More on Presidential Rhetoric

July 26th, 2011 by Brad

Last time, I took a broad approach to the ways that presidents in the post-WWII era have used the moral foundations in their annual State of the Union speeches. In looking at the ways that the moral foundations have been used overall in these speeches, I didn’t see many differences between the two parties. There were some interesting differences by topic, but I didn’t drill down too far into the differences between Republicans and Democrats by topic.

The figures below show how Democratic and Republican presidents use moral language when speaking about different topics. For example, the first figure shows the proportion of statements that use one of the “Harm/Care” words (see my earlier post for more on the data and methods used here) for each statement. It is no big surprise that both parties are use these words very often when speaking about health issues. Moving down the figure, we can see that Democrats are much more likely to draw on “Harm/Care” language when speaking about the environment than are Republicans. Neither party uses “Harm/Care” rhetoric often when speaking about education.

Harm/Care Foundation

Fairness/Reciprocity Foundation

Ingroup/Loyalty Foundation

Authority/Respect Foundation

Purity/Sanctity Foundation

Several interesting differences between the parties appear when we break out the data by issue. In my next post, I will look more closely at the substance of the differences between the parties.

*[UPDATE] I neglected to credit James Keirstead whose code I liberally borrowed from in constructing the figures above. See this post at his blog for more.

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