Senior Theses

Publication Date


Document Type

Thesis (Open Access)

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in Sociology


Sociology and Anthropology

Faculty Advisor(s)

Amy Orr & Rob Gardner

Subject Categories

Health Communication | Social Influence and Political Communication | Sociology


In the world of politics, language can be the difference between success and failure. Through language, we are able to communicate and understand one another, and it is important to critically analyze the language used by public figures in order to gain insight into their goals and attitudes. This study examines the language used by Barack Obama and Mitt Romney during the 2012 presidential election. Specifically, the study explores the ways in which Romney and Obama utilized frames, or the mental structures that shape the way they see the world. A sample of each candidate’s rhetoric and language was analyzed, using the topic of health care as a lens through which to study how both used language regarding health care policy. The frames chosen by Obama and Romney provide insight into each candidate’s political party ideology, particularly with regard to the ways in which the language used by each reinforced (or negated) worldviews traditionally held by Democrats or Republicans, respectively. The results are discussed in terms of George Lakoff’s family model of morality, which asserts that Democrats base values in government on a nurturant parent model of the family, while Republicans base values on a strict father model. Though Romney and Obama tended to use frames associated with their respective political party, examples of both family models were found in the rhetoric of both candidates, suggesting a moderate political ideology for each.