Dielectric elastomer actuators (DEA) are a class of eletro-active polymers with promising properties for a number of applications, however, such actuators are prone to failure. One of the leading failure mechanisms is the electrical breakdown. It is already well-known that the electro-mechanical actuation properties of DEA are strongly influenced by the mechanical properties of the elastomer and compliant electrodes. It was recently suggested that also the electrical breakdown in such soft materials is influenced by the mechanical properties of the elastomer. Here, we present stress-strain measurements obtained on two tri-block thermoplastic elastomers (SEBS 500040 and SEBS 500120, poly-styrene-ethylene-butadiene-styrene), with resulting large differences in mechanical properties, and compare them to measurements on the commonly used VHB 4910. Materials were prepared by either direct heat-pressing of the raw material, or by dissolving in toluene, centrifuging and drop-casting. Experiments showed that materials prepared with identical processing steps showed a difference in stiffness of about 20%, where centrifuged and drop-casted films were seen to be softer than heat-pressed films. Electric breakdown measurements showed that for identically processed materials, the stiffness seemed to be a strong indicator of the electrical breakdown strength. It was therefore found that processing leads to differences in both stiffness and electrical breakdown strength. However, unexpectedly, the softer drop-cast films had a much higher breakdown strength than the heatpressed films. We attribute this effect to impurities still present in the heat-pressed films, since these were not purified by centrifuging.© (2009) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.