Skip to comments.Bumper stickers losing popularity as tolerance, vehicle trends evolve
Posted on 04/25/2005 7:37:51 PM PDT by qam1
On an afternoon in Sacramento, Calif., 147 vehicles are parked outside a theater complex under a hazy spring sky. There are shiny Town Cars and rusty Ford pickup trucks, perky Rav 4s and burly Silverados.
For all their differences in name and prestige, they have one thing in common: Their backsides are pristine. Not one of them sports a single gem of wisdom plastered to a bumper.
Bumper stickers, first used in election campaigns after World War II and once a powerful form of political and cultural expression, can still be found in trinket shops and Internet stores. But fewer and fewer of them seem to be showing up on the backs of cars.
The main reason, observers say, is the increasing political prickliness of Americans. In a divided society, commuters are wary of announcing the way they feel about the president or the war or religion or any other controversial subject.
The car is the American icon, so there was something wonderful about the bumper sticker, says Carol Gardner, who traveled the country a decade ago for a book about bumper stickers and the people behind them. They used to represent the town hall of the American roadway. Now theyre disappearing, and its kind of a shame.
Gardner, whose Bumper Sticker Wisdom: Americas Pulpit Above the Tail Pipe (Beyond Words Publishing, $19.95) got national attention when it was published in 1995, has a couple of theories about why fewer people seem to be adorning their cars with messages these days.
With all of the violence and terrorism in our world today, people just want to be careful about expressing their views, she says. They are afraid of the consequences.
Baby boomers who once plastered their Volkswagen vans with slogans that spoke to issues such as abortion and politics have become more introspective and less activist, notes Gardner, who remains a student of stickers.
Bumper stickers really became popular in the 1960s when baby boomers were out there taking on all of the issues, including civil rights and womens rights, she says. In the 1990s, the boomers were turning 50 and started buying self-help and how to books rather than standing up for causes and talking about issues.
Others point to the fact that more people are driving leased cars or otherwise costly vehicles that they are reluctant to decorate with stickers, which likely will fade, peel and prove difficult to remove.
That helps explain the popularity of the colorful car magnets in the shape of ribbons that promote everything from breast-cancer awareness to supporting the troops. Bumper stickers, observers say, are more likely to end up in cubicles or bulletin boards today than on vehicles.
We all have nicer cars now, jokes Deborah Chausse, owner of Evangelines gift shop in Sacramento. I think thats the reason you rarely see bumper stickers. I know I wouldnt want to put a sticker on my car that might leave some kind of residue.
Chausse drives a Lexus.
Sales of bumper stickers have steadily eroded during the past decade as a percentage of all promotional trinkets, including hats and shirts, bags and computer mouse pads, according to an international trade association.
Promotional Products Association International reports that buttons, badges and stickers represented 3.5 percent of sales of such items in 2003, compared with 6.8 percent in 1993.
But although bumper stickers may be less ubiquitous, they do not yet appear to be in danger of going the way of the 8-track tape. Particularly during election years they remain popular, says Bill Prickett of the trade organization.
"Bumper stickers, first used in election campaigns after World War II and once a powerful form of political and cultural expression, can still be found in trinket shops and Internet stores. But fewer and fewer of them seem to be showing up on the backs of cars.
"The main reason, observers say, is the increasing political prickliness of Americans. In a divided society, commuters are wary of announcing the way they feel about the president or the war or religion or any other controversial subject."
Obviously these people haven't been in MD.
I generally don't like BS ( ;-) ) on my cars, but I do put them on. Actually, it's harder NOW cuz there are no wonderful CHROME bumpers which were impervious to real damage from taking off even a crappy cheap BS. All bumpers now are PAINTED fiberglass w/uneven surfaces. Difficult even to put ON much less get off BS these days.
I have a "Run Hillary Run" bumper sticker....on the front of my car.
I keep a lookout for that if you return the favor for me --
My neighbor had a lovely sisal doormat that said GO AWAY.
I've been looking for one ever since. :-)
I got that Tee for my brother on Christmas. :-)
I'm devastated. I'm on my way to get the bumper sticker removal tool right now.
in highschool i had on my vw westphalia a sticker with einsteins "you can either promote the use of nuclear power for peace or war" then on the other side i had a Go Nuclear/Go Navy. i had quite a few arguments that i was a hippocrit.
that looks like a duck duck goose game, bush bush bush DOLE, then run!!! :D
NRA and SASS on the back window.
Me too. I know at least one hardcore peaceloving, tolerant liberal at work who would key my car the moment I put a Bush sticker on there.
My sister, who I admit is a bit 'odd' used to get into some tiffs in the college town where she lives because she drives an SUV and has her Wicca stickers mixed with her Bush/Cheney stickers. I admit, she's a bit unique-- but its always amusing.