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Posters and Election Propaganda

A blog dedicated to the examination of communications in election campaigns, with a focus on posters

Tagged as “politics”

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 5:41PM   |  Add a comment
Bachelet and her supporters (AP Photo/Luis Hidalgo)

Chile's presidential election takes place in about three weeks; U.S. voters go to the polls in about three years. One thing both countries have in common is that two women—both known by their first names (seen on their posters) are favored to become president, at present.

Former Chilean president Michelle Bachelet ("Michelle" on some posters) is a Socialist, who heads a seven-party coalition called "New Majority."  She is the daughter of a general tortured and killed by the Pinochet dictatorship. Bachelet was the first woman to hold the office of president in Chile, when she won a runoff election in 2005. She could not run for reelection, since presidents cannot hold office for consecutive terms.

According to Joshua Tucker, writing in The Washington Post, "pre-election polls makes it reasonable to assume that if she does not win in the first round (in which an absolute majority of the vote is required), she will win in the runoff" this time around. In the United States, a recent poll had Hillary Clinton ("Hillary" on most of her posters) as the overwhelming favorite to win the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2016 and to beat any Republican challenger.

To read about Chile's last presidential election, which resulted in the election of Sebastián Piñera, a conservative billionaire, in 2010, click here. For more on Chile's past election campaigns, click here. To learn more about election campaigns and poster propaganda in Chile and other countries in Latin America, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:45AM   |  Add a comment
Sarkozy Poster, "La France Forte" (2012)

French President Nicolas Sarkozy's campaign has just issued its first poster, now that he has announced his candidacy for re-election. It shows the Aegean Sea in the background with what appears to be a sunrise. The background photo used, as Stella Tsolakidou notes in the Greek Europe Reporter, "has caused bitter comments from his opponents, who have criticized him both for using a Greek landscape instead of a French one and for the way he treated the Greek debt situation."  

The poster's slogan, “La France Forte” (A strong France), is reminiscent of past slogans in the country's election campaigns, particularly "Il faut une France forte" (We need a strong France; Giscard d’Estaing, 1981).

The photo used by Sarkozy's campaign conveys tranquility, with the sunrise (or sunset?) adding to the feeling of peacefulness, a visualization of another 1981 slogan—for François Mitterrand—"la force tranquille" (conveying calm and steady strength).

Of course, a number of parodies of the Sarkozy poster were soon issued, including "La Trance Forte" (A Strong Trance) and “La France Morte” (A Dead France). Here are three links for some Photoshopped parodies: Humores y amores, laseptiemewilaya, and leParisien.fr

French voters go to the polls on April 22, with a probable runoff scheduled for May 6.

For more on French election campaigns and its poster propaganda, see my book, Posters. Propaganda and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 3:00PM   |  Add a comment
"Cuomoween 2" Flyer/Poster (2010)

Carl Paladino, the Buffalo real estate and development millionaire, who won the New York State Republican gubernatorial primary in September by a landslide and lost by twenty-seven percentage points to his Democratic opponent, Andrew Cuomo, in November ran an unusually negative campaign. Typical were the flyer/posters, which one could download from Paladino's Web site. All told, there were twenty-four designs from his primary and general election campaigns, which included the following (most attacking Cuomo):

  • "Cuomoween 2"
  • "The Usual Suspects"
  • "The Business Council endorsing Cuomo is like asking the Boston Strangle to massage your neck."
  • "Clean up Albany? Start with Cuomo."
  • "No Cojones"

Most flyer/posters of this kind have been positive in the past. More extensive flyers—such as one linking furloughed convict Willie Horton to Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis in 1988—have been negative in the other elections and had a visual or two, with lots of supporting text. But Paladino's designs are really posters, with little text. They are meant to be downloaded and displayed, or sent as email attachments. "The Usual Suspects" is a faux-film poster that shows Cuomo in a yellow zoot suit and accuses him of taking bribes; "Lying Again" illustrates Cuomo as the long-nosed Pinocchio; one "Clean up Albany? Start with Cuomo" has the Democrat soaping up in the shower, and another has him as "Super Mario, Junior," who "has been playing the Albany game for 30 years"; and "Will You Stand with Carl...." has (Albany Democratic) tanks aimed at "One Man."  

Backed by tea-party groups, Paladino declared that he was "mad as hell," and promised to “clean up Albany with a baseball bat.” High unemployment, a record budget deficit, and missed budget deadlines in the state legislature all could have worked in his favor. But his campaign was so inept, that he turned a possible victory into a crushing defeat by threatening a reporter, focusing on secondary issues, and showing up totally unprepared for the one debate. He kept saying that he would reduce spending and taxes, but did not present many details on how he would accomplish these things. In the end, the vast majority of voters felt—as Cuomo's ads stated—that Paladino was "unfit for the office."

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 5:20PM   |  Add a comment
Cameron walking through Chadlington, near his Oxfordshire home, with his wife and children (December 27, 2007). Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA

It is surprising that televised debates—which began in the United States in 1960—just arrived in the United Kingdom this year! After all, British prime ministers have responded to questions posed by the opposition in parliament for hundreds of years, sometimes with outrageous results.

The recent debates among the leaders of the three main British political parties, according to Sarah Lyall (writing in The New York Times) "were meant to provide a corrective to that, replacing the histrionics with gravity and purpose. But their main effect, it seems, has been not to get people thinking about issues so much as to accelerate a different trend entirely—the move to an American-style obsession with personality politics."

In other words, the emphasis is more on image over issues. Many observers of British political campaigns believe that candidates' appearance, charm, likability, eloquence, seeming sincerity, and even family members have become much more important in the U.K.—even though the country is facing grave economic issues. According to MORI pollster Robert Worcester, "[i]mage makes up about 60 percent of the determinants for the floating voter and 40 percent is about issues." [quoted in Reuters]

In the U.S., it is usually critical for a candidate to present him or herself as being in touch with the common person, and that is increasingly the case in the U.K. as well. As Lyall points out, even though Nick Clegg (the Liberal Democrats' leader) and David Cameron (leader of the Conservative Party) come from "posh" or "privileged backgrounds," they were often presented as "down-to-earth" blokes. For example, Cameron is depicted as a man who rides to work on a bicycle, washes the dishes, and spends time with his wife and children.

Image management in politics has taken place in the U.K. for quite awhile, even if it has picked up in the last few decades. Posters distributed during World War II featured the Winston Churchill with planes and tanks in the background. Television spots in the late 1960s showed Conservative leader Edward Heath in a pub and at a football game to try to “humanize” him. By the early 1990s, under Tony Blair’s leadership, the “Americanization” (i.e., more emphasis on personality and image, simplification of problems to a few emphasized issues, targeting of voters, and negative and/or emotional messages) of Labour Party campaigns had begun in earnest, manifest in the inclusion, on posters, of numerous photographs of Blair, who had a winning personality and was quite photogenic.

The recent debates may have made election campaigns in the U.K. even more of "a charisma contest," as Simon Schama wrote in The New Yorker, with the image of Prime Minister Gordon Brown of Labour suffering, since he "still managed to exude a gloomy fatalism," while Cameron was "eager to berate bankers for their wicked bonuses," and Clegg was "fresh of face and forthright and fluent in his opinions, look[ing] straight into the camera."


Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:46PM   |  Add a comment
Bernhard Gillam, "Phryne Before the Chicago Tribunal” (Puck, 1884)

James Blaine (Republican candidate for U.S. president in 1884) was shown covered with tattoos in cartoons that ran during the election campaign that year (even though he didn't have any tattoos, according to Skin&Ink magazine, supplied by Joe Philips).

Bernhard Gillam attacked Blaine in a series of cartoons that were published in Puck, a weekly magazine. Each tattoo represented a scandal in which Blaine was allegedly involved. These cartoons might well have been the difference in a very close contest between Blaine and the Democratic candidate, Grover Cleveland, who won despite exposure, during the campaign, of his premarital affair that had resulted in the birth of a child, and paying a substitute to serve in his place when conscripted for military service in the Civil War.

The election results: Cleveland 48.85%; Blaine 48.28%; John St. John (Prohibition Party) 1.5%; Benjamin Butler (Greenback Party) 1.33%. The difference in New York State, in which these cartoons were widely disseminated, was only one-tenth of 1%, or about 1,100 votes out of over one million cast, according to the excellent Atlas of U.S Presidential Elections (which also supplied the national percentages).

Which politicians actually did have tattoos? Apparently, Barry Goldwater had a crescent-shaped, snake-bite pattern tattoo on his wrist, and Sarah Palin may have a Big Dipper on her ankle and a lipstick liner tattooed on her, as well, according to Celebrity Tattos.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 3:00PM   |  Add a comment
Mumsnet Logo

The influential parenting Web site in Britain, Mumsnet.com, is being used by the political parties to get across their messages to "mommy bloggers." The May election in the U.K. is now being called the "Mumsnet Election," according to Emma Hall in AdAge.com. In fact, the Web site has a section with exactly that title, with links to an article, a survey, a discussion board, leader biographies, and Web chats.

Just as "soccer moms" were a key targeted group for Bill Clinton's 1996 U.S. campaign, middle-class, college-educated mothers are being targeted in this year's British campaign, as Rachel Sylvester points out in the TImes. According to Sylvester, "Labour is planning manifesto pledges to increase paternity leave, allow greater flexibility at work and give more help to those caring for elderly parents. The Tories are also preparing to pitch to the Mumsnet vote with an increase in parental leave...."

Both the Conservative and Labour Parties have developed ads for the Web site and their leaders have participated in online chat sessions with some of the site's users. One Labour ad says, "Are you earning more than 42,000 pounds? Say hello to David [Cameron, the Conservative Party's leader]. And goodbye to your child tax credits. Vote Tory and you'll get less than you bargained for." The Conservative Party's ad exclaims, however, that the party favors child tax credits for people who earn under 78,000 pounds.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:45PM   |  1 comment
Dueling billboards for parliament speaker Volodymyr Lytvyn (left) and former Foreign Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk in downtown Kyiv (2009) (RFE/RL)

The Ukrainian Republic will hold its presidential election on January 17, 2010. A candidate must receive at least 50% in the first round of voting, or a runoff election is held in February between the top two vote-getters. 

According to World Audit, Ukraine is a "qualified democracy," with some concerns expressed about "freedom of the press" and "corruption," although "civil liberties" is rated quite good.

The presidential election of 2004 was considered to be rigged by most observers, and the Orange Revolution resulted in the opposition—led by Viktor Yushchenko and Yulia Tymoshenko—gaining power for two years, and Tymoshenko of the "Fatherland" Party became prime minister after the September 2007 elections.

Eighteen candidates are running for president, including [Poll results in brackets]:

  • Viktor Yanukovych, leader of the pro-Russian Regions Party and a former prime minister [32%]
  • Yulia Tymoshenko, the present prime minister and pro-Ukrainian language [16%]. The posters in the photo state, "Yulia will win."
  • Arseniy Yatseniuk, leader of the center Front for Change Party and former foreign minister [6%].

Billboards are an important medium of political propaganda in the Ukraine, with slogans encapsulating each candidate's campaign, according to Irena Chalupa of Radio Free Europe. Slogans for Tymoshenko include "They strike -- she works," "They block -- she works,"  "They ruin -- she works," and "She works, she will win, she is Ukraine." "They" meant the Ukrainian Parliament. Her hair is usually braided in Ukrainian style. Another candidate, Inna Bohoslovska, however, has billboard's that make fun of Tymoshenko's slogans, with two sloganing: "I will win, so she can stop working," and "I will win, so she can have a rest."

Billboards for Yanukovych aver "Your opinion has been heard. The problem has been solved" and "Ukraine for the people" (similar to the Soviet slogan "Everything for the people"). 

Yatsenyuk's billboards are similar to Shepard Fairey's for Barack Obama in their Photoshoped simplification and stylization (see photo to the right).

There are also lots of TV spots and parties even distributed surgical masks to voters worried about H1N1 flu!

Interestingly, there are several American political consulting firms and individual consultants advising the candidates, including Mark Penn's group (Penn advised Hillary Clinton in 2008), Paul Manafort (for John McCain last year), Tad Devine (for Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004), and AKPD, John Anzalone, and Joel Benenson (for Barack Obama in 2008). Penn's firm is working for Viktor Yushchenko (who is running far behind in the polls); Manafort and Devine are consulting for Yanukovych; AKPD and Anzalone are working for Tymoshenko; Benenson helped Yatseniuk.


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