Bumper Stickers: The Last Free Bastion of Political Discourse

Rebecca Gilbert

St. Catherine University


Bumper stickers have become a common method of political discourse, one relatively unimpeded by the filters that bog down other communication events. In the United States, political bumper stickers manage to straddle the line between mass media and private ownership.

What are political bumper stickers trying to do?

  • Act as an in-group identifier, stating, “I support this candidate,” or, “I identify with this political party”
  • Act to keep issues in the public sphere that would not otherwise be consistently present
    • Especially effective when showing support for third party candidates or non-mainstream political ideologies that would otherwise disappear into the depths of mass media and mainstream news outlets
  • “When it comes to bumper stickers, everyone is selling something” (Norton-Meier 262)

How do political bumper stickers function?

  • By their very nature, bumper stickers work to spread their message by being mobile
    • Unless a car is parked inside of a garage, the message of that bumper sticker is readily available for consumption
  • Bumper stickers also function by illustrating the importance of whatever message is being displayed
  • By presenting a political statement on such a high-cost possession, the speaker is communicating the importance of said message

Who owns bumper stickers?

  • Today there are countless online avenues through which to find a myriad of politically themed bumper stickers
    • If you Google “political bumper stickers” nearly 1 million results appear, the vast majority of them being third-party vendors rather than political candidates or parties pushing their agenda
  • Today, artists can even create, print, and distribute their own bumper stickers on large scales without going through a middleman, thereby bypassing the usual filters that bog down other forms of media

Why are bumper stickers so popular?

  • Bumper stickers act as a safeguard between an individual’s political ideologies and those ideologies forced upon them by mainstream media
  • Bumper stickers allow users to control the media that is created and displayed, unlike nearly any other form of media today
    • They allow users to feel as though they have some control over the media and political landscape
  • In other forms of media, the elite, rich, and powerful control the messages that dominate traditional media, but this is not necessarily true of bumper stickers

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by rebjean777


Public - 4/13/16, 6:49 PM