Communication Studies, Department of


Date of this Version



Ohl, J., Pfister, D.S., Nader, M., & Griffin, D. (2013). Lakoff’s theory of moral reasoning in Presidential campaign advertisements, 1952-2008. Communication Studies 64 (5): 488-507. doi: 10.1080/10510974.2013.832340


Copyright © 2013 Central States Communication Association; published by Taylor & Francis Group. Used by permission.


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.