With phrases like "binders full of women" and "horses and bayonets" inspiring millions of social media posts and even popular Halloween costumes, there is no doubt that political memes have soared into the popular consciousness this election. But do they have any real impact on voters?
According to CarrieLynn Reinhard, assistant professor of communication, while creating memes has become a popular form of political participation and spreading them a powerful method of reinforcing views held by a particular social network, their persuasive effect on those outside that network is likely limited.
|Memes entail specific messages sent through various Internet channels and platforms, and may be added to, expanded upon and altered by others as they bring their own particular "take" on the message, according to Reinhard. |
"Memes seem to help people express their frustration with a seemingly corrupt or unresponsive political system, the same way that other forms of political humor help us cope with our democratically elected representatives. Spreading the memes to a social network that shares the sensibilities of the meme is a way to maintain the social network’s commitment to a particular political position," Reinhard says.
"The jokes help you vent, but also help you connect with others, and to reaffirm that you are right to want to vent in the way that you are. But just as you may not find a joke funny or persuasive if it espouses a worldview you are opposed to, you probably will not like and spread a meme for the same reason. Thus, memes are most likely circulating within networks of like-minded individuals; they are not likely to change minds."