Roger W. Cobb an expert in Political symbolism

In a field of study with little to no true experts, Roger W. Cobb comes through as one of the most knowledgeable political scientists with a focus on the symbolism and meaning behind the symbols of politics in the United States. As a professor of political science at Brown University, Cobb has authored many books, essays and articles on American politics, political thinking, political symbolism, and agenda-making, and is recognized as a highly knowledgeable scholar on these topics.


Roger W. Cobb graduated from University of Washington with a B.A. in Political Science in 1962, from University of California Los Angeles with a Masters in Political Science in 1964, and finally Northwestern University with a Ph.D. in Political Science in 1967. Immediately after graduating with his Ph.D., Cobb was hired as an assistant professor of political science at University of Pennsylvania, before moving on to become an assistant professor at fellow Ivy League school Brown University in 1973. In 1981 he became a full time professor of political science at Brown before becoming Chair of the Department of Political Science at Brown, one of the highest ranked politically science programs in the country, from 1985-1988. He stepped down from being chair of the department to focus more on his personal writing and research, and remains a professor of various political studies at Brown, including a course on the uses of symbols in American politics.


Cobb spoke quite specifically about the effects of symbols on American politics in a book written by him and Roger W. Cobb while working as an assistant professor at University of Pennsylvania, titled The Political Uses of Symbolism. In this writing, Cobb speaks very specifically about his beliefs on both the wide use of symbols in American politics, as well as how knowing and understanding political symbolism can allow someone to take advantage of this knowledge and use it to aid them in their political endeavors. In this work, Cobb quotes "Symbols provide important cues for behavior and relieve the individual of the burdens of the search for information and deliberative decision-making" to speak of how the use of symbols creates preconceived notions in the minds of voters and can draw them toward a candidate without even hearing the candidates beliefs or platform. He continues to speak about how symbols are used to create a feeling of similarity between politicians and their constituents, in order to create the familiarity that often drives people's votes.


International Community: A Regional and Global Study. New York: Holt, 1970 (co-authored)

Participation in American Politics; The Dynamics of Agenda Building. Boston: Allyn Bacon, 1971 (co-authored)

The Political Uses of Symbols Longman Press, 1983 (co-authored)

The Politics of Problem Definition: Shaping the Policy Agenda. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1994 (co-edited)

Plus many other authored and edited works


Recipient of the Theodore Lowi Award for the best article in Policy Science Journal for the year 1993. Awarded by the Policy Studies Organization in New York City in September, 1994.

Recipient of the 1998 Aaron Wildavsky Enduring Contribution Award honoring a book published in the last twenty years which continues to influence the study of public policy.

Awarded for Participation in American Politics by the Organized Section on Public Policy of the American Political Science Association.

Recipient of the William G. McLoughlin Award for Teaching Excellence in the Social Sciences for 2001-2002.

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