What is a Political Cartoonist?

Cassie L. Damewood

A political cartoonist is an artist who expresses her opinions through drawings and accompanying words. Her work may be a single panel cartoon or a series of panels called a comic strip. She may work as a staff member for a daily, weekly or monthly publication or as a freelancer who submits her work to multiple sources. Her cartoons may be published in a newspaper, magazine or on the Internet.

Many larger newspapers have a political cartoonist on staff.
Many larger newspapers have a political cartoonist on staff.

This genre of political commentary has been popular since politics was born. Caricatures of political candidates have abounded in every society dating back to ancient times and civilizations. The popular symbols typically associated with the United States’ two top political parties, the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey, were first conceived of and drawn by a political cartoonist.

Political cartoonists often portray stereotypes and prejudices in their drawings.
Political cartoonists often portray stereotypes and prejudices in their drawings.

Although no two political cartoons are the same, the themes traditionally reflect the news and events of the day. In addition to depicting political figures, the drawings in political cartoons often depict current events as visual metaphors. Some of the drawings are so succinct that no words are necessary to convey the message of the cartoon.

Unlike political pundits who use only words to express their views, political cartoonists often get away with portraying stereotypes and prejudices in their comic drawings without the repercussions often suffered by writers. This is frequently attributed to the belief that drawings can be interpreted on more levels than written words. Some of the most controversial political cartoons have no words in the panels.

A successful political cartoonist normally is well-read and open-minded. Reading international news stories every day is a typical part of her workday. In order for her to appeal to a wide audience, she generally presents opposing points of view. Her personal views on world events and political figures are often unknown to the public in order for her objectivity to be perceived as genuine.

A person in this profession is usually outgoing and highly communicative. Since her work is based on the world’s ever-changing political and social climate, her interaction with people from diverse walks of life and with assorted opinions is crucial to keep her well of creativity fresh. Good listening and memory skills are important traits for a political cartoonist.

There are no established educational requirements for a position as a political cartoonist. Drawing talent developed through formal education is desirable. A bachelor’s degree in art, political science or journalism may improve a job candidate’s chances for employment, although artistic talent and acerbic wit are normally the most important attributes for success in this position.

The themes of political cartoons should reflect the news and events of the day.
The themes of political cartoons should reflect the news and events of the day.

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Discussion Comments


I hate political cartoons! They're always so mean-spirited. I know these are politicians, but some of the cartoons I've seen have been just downright ugly. They're not even portraying something true! The worst ones are the ones that don't even focus on the issues, or they take a rumor and run with it. That's just irresponsible, in my opinion.

Still, US cartoonists are downright polite, compared to the cartoons in other countries. They're just vicious. Reading political cartoons in other countries can give you a really good idea of the prevailing political thinking, but I still think they're mostly just mean.


I'm always interested in the political cartoons in the newspaper. I don't always agree with them, but I do appreciate the points of view they provide.

I prefer cartoonists who are no respecters of persons and lampoon everyone equally. When I see a cartoonist who consistently satirizes one side over the other, I'm not as apt to enjoy his or her work. A truly balanced view, in my opinion, is much better. If one side screws up one week, get them. If the other side falls flat the next week, then go after them too. It’s a good exercise for a political cartoonist to go after both sides.

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