TASK: What Are Political Cartoons?

In this task, you will...
    • learn how the public sees the candidates – through the eyes and pens of political cartoonists,
    • analyze what the tools of the cartoonist are – what techniques they use to create certain reactions in the reader,
    • analyze political cartoons from the 2016 campaign and explore what images of the candidates exist in the U.S. public.

So far, you have looked at how candidates run their campaigns and how they want to be viewed in public.

You will now turn to how they are portrayed by others. One way to do this is to look at how the two candidates are characterized through political cartoons.


Homework / Preperation:  

a. What is going on in the cartoon?

Take a look at the political cartoons in the GALLERY: Political Cartoons of the 2016 Campaign about the 2016 elections. Pick one and fill out the handout 'Analyzing political cartoons' (see below) by answering the two questions:

   Guiding questions

  1. What is going on in this political cartoon?
  2. What do you see that makes you say that?

Take detailed notes on both question. After finishing answering the questions, ask yourself what more you can find in the cartoon and go back to the two questions and add notes. Repeat this until no new points come up.


b. What is the main idea of the cartoon?

Now that you are somewhat familiar with the cartoon, try to identify the main idea of the cartoon. (You can use the handout 'Identifying the main idea' or simply use the questions below.)

   Guiding questions

  1. To what political event or idea is the cartoon referring?
  2. What key person(s) are targeted in the cartoon?
  3. How has the artist depicted these people? Is there an exaggeration in any way? Does the artist's portayal of characters cast them in a negative or positive light?
  4. Identify and explain any symbolism incorporated in the cartoon.
  5. Identify and explain captions, labeling, titles, and/or speech bubbles. How do these contribute to the cartoon's message?
  6. What is the message of the cartoon? How is the artist trying to persuade the reader?
  7. What impact and/or reaction is the artist attempting to trigger?



Learn more about the role of political cartoons in the 2016 election campaign and watch the CBS video "Why 2016 election cycle is a 'cartoonist's dream'" (below) and read the text about American editorial cartoons.

You can also look for cartoons yourself and bring an example you wish to discuss to class.