Lakoff's Theory of Moral Reasoning in Presidential Campaign Advertisements, 1952-2012

Jessy J. Ohl, Damien S. Pfister, Martin Nader, Dana Griffin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


This study examines the presence and distribution of George Lakoff's Strict Father and Nurturant Parent paradigms of moral reasoning in presidential campaign advertisements between 1952 and 2012. Results show that Republicans outpace Democrats in the general use of moral reasoning and that Republicans are far more likely to use Strict Father language than Democrats. The study found no difference in the use of Strict Father/Nurturant Parent morality throughout history, during times of war and recession, or if the candidate was an incumbent. The Strict Father and Nurturant Parent models of moral reasoning were also evaluated based on their relationship to political issues. Findings reveal that Democrats actively avoid Nurturant Parent reasoning when discussing specific social programs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)488-507
Number of pages20
JournalCommunication Studies
Issue number5
StatePublished - Nov 2013


  • Lakoff
  • Moral Reasoning
  • Political Advertising
  • Presidential Campaign

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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