Election Posters Around the Globe

pp 319-337


From Propaganda to Image Building: Four Phases of Swedish Election Poster History

  • Nicklas HåkanssonAffiliated withDepartment of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Gothenburg Email author 
  • , Bengt JohanssonAffiliated withDepartment of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Gothenburg
  • , Orla VigsøAffiliated withDepartment of Journalism, Media and Communication, University of Gothenburg

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Election posters have been an important part of the Swedish campaign culture ever since the breakthrough of democracy in the beginning of the twentieth century. Even though new campaign channels have emerged, posters still play a significant role in election campaigns.

This paper is based on analyses—quantitative as well as qualitative—of the content of Swedish election posters in the Swedish general elections from 1911 until 2010. Using more than 1400 posters from a database consisting of 2300, the paper aims to distinguish different phases of election posters in the history of election campaigns. The theoretical framework lies within campaign research and periodization of campaigning, where there have been made a number of attempts to identify the development of campaigning distinguishing different periods.

In the analysis both aspects of expression and content are used to identify different phases of election poster history. Expression aspects are choice of color, type of images and its context, logotypes and visual elements, intermediality, and inspiration from other genres such as commercial advertising and satire cartoons. Content aspects are the use of negative campaigning, type of argumentation, use of facts (statistics), personalization, and how the citizen is framed, and political issues are connected to the situational political context.

Four distinct phases are identified in the election posters: (1) ideological struggle and propaganda 1911–1936, (2) welfare state and progressive rhetoric 1944–1958, (3) bloc politics and aesthetics of advertising 1960–1988, and (4) struggle for trust and image 1991–2010.