The 2012 US presidential election – as told by the internet (video)

7 Nov 2012

The ballots are in and Barack Obama will see four more years in the White House, and while the US presidential election has been closely watched worldwide the internet has played a key role in disseminating information and news reports around this significant political event. But it has also done what the internet does best: parodying the event with jokes, memes, and silly videos. Check out our pick of the best here – we’ve got binders full of ’em.

The 2012 presidential campaign has seen records broken, memes generated, and incessant discussion on social networks. We’ve had Clint Eastwood in conversation with a chair, Big Bird threatened with unemployment, and a candidate deemed ‘completely wrong’ by Google Images.

Mitt Romney threatens Big Bird with unemployment

Clint Eastwood vs Chair

And, with the vote tallied, Americans have re-elected the president that wasn’t afraid to let the internet ask him anything.

The build-up

It’s been quite a journey to watch unfold online. Perhaps the most quoted phrase from #election2012 online is “binders full of women”, a soundbite by Republican candidate Mitt Romney during the town hall debate – sparking links to a former US president known for his love for the ladies. 

Clinton - binders full of women

Clinton - binders full of women

The phrase captured the imagination of the internet community, becoming so much more than just a meme – and just in time for Halloween, too.

Binder full of women

Image via Binders Full Of Women on Tumblr

No one puts baby in a binder

Of course, the presidential race didn’t just create memes, it also adopted those already circulating. The ‘Mitt Romney Style’ parody of K-pop sensation PSY from CollegeHumor is the best of the crop – and just as catchy as the original. (“Heyyyy, wealthy ladies!”)


Of course, ‘Gangnam Style’ parodies are unbiased, and incumbent president Barack Obama had a turn at the galloping dance, too.

Obama Gangnam Style

For some reason, an image of Romney eating an ice cream took off, producing the election’s most unnerving meme.

Romney's ice cream meme

Romney's ice cream meme

An image of Obama making a sassy face on a phone call also did the rounds.

Sassy Obama meme

Sassy Obama meme

Sassy Obama meme

Ready to vote

Though Obama and his team got on the phone to voters, regardless of their species, confusion and apathy is hard to overcome.

Texts from Dog

Texts from Dog via October Jones

The incumbent president wasn’t short on celebrity backing either, and, on joining Instagram yesterday (maybe she was waiting for web profiles?), pop superstar Beyoncé’s first pic was in support of Obama.

Beyoncé on Instagram

Maybe she was impressed by his copying her dance moves.

Obama does All the Single Ladies

Meanwhile, at an election party in the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, hosted by the US embassy, it was clear who Ireland was throwing its weight behind.

US Embassy election party at Guinness Storehouse

Image by Fergal Reid

At this point, people were probably getting fed up with the elections online – but none more so than four-year-old Abigael, who had had enough of Mitt Romney and Bronco Bamma fighting.


Tallying up

As the count began, voting was still taking place across the nation. The hashtag #StayInLine began trending on Twitter as voters were encouraged to remain in hours-long queues at polling stations even after the polls had closed. Once in line before the deadline, voting would be allowed – citizens just had to wait it out.

Statistician Nate Silver’s uncanny ability to predict results in all 50 states earned him much kudos on Twitter as #natesilverfacts also began trending. His own special coverage of the election on the FiveThirtyEight blog drove significant traffic to The New York Times site, which is offering free unlimited access to election coverage on its main site and its mobile apps until 11pm today (GMT).

Obama wins

At the end of the day, Romney just couldn’t relate to the majority of Americans.

Romney - Change

By 5am GMT, the top most mentioned term on Facebook was ‘Obama wins’, and all terms in the top 5 focused on the US election.

Facebook top 5 - US presidential election

With more than 2.1m likes, this image shared on Obama’s Facebook page is now the most-liked Facebook photo of all time.

Obama wins

Image via Facebook + Journalists

It was a close one, though, and some voters were so torn between Romney and Obama that they decided to go for long-shots like Chuck Norris, Kanye West, Yoda and A Gay Dog instead.

The New York Timesgraphics blog features some clear visualisations of how the night panned out, while an amazing animated mini graphic novel from The Guardian documents Romney’s journey – though the final chapter has yet to be added.

NYTgraphics - US presidential election

Image via NYTgraphics

The virality of the quotes, images and videos stemming from the election sure did help to spread the word – but did it get people voting?

Not sure meme

Early reports suggest not, as voter turnout is said to have been lower than in the last election in 2008.

All the same, the general atmosphere of the day is one of jubilation that Moneygall, Co Offaly’s most famous son won out.

Obama Guinness

Here’s to you, Bronco Bamma!

Take That, Mitches

Sassy Obama deal with it meme

Elaine Burke is the editor of Silicon Republic