Petitioners or Prophets? Presidential Discourse, God, and the Ascendancy of Religious Conservatives


Kevin Coe; e-mail:


This research examines similarities and variance in modern U.S. presidential religious language and how such patterns might be connected to broader political movements, particularly the contemporary influence of Christian fundamentalists and evangelicals. We analyzed presidents’ Inaugural and State of the Union addresses from Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 to George W. Bush in 2005 for the presence of “God talk” and emphasis on freedom and liberty, two principles of great importance to religious conservatives. Results indicate that the presidency of Ronald Reagan was a watershed moment for religious discourse in American presidential politics and that the religious communications of Reagan and George W. Bush—two presidents with prominent political ties to conservative Christians—differ in important ways from that of other presidents.