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Posters and Election Propaganda

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

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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 10:10AM   |  Add a comment
British Conservative Party Poster, 1909/1910

Posters (actually broadsides, initially) have been displayed in Great Britain since the late 1600s. They became indispensable during election periods in Great Britain in the second half of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when many more people were enfranchised, especially after the Labour Party was established in 1906.

The BBC has assembled a group of posters, shown to "illustrate David Lloyd George's political fame ad notoriety," put together on the 150th anniversary of George's birth. The posters range from 1910 to 1929—a period when posters were the paramount medium of political propaganda, and when they were often highly imaginative and printed in eye-catching colors from lithographic stones. Click here to see the posters.

George's Liberal Party regained power in 1906. The Liberals "rebranded" their party as one that was more in favor of social reform, and "New Liberals" such as George advocated for legislation to protect and help children, workers, and the unemployed.

George was Prime Minister between 1916 and 1922, which included his leading a coalition government during World War I, followed by his becoming the Leader of the Liberal Party in 1926, a post he held until 1931.

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 11:31AM   |  Add a comment
Andrew Redford Young, Poster Promoting Mitt Romney, 2011


So far, it seems that neither major party candidate for the U.S. presidency has inspired many artists to include their images in posters promoting President Barack Obama or former Governor Mitt Romney (There are a number of posters that show the Libertarian candidate, Gary Johnson, however). For Obama, this is a remarkable departure from 2008, when a multitude of graphic designers and painters created posters that depicted the then-Senator from Illinois in a very positive manner. Among the dozens of pro-Obama posters produced four years ago, the most popular were Shepard Fairey's "Hope" and "Change" creations, which were inspiring, patriotic, and conveyed, as Fairey stated, "noble confidence,... a suggestion of looking into the future."

One poster, designed by Andrew Redford Young in 2011, does show Romney in an inspirational and patriotic way. Like Fairey's posters, it bathes Romney in red-white-and-blue, idealizes his features, and has him gazing into the beyond with confidence. Additionally, Young gives Romney a hint of a smile, accompanied by the simple slogan, "Jobs."

Now that the Republican National Convention is over (soon to be followed by the Democratic convention), it will be interesting to see what, if any, imagery includes the candidates in poster designs.

 

 



 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:50AM   |  Add a comment
Ron Keas, Forward (2012)


Ron Keas has produced what he proclaims to be the "world's first political campaign poster in 3-D." And it promotes the re-election of President Barack Obama.

It incorporates his oil painting of Obama and adds the Lincoln Memorial and one of the President's campaign slogans, "Forward." 

With special glasses (available for purchase on Keas's Web site), you will see the effects. 
 

 


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 10:10PM   |  Add a comment
"Union Labor Party" (1888, Library of Congress)

In the coming 2012 U.S. presidential election, it is likely that several minor political parties will run candidates. The Libertarian Party will probably nominate Gary Johnson, a former governor of New Mexico, as its candidate, and Americans Elect, may have Buddy Roemer, a former governor of Louisiana, heading its ticket.

Minor parties have been around for a long time in the United States. And they have sometimes had an impact on elections and policies.

In this blog post, I'll focus on the two minor parties in the 1888 election and one in 1892. They all issued interesting posters, too.

1888:

The Prohibition Party, which had been established in 1869 to pressure state legislatures to ban “the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages,” had done poorly in four prior presidential elections, getting less than 1.5 percent of the popular votes in each of them. It did a little better in 1888, with its ticket, headed by Temperance leader Clinton Fisk, receiving 2.2 percent. One of its posters illustrated the party’s moralistic principles in a unique way, suggesting that prohibition would lead to a better, religious America (an insane asylum, grave, and distilleries are seen in the foreground; a church and Sunday school in the background). Although the Prohibition Party did not gain many votes nationally, it did influence state party platforms, and eventually helped encourage support for the Twenty-first Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.

The Union Labor Party was formed in 1888, and got only 1.3 percent of the popular vote, doing best in states with few industrial areas, most notably Kansas (11.4 percent), Texas (8.2 percent), and Arkansas (6.8 percent). Its platform attempted to appeal to both American farmers and laborers by opposing land monopoly and calling for a limitation on land ownership, nationalization of communication and transportation systems, the free coinage of silver, equal pay for men and women (as well as demanding women’s suffrage), a service pension bill, a graduated income tax, the direct election of U. S. senators, strict enforcement of laws prohibiting the importation of foreign workers, and the passage of specific legislation to prohibit immigrants from China. The poster for the Union Labor ticket (shown above), headed by Alson Streeter, was beautifully done by the Chicago firm of Kurz & Allison, and obviously targeted laborers and farmers—showing them, their implements, and featuring the slogan, "The Product of Labor Belongs to the Producer."  

1892:

The People’s (or Populist) Party (established in 1891) did quite well. It made many of the same proposals that had been in the Union Labor Party’s platform in the previous election, and issued conventional posters (with symbols of workers and the slogan "Equal Rights to All; Special Privileges to None"), but its ticket, led by James Weaver, was more successful in delivering its message, getting 8.5 percent of the popular vote (and 5 percent of the electoral vote), probably due to the increased economic difficulties of many farmers. Its fiery platform charged that governmental policies had “bred” “two great classes—tramps and millionaires,” with “the fruits of the toil of millions…badly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few….” In 1896, the Populists nominated the Democratic Party's candidate, William Jennings Bryan (who espoused many of their principles).

 

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 7:30PM   |  Add a comment
Tsai Facebook Page Photograph


Piggy banks, posters, billboards, videos, and Facebook groups are all propaganda vehicles in Taiwan, which will hold its presidential and legislative elections on January 14, 2012. 

This week, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) presidential candidate Tsai Ing-wen decried her party's lack of funds, comparing its plight in the campaign to "a piglet fighting against a huge monster." That "monster" is the ruling Kuomintang Party (KMT), which toppled the DDP from power in the 2008 elections. Next to Tsai, while she spoke, was a giant piggy bank, and supporters threw money on the stage on which she was giving her speech.  

The DPP is selling plastic piggy banks to raise funds, and purchasers stuff money into them and send them back to party headquarters. In addition, a "piggy assembly" is scheduled to be held in December, at which more "stuffed piggies" will be returned. The goal is to sell and collect at least 10,000 piggy banks, according to an article posted on the Asia One News Web site. Another article—in the Taipei Times—stated that the party wanted to distribute 100,000!

President Ma Ying-jeou of the KMT is running for re-election. Also in the race is James Soong of the People First Party (PFP), who may draw votes away from the KMT candidate, giving the presidency to the DPP. A recent poll indicated that the race would be close, with Ma holding a 3.7-point lead over Tsai.

The posters and billboards for these candidates—and those running for seats in the legislature—are sometimes big and brash, using some interesting visual- and verbal-exaggeration techniques. These include puns, loud color, startling facial expressions, and unusual props and poses—such as a stethoscope, a bicycle, and a ping pong paddle, as well as a runner about to begin his race. But a 3 minute and 20 second video-ad for Tsai has gentle music and shows her happily riding a bicycle. For a good selection of posters and billboards already up in this year's campaign, see Michael Turton's blog, The View from Taiwan.

For more on the history of election campaigns in Taiwan and the posters, billboards, and other media used, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History

 

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 3:10PM   |  Add a comment
"Obama Isn't Working" (http://www.mittromney.com, 2011)

Mitt Romney's campaign has now borrowed from the British Conservative Party's very successful campaign that brought Margaret Thatcher and her party to power in 1979. Romney's Website features an "Obama Isn't Working" banner that is almost identical to a British poster used more than thirty years ago.

The 1979 campaign in Great Britain was marked by the aggressive and innovative advertising campaign for the Conservatives devised by Saatchi & Saatchi, and its “Labour Isn’t Working” poster was the key element. The firm’s Tim Bell (whom Thatcher later knighted for his efforts) was given the account and he decided to emphasize emotions, not issues, which would appeal to voters—an approach that was hardly new.

In 1979, high inflation, strikes, unemployment, declining market shares in many industries, monetary devaluation, and skyrocketing oil prices plagued the Labour government. In fact, many of the same problems beset U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the end of the decade. As a result (and with effective political marketing specialists aiding the conservatives in the two countries), both Carter and Labour lost power to Reagan and Thatcher. The faltering British economy and the Tories’ advertising strategy clearly convinced many voters to side with Thatcher’s party, which increased its share of the vote from 36 percent in the previous election to almost 44 percent (while Labour’s share declined from 39 percent to 37 percent).

As Maurice Saatchi said years later, "in great advertising, as in great art, simplicity is all … [with] simple themes, simple messages, simple visual images."

As both U.S. parties have acknowledged, jobs and the economy are the dominant issues in the 2012 campaign. And imagery—even if borrowed—may play a role in determining the election outcome.

For more on the 1978-1979 election campaign in Great Britain, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.  


Posted by Steven Seidman at 4:18PM   |  3 comments
Malachi Cleary as Warren G. Harding on "Boardwalk Empire"

Warren G. Harding, the presidential candidate of the Republican Party in the United States in 1920, is portrayed by actor Malachi Cleary in the HBO television series, "Boardwalk Empire." In fact, the title of the finale of the show's first season, "A Return to Normalcy," was one of Harding's campaign slogans. And a large Harding poster can be seen in the background during the Republican National Convention scene (as David Ettlin—a reader of this blog—points out). Harding, a silver-haired, adulterous, corrupt minor senator from Ohio, secured his party's nomination at the convention, with the help of several party bosses in a "smoke-filled room." On the TV show, Harding's campaign manager, Harry Daugherty is helped by “Nucky” Thompson (played by Steve Buscemi), who calls the candidate an "imbecile" while dealmaking to benefit both Harding and himself. "Nucky" also agrees to hide Harding's mistress, Nan Britton, in New Jersey during the presidential campaign. 

During the 1920 campaign, the Republicans spent an incredible amount of money to elect Harding (who won by the huge margin of 26 percentage points). It was reported in The New York Times that five million posters that included portraits of Harding and his vice-presidential candidate, Massachusetts governor Calvin Coolidge, were printed, along with fifteen million buttons of Harding alone.

Although Daugherty was quite influential in the campaign, another figure, advertising executive Albert Lasker, loomed large. Lasker coordinated public relations and advertising, and posters and billboards were a fundamental part of the campaign. Lasker’s style of advertising, which often advocated the purchase of one product over another, worked very well in politics, with newspaper and billboard ads promoting politicians rather than products. It was a small leap for him to come up with another slogan for Harding, “Let’s be done with wiggle and wobble” (a reference to a Democratic policy that seemed first to have been isolationist, then interventionist), after concocting such slogans as “Keep that Schoolgirl Complexion” and “A Cow in Every Pantry” for products. Lasker’s slogan was seen on billboards across the country at a cost of four hundred thousand dollars (while the Democrats spent little on this medium)—and that was only 7.5 percent of the Republican National Committee’s total expenditures. The “wiggle and wobble” slogan strategy contrasted Lasker’s candidate with the outgoing president: Harding was depicted as a solid, steady leader with small-town values, who would return the country to “normalcy”; the outgoing Democratic president, Woodrow Wilson, on the other hand, had promised to keep the country out of the Great War, and then had led it into the conflict.

The visual images that were sometimes fashioned for the posters and billboards in the Harding campaing were imposing: a good example is Howard Chandler Christy’s idealized rendition of Harding with the candidate dramatically raising one hand and appearing to hold an American flag with the other. There were only two words accompanying the image: “America First!” (yet another slogan). This was the same slogan that was used in the Wilson poster in the previous election campaign, and, amazingly, the slogan that was included in some Democratic posters in 1920.

To learn much more about the Harding campaign, see the book Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.

 

 

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 3:07PM   |  2 comments
Alliance for Future Colors on Statue (2010)

Mauritius—a volcanic island republic located off the coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean—is ranked as the most democratic country in Africa by World Audit, based on the criteria of political rights, freedom of the press, corruption, and civil liberties. Candidates are required, however, to state their ethnicity, or they are not listed on the ballot. In 2010, over 100 candidates were rejected for that reason, according to the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

Mauritius has a fairly good economy, and invests more in India's economy than any other country, according to Pranay Gupte, writing in The Hindu. However, unemployment is presently almost eight percent. Mauritius has a melting-pot population of one and one-quarter million people of African, South Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and French origin. English is the semi-official language, but Creole, French, and several other languages are evident. 

In May of last year, Mauritius held parliamentary elections, and 78% of eligible voters turned out. The National Assembly elects the president and vice-president. 

The Mauritius Labour Party (MLP) dominated the elections in the years before and after independence in 1968, but in 1982, the Mauritius Militant Movement (MMM) rose to power, in an alliance with the Mauritian Socialist Party (PSM). Since then, defections from parties, realignments, and shifting coalitions have occurred. An MLP-coalition, the Alliance Sociale, won the 2005 elections. In the election last year, the MLP joined with the Militant Socialist Movement (MSM), the Greens, and two other parties to form the Alliance for the Future, and emerged victorious over an MMM-led alliance, winning by a six percentage-point margin.

Most of the political parties have Web sites and some even have Facebook groups, including the MLP. Campaigns are pretty tame in Mauritius, with lots of banners and flags waved, but in 2010, for the first time, the Ministry of Tourism outlawed the display of posters in order to "protect the environment," according to Touria Prayag, writing on the allAfrica.com Web site. Lots of food and beverages are dispensed though, with charges that votes are being bought with them.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 2:00PM   |  Add a comment
Posters handed out to people leaving Virginia Tea Party Patriots Convention in Richmond, Va., Oct. 9, 2010. Bob Brown/Richmond Times Dispatach/AP

 

Sharron Angle, Marco Rubio, Christine O'Donnell, Joe Miller, Ken Buck, Rand Paul, Pat Toomey, and Mike Lee—to name a few. These candidates are all supported by various Tea Party groups. All are Republicans and they are running for U.S. Senate seats in this November's elections. And all are ahead in the polls, or at least have a good chance of winning (except O'Donnell). At present, The FiveThirtyEight blog forecast gives the Republicans an 18 percent chance of gaining control of the Senate, picking up 7 seats (but not the 10 they need). But if the more enthusiastic anti-big-government independents, Tea-Party people, and Republicans turn out in droves, Republican candidates could win three additional Senate seats in Illinois, California, and West Virginia. In addition, there are well over 100 candidates for the House of Representatives who are supported by the Tea Party. FiveThirtyEight estimates that there is an 73 percent probability that the Republicans will take over the House, increasing the number of seats they hold by 48.

The Tea Party Republican candidates are running as "Washington outsiders" in a year when many voters are more negative about those in the nation's capital than usual—especially about the Democrats, who have been in charge in Congress for more than three years now. The Republicans are viewed negatively as well, but a bit less so, and there is some hope that they may spend and tax less—although many GOP representatives have not vowed to stop earmarking.  Other groups are allied with various Tea Party organizations. For example, members of the California Coalition for Immigration Reform have demonstrated with Los Angeles Tea Party members in support of Arizona's immigration law. Besides immigration, other issues that concern most Tea Partiers are the mushrooming national debt, the stimulus package, health care legislation, cap-and-trade proposals, tax hikes, government regulation, and a less-than-strict interpretation of the Constitution. 

The Tea Party posters—many of which are homemade—are numerous, and include slogans such as "Oh Yes We Can Vote You Out!" and "What the Hell Are You Doing With My Money?" The more professional-looking posters state things like "Less Government. More Freedom" and "Give Me Liberty...Not Debt!"

  

 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:15PM   |  Add a comment
Woman walks past election campaign posters of Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi (BBC Photo; 2004)

Hafiz Noor Shams in a blog post in The Malaysian Insider compares the use of posters during election-campaign periods in Malaysia to their use in the United States and Australia (the latter of which voted on Saturday).

Shams wonders why there are so few posters in Australia, while "election time is always carnival-like in Malaysia. It is noisy and it is colourful. Loud speeches will blare into the night. More strikingly is the poster war. Colours representing major political parties will decorate the streets."

Why are the streets in Australia, the United States, and many other countries comparatively dull during their election periods? The mass media are more significant communication vehicles in these countries, and posters are used less—although they are now displayed on Internet sites (and downloaded) more frequently. In addition, there are no huge roadblocks to minor parties' advertising in the mass media, although they can be limited by a lack of funds.

But the main reason is legal restrictions imposed by the Malaysian government. The ruling coalition has over 90 percent of the seats in Parliament, and controls the mass media. In Malaysia, there are more political parties, and many of them do not have access to the mainstream media, making posters and the Internet more important vehicles to communicate to voters. Just to give you an idea of the number of political parties in Malaysia, eight new parties submitted registration applications in the first five months of this year alone! And opposition parties are not allowed to air their viewpoints on TV and radio, as well as in most newspapers.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 3:30PM   |  Add a comment
Labour Party Web Site Image (2010)

How important are good looks and smiles on political posters, billboards, direct-mail pieces, Web sites, and television to political consultants and designers?

Well, it depends. Does a candidate or party want to convey seriousness, which the times demand, or a confident, friendly image to which voters can better relate? And how much airbrushing and other image manipulation should be done, before the candidate is ridiculed (as British Conservative Party leader David Cameron has been, especially on the mydavidcameron.com Web site)?

Some commentators, such as Michael Deacon, think that Cameron (especially after his portrait was airbrushed for a billboard recently) just doesn't look like a  "statesmen," and that the result is a lack of support of his party in the polls.

British Labour Party leader and Prime Minister Gordon Brown was never shown smiling a decade ago, but now is shown with a very pleasant smile on his party's Web site, and with an idiotic grin on opposition Conservative posters. Since times are hard now, perhaps Labour should can the smiles though.

Cameron, of course, was not the first politician whose image was "improved" by designers. Stanley Baldwin, the Conservative Prime Minister of Great Britain in the 1920s and 1930s, was transformed from "homely" to "attractive," according to Ernest Marshall, who wrote in 1929 that although “Baldwin has been described as the homeliest man in a conspicuous position in British politics, … [his] facial lineaments are now displayed on posters all over the country as an attractive appeal to the voters, … [with his] features … rounded out almost to John Bullish fullness” (Ernest Marshall, “The News of Europe in Week-End Cables,” New York Times, May 5, 1929, http://proquest.com).

Baldwin was not the first “homely” candidate to be idealized in campaign portraits, since this process had transformed, earlier, plain-looking or unattractive politicians, most notably Abraham Lincoln in the United States.

And after the memorable first debate between Richard Nixon and John F. Kennedy during the 1960 U.S. election campaign, the importance of “image” was mentioned right away in newspaper articles. For example, two days after the event, a piece in the New York Times stated that viewers had made “frequent mention of how drawn and weary the Vice President had looked” and how his “grimness was shocking,” but many thought that Senator Kennedy had projected a “mature image” (New York Times, “Both Candidates Retain Backers,” September 28, 1960, http://proquest.com).

Until the 1952 election, candidates never really smiled in U.S. political propaganda; they were expected to present themselves as “serious.”  Smiling also has varied by party: in Japan, only 36% of candidates of the Clean Government Party smiled in campaign posters studied in 2000 and 2001, in contrast to the 80% of Communist candidates who did [See Jonathan Lewis and Brian J. Masshardt, “Election Posters in Japan,” Japan Forum 14 (2002)].
 


Posted by Steven Seidman at 4:25PM   |  Add a comment
British National Party Billboard (2009) (http://bnp.org.uk)

Mark Jones, on a Reuters blog that focuses on Britain, speculates that social media could mean the death of election posters and billboards.

The use of new social media technologies was expanded by the Obama campaign in the U.S. in 2008. Many marketing people thought that these would be more effective than older media—even TV—in influencing voters, particularly younger ones. The Obama campaign had desktop wallpaper, blogs, posters and signs, logos, flyers, badges, widgets, IM buddy icons, and mobile ring tones available on its Web site, and people who signed up could receive campaign updates and notices about events on their cell phones (accompanied by an image of the candidate and his logo) or they could find them on Twitter. In addition, one of the first iPhone applications was developed for the Obama campaign, with which users could obtain news about the candidate, video spots, and photos. Additionally, the Obama Web site sold lots of posters via its online store, and there were dozens of Web sites that put up poster designs.

But social media were important. Chris Hughes (a founder of Facebook) developed the Obama Web site as a social network, and there were also Facebook and MySpace groups. Almost 60 percent of under-30 registered voters visited candidate Web sites, social-networking sites, or blogs in 2008, according to the Pew Research Center, and this age group was much more likely to turn out for Obama.

Political posters and billboards get a lot of media attention in Britain, but even there they may be used less in the future. However, nowadays, poster designs are often meant to be downloaded from Web sites, and electronic billboards are becoming more commonplace. In the past year in the U.S., for example, Coca-Cola put up ads on these digital outdoor displays in 27 markets, according to Natalie Zmuda in Advertising Age.

In close elections, posters have made a difference. Some interesting research, conducted before the 1996 parliamentary elections in Great Britain, suggested that poster campaigns persuaded swing voters, in particular, to change their political preferences. Researchers found that a Conservative Party's “New Labour, New Danger” poster, showing two red eyes peering out from behind a red curtain, was effective with focus-group members, 25–34 years old of age, who lacked strong party allegiances.

Overall, posters and billboards may have had some influence, according to researchers. Voters surveyed in the United Kingdom during the 2001 election campaign indicated that billboard advertisements had affected one in ten persons—2 percent reported that the ads had a “great deal” of influence on them and 8 percent indicated a “fair amount.” In comparison, the percentages for televised broadcasts were 6 percent and 16 percent for the same response categories. In addition, the survey data from 1992 to 2000 in Japan revealed generally similar findings about the influence of election posters in that country: when participants were asked if the medium assisted their voting decisions, the percentages ranged from 5 to 9 percent for posters (about the same as for newspaper advertisements)

Of course, these percentages could be lower in the years to come.

For more on the use of posters in British election campaigns and on the effects of posters on voting behavior, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 10:50AM   |  1 comment
“Hon. Abraham Lincoln” (Currier & Ives, 1860) (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division, reproduction number LC-USZC62-2594)

This Friday is Abraham Lincoln's birthday. Lincoln, who was born 201 years ago in Kentucky, was ranked recently as the greatest U.S. president (albeit in a poll conducted by the Times of London).

In 1860, with the nation divided, the Republican Party promoted its candidate, Lincoln, as a common man of integrity and worth—the rail-splitting frontiersman. A poster for the ticket of Lincoln and Hannibal Hamlin that year, titled “The Union Must and Shall be Preserved,” included a rail fence and it took care to show laborers on either side of a shield that declared “Protection to American Industry,” as well as the customary eagle, cornucopias, and flags. The motto “Free Speech, Free Homes, Free Territory” referred to the party’s platform positions on the elimination of slavery in federal territories, support of the Homestead Act, and freedom to voice anti-slavery views. The overriding issue was slavery expansion, which had finally reached the crisis stage, after decades of agitation by abolitionists and pro-slavery expansionists.

The parades, rallies, campaign newspapers and songs, and free food and drink that had been used in the past continued to be employed by all parties, of which there were four: (1) the Republicans, headed by Lincoln; (2) the regular Democrats, whose presidential nominee was Stephen Douglas; (3) the National Democrats, headed by John Breckenridge, who supported the federal government’s protection of slavery in the territories; and (4) the Constitutional Union Party, which nominated Bell and, as its paper banner proclaimed, was in favor of “The Union, the Constitution and the Enforcement of the Laws.” Placards and posters, as well as refreshments (such as barbecued meats, crackers, and bread), were essential ingredients at the rallies—attended by as many as 30,000 people.

Lincoln’s supporters published two weekly newspapers, both called the Rail Splitter, which not only propagated his stands on issues, but also raised funds. Numerous portrait prints of the candidates were produced for rallies and parades, or simply distributed to potential voters—a practice that had occurred for some time. Many copies of Mathew Brady’s photographs of Lincoln were distributed, as were lithographic portrait posters of Lincoln, Bell, and Douglas. Lithographic portraits of Lincoln by Currier & Ives, idealized from Brady photographs, were sold for twenty cents each. Some of the lithographic prints were hand-colored: a portrait of Lincoln, for example, used during his first presidential campaign, had only red added to his lips and the background curtains.

In 1860, the Republicans’ presidential ticket was not even on the ballot in ten states in the South, but Lincoln won the election overwhelmingly in the North and West, with a popular vote north of the 41st parallel greater than 60 percent (for an easy electoral victory), and garnered about 40 percent overall. Despite Lincoln’s attempts to reassure the South, his election led to its secession and the bitter Civil War that ensued.

For more on the momentous 1860 campaign—as well as an account of the 1864 campaign to re-elect Lincoln—and the printed propaganda used, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 12:30PM   |  2 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 3:20PM   |  2 comments
David Cameron Images (http://www.mirror.co.uk)

Many have decried the "presidentialization," "Americanization," and infusion of marketing into British politics, although these trends have been apparent for quite a few years now.

The latest barrage of criticism is directed at Conservative leader David Cameron's "presidential-style" election billboard/poster campaign, in anticipation of the upcoming elections in the United Kingdom. Many dislike the poster's focus on only Cameron, with senior Conservative leaders such as George Osborne and William Hague ignored. Even the party's logo is missing. This is not America, after all!

While it is true that, because its political system is parliamentary, there is more emphasis on parties than there is in the United States, Great Britain’s campaigns became “presidential”—in many ways—in the 1990s. This “presidentialization” was stimulated, in part, by the concentration of broadcast and newspaper reporting on party leaders; decisions by the parties themselves to focus attention on these men and women as message deliverers also factored. Even earlier, in 1987, the Labour Party brought in American political consultant Joseph Napolitan. In the 1980s, the Labour Party (seeing how political marketing techniques had proven to be successful for the Conservatives) began to move away from its reluctance to employ “modern” strategic political advertising and promotional methods and began to embrace them. This transition accelerated in 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 the campaigns conducted by the Labour Party was manifest in the inclusion, on posters, of photographs of Blair.

The Cameron billboard has also been attacked because of the obvious airbrushing and manipulation of the Tory leader's image, including his nose being slimmed down, his hair increased, and, according to Didi Danso (the Mirror's Fashion Editor), "he has pouting lips Keira Knightley would be jealous of." Of course, this "image enhancement" has occurred before. In 1929, British Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin was featured on a poster, with him appearing quite handsome, even though one contemporary reporter, Ernest Marshall, wrote that although “Baldwin has been described as the homeliest man in a conspicuous position in British politics, … [his] facial lineaments are now displayed on posters all over the country as an attractive appeal to the voters, … [with his] features … rounded out almost to John Bullish fullness.”

The accompanying slogan in the Cameron billboard/poster is a negative one (as so many have been in the contentious election campaigns in Britain): "We can't go on like this. I'll cut the deficit, not the NHS." Cutting spending and not health services? Does this sound familar to U.S. voters?

According to the Mirror, over 700 of these billboards—at a cost of £500,000—have already been put up.

To learn more about the use of posters and billboards in British politics, as well as British political history and the influence of advertising and marketing, see my book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.
 


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.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 9:25AM   |  1 comment
Maksim, "Banana Republic" (2009) (http://imaksim.com)

Steven Heller, writing in his Daily Heller blog, has an interesting piece on posters to promote the Tea Party movement, as well as on anti-Obama designs (many of which are from The People's Cube Web site), which include Pelosi, Reid, and Obama as "The Three Stooges"; the "Tree of Liberty" symbol and the message "don't give me DEBT"; and Obama as "El Presidente of the Banana Republic of the United States."

Just as propaganda of the left can smear the opposition and distort positions, so, too, can propaganda of the right. As Heller states:

The transposition of Obama as a Soviet/Red...and the smearing of the Democratic party as Marxist...shows a decided lack of imagination and historical knowledge. First, socialism as a practice (i.e. Sweden) and Soviet Communism (remember the breakup of the Soviet Union) are quite different political beasts. Representing the Obama administration with the hammer and sickle is as stupid as smearing it with a swastika...Just as George W. Bush was not a Nazi for starting the Iraqi War, President Barack Obama is not a "commie-fascist" for advocating a government-subsidized health care plan.

Check out the poster designs on The People's Cube, and comment on the designs and messages.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 1:15PM   |  Add a comment
An official election poster display board in Japan (2009) (http://www.peterpayne.net)

On Sunday, the voters of Japan overwhelmingly sent a message: we want change! The more conservative party, the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which has been in power for almost the entire post-World-War-II period, was sent packing, and the reformist Democratic Party of Japan (JDP) will take over. The JDP was created only in 1998, by defectors from the LDP and some of the opposition parties.

Dissatisfaction with the ruling party was rampant this year, with the Japanese economy continuing to show weakness. According to Tomoko Hosaka, writing in the Associated Press, unemployment is a record 5.7 percent and wages have fallen.

The Democratic Party's platform calls for less aid to corporations and more to families, including cash being given to farmers, a boost in the minimum wage, and tax cuts, writes Hosaka. For decades, parties of the left have appealed to farmers and workers, as evidenced by a 1928 poster shown at the right side of this blog entry.

The enormity of the JDP's victory was shocking. According to the Associated Press, the number of seats in the lower house of parliament won by the party increased from 112 to 308. The opposite effect occurred for the LDP, which went from holding 300 seats to a mere 119.

JDP leader Yukio Hatoyama will become the country's next prime minister, and he is less pro-American than his predecessor, Taro Aso, with the former politician calling for closer links with Asian nations and less close ones with the United States.

For more on Japan's political campaigns—and its posters—see the book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.


Posted by Steven Seidman at 4:40PM   |  Add a comment
Web Banner, Congress Party (India) (http://www.congress.org.in)

Elections for the lower house of the Indian Parliament, the Lok Sabha, concluded on May 16.

The voters gave the ruling moderate-left Congress Party, led by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, a great victory over the Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). The Congress Party coalition won 262 seats in the 534-seat parliamentary body; the BJP-led coalition only won 157. (Click here for the results.)

According to Rama Lakshmi, writing in The Washington Post: "For the first time since 1996, India will have a coalition government that is not fragile and unwieldy and that has a relatively strong center. The outgoing coalition government...was sustained by a handful of communist parties that eventually withdrew support over a controversial civilian nuclear agreement concluded last year between India and the United States."

$3 billion was spent on the campaign—about $600 million more than was spent during last year's presidential campaign in the United States, reported The New York Times. Of course, much was expended on TV spots and newspaper ads, but text messages were also sent to many of the 400 million cell-phone users, and priests were even hired to perform rituals in support of candidates and parties. One medium that was used less than in the past was posters, since India's election commission issued a ban on their display in public, if permission has not been granted to put them up, according to The Times. Web sites were also evident—with the BJP emulating Barack Obama's online example.

Previously, posters were rated as the fifth most important medium in campaigns by Indian campaign managers, behind rallies and daily newspapers, public television, and radio, but ahead of private television, direct mail, and magazines. For more on Indian politics and posters, see a previous blog entry and the book, Posters, Propaganda, and Persuasion in Election Campaigns Around the World and Through History.


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