“One Nation Under God”: The System-Justifying Function of Symbolically Aligning God and Government


Journal Article

© 2016 International Society of Political Psychology Do references to God in political discourse increase confidence in the U.S. sociopolitical system? Using a system justification framework (Jost & Banaji,), five studies provide evidence that, (1) increasingly governments symbolically associate the nation with God when public confidence in the social system may be threatened and (2) associating the nation with God serves a system-justifying function by increasing public confidence in the system. In an analysis of U.S. presidential speeches, presidents were more likely to symbolically associate the nation with God during threatening times (Study 1). Among religious individuals, referencing God in political rhetoric increased the perceived trustworthiness of politicians, compared to patriotic secular rhetoric (Study 2) or simply priming the concept of God (Study 3). These effects were also unique to politicians from one's own sociopolitical system (Study 4). Finally, believing God has a plan for the United States attenuates the deleterious effect that perceptions of national decline have on system confidence (Study 5). Implications for the system-justifying function of religion are discussed.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Shepherd, S; Eibach, RP; Kay, AC

Published Date

  • October 1, 2017

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 38 / 5

Start / End Page

  • 703 - 720

Electronic International Standard Serial Number (EISSN)

  • 1467-9221

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0162-895X

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1111/pops.12353

Citation Source

  • Scopus