Pelosi says no one is above the law but it appears this only applies to everyone except Democrats. Political cartoon by A.F. Branco ©2019. 

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Do Political Cartoons Drive American Voting Habits?

By "A Novice Journalist"

  

Political or editorial cartoons can be extremely funny or awfully upsetting, especially if you have an understanding of the issue it is representing.

 

Some of the best editorial cartoonists can change your mind on a topic without you even realizing it happened.


But do these caricatures affect the voting habits of Americans? 


Jim Bob of “MADEbyJIMBOB” an American satirical cartoonist, said that editorial cartoons do not necessarily affect the political habits of voters but align their beliefs about a subject or politician with likeminded people.

 

“I assume political cartoons play some part in elections,” Bob said. “However, I don’t see any evidence that a cartoon or a meme could change one’s political stance to the degree of altering their vote. Political cartoons and memes more likely create confirmation and comradery around a particular ideology or candidate.”


Mo Burton, a U.S. Navy veteran agrees with Jim Bob’s assessment. 


“Most of the time I can find the ‘angle’ in political cartoons,” she said. “Some of them are spot on and some of these cartoons have me scratching my head. But, the more I listen to potential candidates the more I understand what they are bringing to the table. If I like what I’m hearing and seeing the more inclined I am to vote for that individual. I do not believe—a however amusing or repugnant—a cartoon will make me change my ballot choice at the polls come election day.”


According to Amber Roessner, an associate professor and media historian at the University of Tennessee's School of Journalism & Electronic Media, editorial cartoons may not change the voting habits of Americans but they have made voters think about their existing political philosophies.


“Editorial cartoons, as well as other media texts from videos to long-form reportage, certainly can influence our thinking about politics,” Roessner said.  “As agenda-setting scholars, in the tradition of Donald Shaw and Maxwell McCombs, would tell you, media do not tell us what to think, but they do tell us what to think about. Moreover, on occasion, poignant editorial cartoons can influence our political philosophies and perhaps even change our voting habits.” 


Will political cartoons have an effect on voting habits in the 2020 presidential election? Scott M. Walus, an associate professor of communication and journalism at Eastern Illinois University said that these cartoons do not have the power they once did.

  

“Through a phenomenon called selective exposure, where we routinely opt into messages with which we already agree, these messages can reinforce a decision we have already made,” Walus said. “If we have decided that we dislike a candidate, a political cartoon would certainly reinforce this attitude. In an era where newspapers provided the primary mediated lens to understand the world, political cartoons may have steered this opinion on the topic. But in 2020, it is like adding a single ice cube to the ocean and seeing if it changed the temperature of the water 100 miles away.”

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