Thou art in a deal: Trump and references to God

By Ceri Hughes

In the previous newsletter, I outlined the finding from my research which indicated that Donald Trump is apparently the most pious man to sit in the Oval Office during the last century or so. To be more precise, the research found that he uses religious terms and explicit references to God in his major public addresses at a significantly higher rate than all presidents from FDR forward.

Ceri Hughes

This intriguing finding demanded a sequel and, so you don’t have to, I examined 175 campaign rally speeches by Trump and 30,000+ tweets to further detail his use of religious language in public communications. Campaign rally speeches were split into three periods: those delivered during the primary season, those delivered while he was the Republican nominee and those delivered at rallies while president. There was very little religious language early in the campaign, but the rate of use of both “faith terms” and “God terms” increases sharply between the primary and nominee periods, continuing at the higher rate during the presidency period.

Nominee speeches were also examined by state. States were split into equal quartiles dependent on the average level of religiosity of residents of the state. A clear and significant trend was found–a higher rate of faith and God terms were used in states with more religious populations. This suggests that either Trump, when going off-script, was able to tweak his religious messaging, or that speech writers would up the religious content where appropriate.

On Twitter, citizen Trump (prior to announcing his candidacy) used almost no religious language. Primary candidate and nominee Trump used slightly more, but President Trump uses such language at a much higher rate. Again, this change either comes from Trump’s personal tweeting or staffers writing the tweets.

It seems that either the importance of religion is increasing to Trump personally, or the importance of the religious is increasing to Trump politically.

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