Only joking? Online humour in the 2005 UK general election

Limor Shifman*, Stephen Coleman, Stephen Ward

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Humour has long been a part of election campaigns but rarely has election humour been subject to scholarly analysis. The increasing popularity of new forms of Internet-based humour has, however, raised questions about the significance of humour in campaigning and whether online humour can be used as means of stimulating political engagement. This article assesses online humour in the context of the 2005 UK election, exploring both the motivations of the different actors who distributed web-based political humour and the nature of the texts themselves. We find that whilst the official party campaigns use humour very cautiously, there has been an upsurge in humour based campaigns from net activists as well as more traditional broadcasters. Yet, overall, the way that humour is used is paradoxical, since it often attempts to encourage participation but portrays politics as a cynical game, leaving the rationale for political participation unclear.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)465-487
Number of pages23
JournalInformation Communication and Society
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2007
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are grateful for the support of the Economic and Social Research Council Award no RES 000-22-1284, for funding part of this research. We would also like to thank Ralph Schroeder and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments.


  • Election campaigns
  • Game-playing
  • Humour
  • Internet
  • Political participation


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