Electoral Politics: Public Opinion and Voting Behavior

John Zaller

Electoral Politics: Public Opinion and Voting Behavior

Political Science department

John Zaller

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from 21 users


Overall 4.4
Easiness of class 2.5
Workload 2.3
Not Clear
Clarity of professor 3.8
Not Helpful
Helpfulness of professor 4.7


  • Needs Textbook
  • Is Podcasted
  • Engaging Lectures
  • Useful Textbooks
  • Often Funny
  • Would Take Again


Winter 2010

Grade distributions are collected using data from the UCLA Registrar’s Office.

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Quarter Taken: N/A Submitted April 12, 2010 Grade Received: N/A

Pretty easy class grade wise. Its one of those classes you can choose either to do the bare minimum and still get a good grade, or really get involved and learn stuff if you're interested. The only condition is you must do the readings because the quizzes will be based off them and like he says, the quizzes will be easy if you've done the reading but impossible if you haven't. On a personal level, he is very fair and you can tell he cares about how his students do in the class. When the class collectively gets a bad grade on the quiz, he tries to figure out what's wrong and tries to fix it. He even raised the midterm grades for everyone who got below a B by a few points. Definitely take him.

Quarter Taken: N/A Submitted April 1, 2010 Grade Received: N/A

Review of Zaller's 141B: Electoral Poltics--

I highly suggest this course to raise your GPA. This is a ridiculously easy class. I went to very few lectures as every lecture was podcasted. The lectures were not really relevant to the course anyway, though.

There are 5 two or three questions quizzes based on the assigned readings (which were not difficult and even somewhat interesting). They were graded essentially based on whether you generally knew the subject matter. The grading seemed rather easy.

The midterm was a very broad question. I bullshitted my way through it and received an 86%.

The final was a take-home essay in which we were given four days to complete it and turn it in online. I did it the day it was due and wasn't not very happy with it, but I must have received an A because my final grade was an A.

There was extra-credit and even make-up quizzes each week.

Take this class. Zaller is a bit boring and his slides are unbearable, but definitely take this no-brainer course and get the A.

Quarter Taken: N/A Submitted March 26, 2010 Grade Received: N/A

You can tell Zaller is a smart, caring guy - but this class was a little interesting. It was packed in Moore 100 and he does have a soft voice so even with a microphone it was hard to hear. His lectures were podcasted which was perfect because it had great audio quality and zoomed into all his graphs he puts up. I sat through one full lecture and one midterm makeup points session. The rest was on podcasts and it served me well.

Quizzes: 5 quizzes, it gets intense because there were around 3 quizzes in a row back to back. If you do ALL the reading (Which is a lot, but super interesting no matter what you're into) you will get a 100/100. I never not did the reading, so I do not know how others did with slacking off, but they're usually fun reads anyway so do the reading and he will ask a question that only someone who read will know. He offered an extra credit quiz at the end with about 30 pages of reading for anyone that missed a quiz or needed a boost.

Midterm: Bluebook essay. This was a bit confusing. Because I read his books and all the readings and listened to the podcasts, I thought I had it in the bag. The question was a very abstract one that could go in 50 different directions. I got a 75/100. He curved it up to a 83/100 under the condition that we would attend a "essay-writing workshop" so we can figure out what style he is looking for. Not bad considering he gave me an 8 point boost to just attend a workshop for a couple hours. However, I felt I deserved a better grade anyway considering my very high quiz scores.

Final: Another weird one. He gave us a prompt on Saturday and it was due on turnitin.com on Wednesday. The question, once again, was very broad that could have went in many directions. He asked for 5-10 pages - but I could not get past 4 without just adding fluff to it. I spent a good while on it, but knowing Zaller - I could be graded either way. It has been 8 days since the final was due and no update on our scores.

I am currently waiting on my final grade but without my final grade I stand at about an A- because of the quizzes.

Quarter Taken: N/A Submitted March 19, 2010 Grade Received: N/A

Zaller tries VERY hard to be interesting and to keep everyone awake, but he usually just fails. Most people never came to lecture after the first week. He speaks in a very monotone voice and VERY frequently rambles on and on about the simplest point he is trying to make, instead of just making the point. His class was 1hr 40 mins and I think he spends about the first 30 minutes of each class rambling about things not related to the lecture. There were MANY times when I simply just did not have anything to write down. His reading quizzes are pretty easy if you do the reading, but he assigns a TON of reading. A positive is that the readings aren't too dull and are fairly readable. Also, if you don't do the reading, you won't do well on the exam. The midterm is an in-class essay. The main problem with Zaller's exams are that the question he asks is EXTREMELY broad, and you just DON'T know where to begin and where to end. The final is a take-home essay. Again, the question was VERY broad and you pretty much could have included almost anything from the course in your response.

A positive is that Zaller REALLY cares about students. He's always encouraging visits to his office and responds to emails quickly. He wants everyone to succeed and does his best to make sure that happens. The class is by no means an easy A, but it's not the hardest class either. If you do the reading, you should have NO problem getting a B. If you put some effort into it, you'll get the A. You'll just have to deal with a very dull professor and class.

Quarter Taken: N/A Submitted Aug. 12, 2009 Grade Received: N/A

I took Public Opinion with him in winter 09 and I loved the class. Zaller is really smart and cares a lot about making his class fair (which to him means as many people as possible get A's-fine by me). The best part about this class was that he was always really clear about what to expect on the midterm, final, and quizzes, which made them easy to prepare for. Lectures are clear and interesting, even though a two hour class is really effing long.
As people have said before, there were five reading quizzes and a lot of reading to do. You can't really get away with not doing the reading or even just skimming it because the quizzes are usually on details. But if you read carefully the quizzes are pretty easy.
I am not particularly smart and definitely not studious but I got an A just by going to class and doing the reading. The material's really interesting and I feel like I learned a lot. Take this class.

Quarter Taken: N/A Submitted April 5, 2009 Grade Received: N/A

I took both Poli Sci 6 in the fall and Poli Sci 141b in the winter with Professor Zaller. I'll try to explain why I think some people love him and why others disliked his class (especially 141b).

Poli Sci 6 - Grade received: A
The class has a maximum of 50 people or so since it is taught in a computer lab and there are only so many computers available. This class was phenomenal, well structured, and very doable. It is a FAR better option for people who are taking it instead of Stats 10. The focus was almost entirely on data analysis (taking data and making graphs, then looking at them to figure out what they really say). The class almost entirely avoided statistics and intense math, which made me happy. There were various homework assignments, and some took longer than others, since it can be difficult to make STATA (the program you have to use to make the graphs/charts) do what you want it to do. There was a moderate amount of work, with a midterm (easy) and a final (somewhat harder), but if you pay attention and really make use of his notes online, you should be able to do them well. He explains every step of every topic VERY well, making sure everyone is up to speed. Overall, a lot of the skills are useful and you walk out feeling like you learned valuable information. A major upside to Zaller is that while you may feel that you turned in an assignment that will get a low grade, often times he and his TAs grade exceedingly easy. As a side note, I personally found the midterm and final review sessions to be a waste of time, since he didn't really specify anything that isn't in his notes.

Poli Sci 141b - Grade received: A
Coming from PS6, I was excited to take another class with Zaller, and the title of the course seemed interesting. There were 371 students in the class (packed) and no TAs. (This is really significant, in my opinion, but I'll get to that in a bit). As other people have said, there were 5 quizzes, 1 midterm, and a take-home final that consisted of two 3-4 page essays. There was a TON of reading for this class, and the quizzes were sometimes unfair in that he would ask any random concept from 5 pages of the reading. That said, he gives a 6th quiz at the end to replace any one quiz that you may have messed up on. (I screwed up the first, but made up for it and also got easy extra credit points to make up for it on other quizzes.) He and his grader assigned a really tough midterm essay, but graded it exceedingly easily. That can be a good thing (high grade), or a bad thing (not really understanding his arguments and walking out feeling stupid), depending on how you see it. The final was easier to do since it was take-home, although he really should have assigned it earlier instead of waiting until the last minute to make the test. I received an A, but this was the hardest class I've taken so far, largely because he was so disorganized in his arguments and I tended to get lost half-way through. I wouldn't recommend this class as much as PS6 with Zaller, but it isn't a course to "avoid like the plague" like other classes are.

I believe that everything comes down to TAs. If you are taking a class with Zaller and it has TAs, you should be ok. If not, things will get difficult. The reason I say this is that Zaller is a very strange guy. He's undeniably brilliant, revered by the entire department, but he's quirky and needs to be grounded by assistants. In my PS6 class, all three TAs worked together to make sure he didn't assign any ridiculous questions that he initially wanted to do. They kept him in check and the class was amazing because of it. I've heard that all three TAs were great at explaining, and they rotate in grading, so you can't really go that wrong. Without TAs, Zaller will go off on 6 different tangents and expect you to keep up. It gets frustrating, but at least he's soft when it comes to emails and will modify things to make it easier to get a higher grade. In either class, definitely email him with any complaints or suggestions. He listens, then swears he won't make any more exceptions, then modifies again and gives an extra credit question, or make up quiz, or whatever. He's strange in person, but a good professor to email. Hopefully this all makes sense. If there are TAs, you should have a great class. If not, be careful, since it may get confusing and frustrating as to what he expects/wants.

Quarter Taken: N/A Submitted March 21, 2009 Grade Received: N/A

There was three aspects to his class- 5 quizes, 1 in class midterm, and 1 takehome final.
First, the quizes took wayyyy too much time to prepare for. There was about 120-200 pages of reading you had to do almost every week. The quizes would end up being 1 question quizes that were hit or miss, which was totally unfiar.

This class is just basically very disorganized and it felt like the class was an after-thought to him, like he didn't really care. For example, he hadn't thought of the question for the final exam until the weekend of finals week,and he could care less that we all had other finals we had to prepare for. He also wanted to completely change the syllabus DURING WEEK 6. He wanted to add two in-class exams. This should give you an idea of how disorderly he is. His lectures ran the entire hour and 50 minutes, which was not easy to sit through becasue he would ramble on, never give explain the point of what he was saying, and spoke in a low, monotone voice.

My biggest complaint about this class is that he never ended up talking about what the class was supposed to be about- public opinion and voting behavior. So if you're interested in taking the class becasue your interested in the topic, BE WARNED!

The upisde to his class- the lectures were video recorded and put on bruincast.

Quarter Taken: N/A Submitted March 19, 2009 Grade Received: N/A

Dont take a class with Zaller, he makes no sense during lectures and changes the structure and the format of the class every other week, I would suggest taking a class with someone else, this class is far to unorganized and takes up way to much time, the topic could be a lot of fun, but Zaller kills it for me and everyone else in class, avoid the guy

Quarter Taken: N/A Submitted March 11, 2009 Grade Received: N/A

I took Zaller for 141B and I would not recommend taking this class with him. He has really hard quizzes every week, that you need to spend hour studying for. His lectures are extremely boring and hard to follow. I attended every class and did all of the assigned reading, but do not feel like I learned anything from lectures, due to his monotonous teaching style. Dont get me wrong he is a terrific researcher, but not a great teacher. He must have been different for PS 6, because that is where all the good reviews are coming from.

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  • Needs Textbook
  • Is Podcasted
  • Engaging Lectures
  • Useful Textbooks
  • Often Funny
  • Would Take Again

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