Did Memes Sway the 2017 General Election?

For Brits, the last two months have been filled with news surrounding the general election. Whether you get your main source of news online or in print, it’s all been about Theresa May this and Jeremy Corbyn that, and depending on how you absorb news you may have seen some very polarising viewpoints.

Print media were shamelessly one sided, finding any opportunity they could to ridicule and criticise Labour and Jeremy Corbyn. Whether this has anything to do with his promise of scrapping tax breaks for large corporations and the super rich is yet to be seen (it totally is), but it’s undeniable that the press still have enough power to influence the voting masses.

But only a certain number of the voting masses. Voters of a certain age group and social class, perhaps?

If you read the news online however, and listen to the viewpoints of those on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, the tale is very different. Corbyn is portrayed as a fighter. He’s the unsuspecting chihuahua who puffs himself up to scare off the bigger dog and fights for the everyman.

Young people overwhelmingly voted Labour in the 2017 general election, with an unprecedented 72% of 18-24’s voting. It was this turnout which shocked the country, and instead of the Tories gaining seats as expected, they actually lost seats to Labour.

We live in the golden age of the meme. From ‘the dress’ to ‘Harambe’ and more recently Ms May and her fields of wheat, memes are a quick hit of humour in a fast paced timeline where everything and everyone is trying to outdo each other for your attention. Incredibly, some universities even offer meme degrees now. Meme. Degrees. What employer is going to look at that on your CV and… anyway, I digress.

Throughout May and June 2017 political memes ran amok, so undoubtedly made an impression on voters. The candidates didn’t help themselves of course, with faux pas numbers reaching record highs, but the internet did that wonderful thing which it tends to do and ran with it.

It’s obvious that none of the Theresa May memes are kind. They pick on her policies and her character, and that’s even before we get to the ‘running through a field of wheat’ comments. It’s safe to assume that people who create memes are younger, and evidently don’t regard the Tories or their leader very highly.

It’s quite obvious who the memes favour. They’re equally as one sided as the press coverage, but in the complete opposite direction. Yes, there are blunders for Jeremy as well (sitting on the floor of an empty train for example) but if you search for ‘Theresa May memes’ or ‘Jeremy Corbyn memes’ you get overwhelmingly negative and positive results respectively. With young voters creating these memes and sharing them with their peers on social media, they are in effect undertaking in their own miniature political campaign, except nobody is rolling their eyes and closing the door, they’re clicking ‘like’ and sharing it on again. These bite sized pieces of information are how a lot of people receive news, and as the press get older and social media expands, it’s only a matter of time before the roles are completely reversed.

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Posted on June 15, 2017 in Opinion

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