In their book, “New Directions in Political Communication,” David L. Swanson and Dan Nimmo define “political communication” as “the strategic use of communication to influence public knowledge, beliefs, and actions on political matters.” For them, understanding persuasion and political discourse is essential for this discipline.
USC offers a political science major that combines the study of political institutions and systems with inspection of public attitudes, engagement and thinking. Such a degree permits students to understand citizens’ relationships with the government.
The University also allows students to obtain a communication major, specializing in theoretical and critical knowledge of how messages should be articulated to the public. This degree offers concentrations in politics, diplomacy, entertainment, technology and government studies. However, while these two separate majors teach students critical skills in various fields, it does not do enough for those looking to work in politics.
When comparing these two separate degrees, political science and communication intersect in how individuals express their ideas and opinions through political, electoral and governmental institutions. However, an interdisciplinary degree of political communication would combine the two and specialties in studying from three viewpoints: a downwards perspective towards citizens, a horizontal point of view of linkages through political actors and an upward view of public opinion favoring those in charge.
Political communication allows students to specifically learn strategies that allow them to be the interface of political messaging. Whether it is as a policy advocate or a campaign executive, the integrative major does what political science and communication cannot as separate majors.
According to the Princeton Review, an undergraduate degree in political communication is not only marketable but allows students to pursue jobs in political consulting, public affairs, political journalism, public diplomacy, speechwriting and political advertising. Thus, the degree is very versatile and allows people to work in the public or private sector. It also lets students utilize strategic communication to influence public knowledge, beliefs and action on matters facing the nation.
However, USC does not offer a bachelor’s degree in political communication to its students. While there is a master of public diplomacy program at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, there is no undergraduate degree equivalent, and this master’s degree prioritizes the intersection between communication and global affairs, instead of the political sphere.
There are three Annenberg minors that incorporate political science themes, but they are not enough to specialize in political communication. The communication policy and law minor combines courses in communication, law, ethics and the business of communication, with less emphasis on politics. The cultural diplomacy minor focuses on issues and engagement in the cultural sphere, with foreign policy being a focal component. The justice, voice and advocacy minor understands identity and community through theory, impact and change.
However, these minors do not fully consolidate political science characteristics into a general communication degree. Moreover, they do not contain communication-esque specializations, emphasizing politics, law and public policy in relation to communication.
While it is possible for an individual to create a political communication degree through USC’s Interdisciplinary Major Program, a program for students whose academic interests extend beyond a single field, doing so is impractical. While political communication has been chosen in the past as an accepted major topic, the program is highly competitive, with a faculty committee selecting what they view as the “best candidates,” then identifying specific courses for the student to take.
Two Annenberg courses, “Argumentation and Advocacy” and “Campaign Communication,” could fall under the political communication program if the undergraduate major were to be established at USC. Currently, they only count for communication credits, even though “Argumentation and Advocacy” examines advocacy in law, politics and organizations, and “Campaign Communication” covers the creation of an informed electorate, the use of mass media and factors in voter persuasion.
Politics and communications often overlap, and a political communication degree could highlight the different ways this medium affects institutions and the people they represent. It would prepare students to function at the highest levels of government, public service and media entities. There is no real reason not to add this undergraduate major. USC is a top-tier school — adding an exceptional political communication major will only heighten its relevance in 21st century society and build more world leaders in the coming decade.