Political science is the study of politics. It involves the study of structure and process in government - or any equivalent system that attempts to assure safety, fairness, and closure across a broad range of risks and access to a broad range of commons for its human charges. Accordingly, political scientists often study trade unions, corporations, churches or other forms of collective intelligence that are not "political" in the sense of influencing law or executive decisions - but have structure and process approaching that of government in complexity and interconnection.

The term "political science" was first coined in 1880 by Herbert Baxter Adams, a professor of history at Johns Hopkins University.

Political scientists study the allocation and transfer of power in decision making. Because of the complex interaction of often conflicting interests, political science is often an applied instance of game theory.

Since the end of the World War II, the study of International Relations, that is also part of Law, Economy, Sociology, among others, became an important area of Political Science. International Relations has become more independent of Political Science over time, in methodology and the scholars themselves. Some universities have developed programs specifically in conflict resolution and direct democracy, which has come to be seen as relevant domestically as well as internationally.

One thing that complicates the study of political science is that political scientists are themselves part of the political process, since their teachings often provide the frameworks within which other commentators, such as journalists, pressure-groups, politicians and the electorate select options. Political scientists measure success on the basis of many things, including stability, justice, material wealth, and peace.

The complex interplay of economic and political choices is reflected in the field of political economy, where economics and political science overlap.

In the United States, political scientists look at a variety of data including elections, public opinion (on matters ranging from Social Security reform to foreign policy), institutional roles (how the U.S. Congress acts, where congressional power gravitates, how and when the Supreme Court acts, or does not act, etc.).

While historians look backward, seeking to explain the past, political scientists try to illuminate the politics of the present and predict those of the future.

See also: list of literature on political science