Political Cartoons Essay Sample

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Political cartoons have been with us from the 16th century to today, changing social agendas and shaping public opinion about political office holders. The creator of each cartoon makes each one represent his or hers opinion about what would be currently happening at that time. This paper will show you the start of political cartoons and the role played by political cartoons in setting social agendas also it will show how they are used today. As you open the newspaper the cartoon showing the mayor with his arm around the scantily clad girl, and the caption “put it on my tab” but the tab has “city budget” on it. You chuckle a little and read the article about the mayor getting indicted for embezzlement. Political cartoons have been being used to sway public opinion since the 16th century. They have spanned the globe some early examples are of the 1605 assassination attempt to blow up the Parliament’s House of Lords along with King James I of Great Britain and much of the empire’s aristocracy. It was originally known as the Powder Treason and one of its earliest depictions was a four-panel engraving by Crispijn van de Passe the Elder in 1606 (Bryant, 2009).

Others include George Washington, the Boston Tea Party and many other pieces of history. The role of political cartoons is chronicled from the time of politician and inventor Benjamin Franklin in the 1800s through current day (Baker, 2010). This makes them a huge far reaching social media that people not only know but respect and read. The role they have played over time has been huge and will continue to be felt through the ages. Political cartoons are made to represent the current political issues that affect people. They are used as a way to reshape public opinion using cartoons mirroring the current political issues at the time. This shows how social agenda can be set by showing current and sensitive issues that people are concerned about in a cartoon form. To show this, cartoons texts were excerpted from a couple Nigerian newspapers, Daily Trust and Vanguard during the period 2007-2010. One-hundred cartoons were selected; fifty of them were taken from each newspaper. It seems that 80% of the themes focused on major issues through which the social agenda was set to reflect social practices in the Nigerian social political contexts.

That Nigerian political cartoons set social agenda by showing current and sensitive issues that people were much concerned about (Sane, Abdullah, Abdullah, & Ali, 2012). This makes them very powerful tools or weapons depending on how you look at the use of them. Now to focus in our time the big thing that we deal with in our famous people and people in political office is scandals. There is a theory that cartoons change and persuade public opinions, and behaviors. Making cartoons very important to public figures and there life’s being put under the microscope called the public eye. Public opinion is vital because it is what makes you famous or gets you elected to office, likely contributing to the image that the politician will hold for the rest of his life. When a political scandal is shown to be false, the reputation and the future of the individual are at stake. Where there is a problem, the individual, and the party will need to determine their future in politics (Wiid, Pitt, & Engstrom, 2011).

Because politics is just another product being sold to the public by salesmen who sometimes pander to the majority. According to the Journal of Public Affairs van Dijk (1998), stated that political cartoons are one important means by which public opinion is formed. This theory was shown in the Journal Of Public Affairs by Brinkman, 1968; Medhurst and DeSousa, 1981; Caswell, 2004; Chatterjee, 2007 to say, “The ‘strong’ theory of political cartoons argues that political cartoons actually persuade and shape public attitudes, intentions, and behaviors”. Reported news is supposed to be objective and impartial, but political cartoons can mix opinions with factual beliefs (Wiid et al. 2011). In conclusion we saw the birth of political cartoons in Great Britain in the 16th century and on threw into the American Colony’s.

The first presidents and inventors of our time were subject to political cartoons. We saw the use of political cartoons to change public opinion by showing current and sensitive issues that people are concerned about at that time. This makes an innocent cartoon very powerful tools that express or changes political opinions. Then as we flash forward we see how theories have been proven to show how political cartoons have persuaded and shaped public opinions and attitudes. How cartoons are not bound to be objective like regular news reporting, so opinions and prescriptions can be mixed with factual beliefs. So we can see that political cartoons are a great media that span time but also continents. They should be respected and viewed with regard to the reality of the given person or situation.


Baker, K. (2010). Aids to Independence. History Today, 60(1), 20-25 Bryant, M. (2009). Remember, Remember.. History Today, 59(11), 53-55 Sani, I., Abdullah, M., Abdullah, F., & Ali, A. (2012). Political Cartoons as a Vehicle of Setting Social Agenda: The Newspaper Example. Asian Social Science, 8(6), 156-164. doi:10.5539/ass.v8n6p156 .Wiid, R., Pitt, L. F., & Engstrom, A. (2011). Not so sexy: public opinion of political sex scandals as reflected in political cartoons. Journal Of Public Affairs (14723891), 11(3), 137-147. doi:10.1002/pa.401 .

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