Do Introductory Political Science Courses Contribute to a Racial “Political Efficacy Gap”? Findings from a Panel Survey of a Flagship University
by Miguel Centellas, University of Mississippi and
Cy Rosenblatt, University of Mississippi
In a panel study of more than 1,000 students enrolled in introductory political science courses at the University of Mississippi, a flagship public university, Miguel Centellas and Cy Rosenblatt tested whether completing an introductory political science course had a positive effect on political efficacy, an individual’s belief that he or she can understand and influence politics, between start and end of semester. They found that, when ignoring race and gender differences, completing an introductory political science course had little or no impact on students’ self-reported measures of political efficacy. However, they found that by end of semester, a significant “efficacy gap” had developed between black and white students at the end of the semester, even after controlling for factors such as background characteristics and course performance (grades). These findings raise important questions about the “civic” function of the undergraduate political science curriculum, particularly regarding racial political inequalities.