CUREJ - College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal

Partisan Issue Linkages in Presidential Campaign Speeches: A Case Study of Abortion

Ashutosh Mishra, University of Pennsylvania

Division: Social Sciences

Dept/Program: Political Science

Document Type: Undergraduate Student Research

Mentor(s): Rogers M. Smith, Meghan Crnic

Date of this Version: 01 April 2019



This study examined how presidential candidates used partisan issue linkages to discuss their abortion views over the 2008, 2012, and 2016 elections. It qualitatively examined 64 speeches, town halls, and interviews in which candidates spoke about abortion to identify trends in their rhetoric. It also measured the frequencies with which candidates used partisan messages, specific vocabulary, and issue linkages. As candidates employed stronger and more partisan issue linkages across these three elections, they transformed abortion from a stand-alone issue to one entrenched in a partisan policy package. The development of Planned Parenthood as a symbol for pro-choice positions in 2012 enabled candidates to make different and more partisan issue linkages. This study further identified candidates’ changing strategies for discussing abortion, including differences along party lines and over time. These findings carry implications for politicians, voters, and scholars alike. They suggest that the abortion debate is dynamic and deserving of ongoing research. Future studies on partisan rhetoric should account for issue linkages to more accurately examine trends in partisanship.


American Politics

Suggested Citation

Mishra, Ashutosh, "Partisan Issue Linkages in Presidential Campaign Speeches: A Case Study of Abortion" 01 April 2019. CUREJ: College Undergraduate Research Electronic Journal, University of Pennsylvania,

Date Posted: 17 May 2019




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