First Advisor

Brian Renauer

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Science (B.S.) in Criminology and Criminal Justice and University Honors


Criminology and Criminal Justice


Drug control -- United States, Drug traffic -- United States, Drug abuse and crime, Rhetoric -- Political aspects




There has been a massive rise in the prison population over the last several decades, in the United States, due to the ongoing "War on Drugs." This "War on Drugs" has had an especially negative impact on poor and minority communities. In order to better understand why this "War on Drugs" has occurred this thesis illustrates the potential mechanisms through which the drug related rhetoric of presidents might have influenced the public's perception of the drug issue and the government’s handling of it in the United States. To illustrate these mechanisms a literature review related to this topic is completed and there is an analysis of pieces of drug related rhetoric made by each president from Richard Nixon through our current president Barack Obama. In doing this a framework is created that helps make sense of how rhetoric has likely influenced the "get tough" approach to dealing with the drug problem that has been employed over the last thirty to forty years. It is concluded that some of the solutions to the drug issue offered by presidents to the public in the rhetoric, that is analyzed, do not adequately address the social reality they are supposed help.


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