument.
  • To create space for summative self–reflection on the craft of political communication.


  • Weekly News Summaries 20%
  • Seminar Participation and Attendance 10%
  • Political Speech (In-Class, 5-7 Minutes) 20%
  • Op Ed Piece (750 Words) 20%
  • In-Class Debate 10%
  • Final Project Paper and Presentation 20%


The School expects that the grades awarded in this course will bear some reasonable relation to established university-wide practices with respect to both levels and distribution of grades. In addition, the School will follow Policy S10.01 with respect to Academic Integrity, and Policies S10.02, S10.03 and S10.04 as regards Student Discipline. [Note: as of May 1, 2009 the previous T10 series of policies covering Intellectual Honesty (T10.02), and Academic Discipline (T10.03) have been replaced with the new S10 series of policies.]



Readings will be available on Canvas.

Registrar Notes:


SFU’s Academic Integrity web site http://www.sfu.ca/students/academicintegrity.html is filled with information on what is meant by academic dishonesty, where you can find resources to help with your studies and the consequences of cheating.  Check out the site for more information and videos that help explain the issues in plain English.

Each student is responsible for his or her conduct as it affects the University community.  Academic dishonesty, in whatever form, is ultimately destructive of the values of the University. Furthermore, it is unfair and discouraging to the majority of students who pursue their studies honestly. Scholarly integrity is required of all members of the University. http://www.sfu.ca/policies/gazette/student/s10-01.html


Teaching at SFU in fall 2021 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with approximately 70 to 80 per cent of classes in person/on campus, with safety plans in place.  Whether your course will be in-person or through remote methods will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

Enrolling in a course acknowledges that you are able to attend in whatever format is required.  You should not enroll in a course that is in-person if you are not able to return to campus, and should be aware that remote study may entail different modes of learning, interaction with your instructor, and ways of getting feedback on your work than may be the case for in-person classes.

Students with hidden or visible disabilities who may need class or exam accommodations, including in the context of remote learning, are advised to register with the SFU Centre for Accessible Learning (caladmin@sfu.ca or 778-782-3112) as early as possible in order to prepare for the fall 2021 term.