Posters and Election Propaganda About this blog

Posters and Election Propaganda

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

Tagged as “election campaign”

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Posted by Steven Seidman at 12:30PM   |  6 comments
Magyar Democratic Forum, "Comrades, the End!" (1990)

The Hungarian parliamentary elections are set for April 11 and 25. Hungary has had democratic elections since it ended Soviet domination in 1989.

The center-right Hungarian Civic Union (Fidesz) is favored to win by a large margin over the ruling Socialists by promising to boost the economy by cutting taxes, as well as cutting debt, according to Reuters. One poll shows Fidesz with 47% backing and the party in power with only 12%. As in the United States, job creation is key, with unemployment in both countries around 10%.

Two other parties have some support: the right-wing Jobbik (9%) and the conservative Magyar Democratic Forum (3%).

The Democratic Forum (MDF) won Hungary’s first victory post-Communist parliamentary election in 1989, but has been in decline since and needs to attract at least 5% of the total vote to gain any of the seats available by proportional representation. Hungary's electoral system is complicated (click here for more on it, as well as results of recent elections).

After the withdrawal of Soviet troops, the Hungarian Communist Party disbanded and reestablished itself as the Hungarian Socialist Party.

The posters displayed in Hungarian election campaigns are often quite creative. One MDF poster featured a trash bin, along with symbols of the old regime (i.e., a statue of Stalin, Mao’s and Kim Il Sung’s writings, the Communist Party newspaper); another illustrated the back of a bullnecked Soviet soldier, and pasted over his hat the message “Comrades, the End!” in Russian (see figure). The MDF raised funds by selling thousands of copies of this poster. Moreover, its imagery had such appeal that it resurfaced in 1991 in demonstrations in the Baltic countries.

Hungary had earlier experienced democracy. In 1848, a “peaceful revolution,” led by Lajos Kossuth, freed the country from the Austrian Habsburg Empire and a constitutional monarchy was created, which was short lived. To learn more about the political history and election posters of Hungary, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.

Posted by Steven Seidman at 12:00PM   |  Add a comment
Latinos for Obama Logo (2008) (

In the video posted below, Bill Whittle, on Pajamas TV, makes some good points (made by many, including this blogger) about the importance of branding and graphic design in politics, rightly pointing to the Obama logo as brilliant, but also overdoing it by calling the logo and its use symptomatic of a "cult of the personality."

There is no doubt, however, that the team commissioned by the Obama campaign developed a distinctive logo, which helped establish a brand of "hope" and "change" for the candidate, and succeeded—just like the logos for Nike and Apple—to gain recognition and which communicated the "essence" of the "product."

[Thanks to Sean Quinn for alerting me to this video.]

Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:05PM   |  2 comments
Hope Book Cover

Three books with posters that promoted Barack Obama for president of the U.S. last year have just been released:

  • Hope: A Collection of Obama Posters and Prints by Hal Elliott Wert. With more than 170 posters (many little known) from Wert's collection and a foreword by Ray Noland, the street artist who created "The Dream." Wert is a professor at the Kansas City Art Institute.
  • Design for Obama. Posters for Change: A Grassroots Anthology, edited by Spike Lee and Aaron Perry-Zucker, with an essay by Steven Heller. A selection of posters from Heller is Co-chair of the School of Visual Arts MFA Designer as Author Program and writes a column on visual design for the The New York Times Book Review. You can leaf through the book on the publisher's Web site.
  • Art for Obama: Designing Manifest Hope and the Campaign for Change, edited by Shepard Fairey and Jennifer Gross. Fairey, of course, is the controversial street artist who created the most prominent image of Obama. This collection reportedly has many collages, paintings, photo composites, prints, and computer-generated designs, with many by little known artists, as well, but also posters by Ron English and Fairey.

Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:00PM   |  1 comment
BNP Billboard (June 2009) []

The next general election in the United Kingdom must take place by June 3, 2010. All seats in the House of Commons will be filled. In the latest Guardian/ICM poll, the Conservatives lead with 44% support, followed by the ruling Labour Party (27%), the Liberals (18%), and Others (11%). Among the last group is the British National Party (BNP). One poll, however, had the BNP potentially gaining 22% of the vote, after BNP Leader Nick Griffin appeared on BBC Television.

The BNP is appealing to "the indigenous, white British people ... which successive governments have done far too little to protect,” according to the Telegraph. The party has campaigned to celebrate "White History Month," protested government funds given to a Moslem group, fought government immigration policies, and more (see the BNP Web site).

BNP posters, billboards, and videos have tried to link the party's image to past British leaders and glories. One poster shows Winston Churchill and British airmen during World War II; a billboard links the BNP to Jesus; a video (which includes many posters) on the party's Web site defends the party and its stands—calling for citizens to "take back" the country—as well as associating it with past achievements by the English.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:36PM   |  Add a comment
ANC, "A better life for all" (1994) (Melville J. Herskovits Library of African Studies, Northwestern University)

The party of Nelson Mandela—the African National Congress (ANC)—appears to have won a resounding victory again in the South African parliamentary elections held this week. Although ballots are still being counted, the ANC has 67% of the vote, with the Democratic Alliance (a moderate party supported by many whites) and the Congress of the People (formed by a group that broke away from the ANC) trailing badly (16% and 8%, respectively). The only uncertainty is whether or not the ANC will achieve the 2/3 majority needed to make constitutional changes.

The campaign was relatively peaceful and there was an 80% turnout of voters. About 1/3 of the voting population is 18-29, and the ANC's leadership in the battle to end apartheid helps it with many of the younger voters. Many rallies—with posters, banners, and music—were held and were calculated to appeal to this group.

The leader of the ANC is Jacob Zuma, who will undoubtedly be elected president of the country by the parliament, since only a majority vote is required in this election. Zuma headed the ANC's internal security unit during the anti-apartheid struggle.

In 1994, Mandela was elected the first president of South Africa, after apartheid ended. In that election, the ANC won 63% of the total vote. The Mandela campaign was advised by American political consultant Stan Greenberg, who had helped with Bill Clinton’s presidential election in the United States two years earlier. Greenberg utilized focus groups heavily to determine the campaign’s main theme—that the ANC was an “agent of change,” not a “liberation movement.” In addition, he advised Mandela to soften his image. This image management can be seen in the poster  of Mandela surrounded by children of all races—the smiling, grandfatherly change agent who would work to help all the people look forward to a brighter future for their children. Along with the image manipulation, however, came specific goals: “2.5 million new jobs and 1 million new housing units within five years.”

Nowadays, campaigns are generally being run by South African consultants. They frequently chose posters, as well as radio spots and newspaper advertisements, to convey their messages, since paid TV spots were prohibited during parliamentary election campaign periods.

For more on the political history and elections of South Africa, see the book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.

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