Increasingly, the answer appears to be no. But in Montgomery County, it’s a time honored belief that they do. So I don’t see them going away here anytime soon. Certainly not from the evidence of all the CD8 and Senate signs around the county.
The eternal question: are lawn signs an effective and efficient use of campaign resources?
A recent study suggested that lawn signs can influence an election. These results, which showed signs swing 1.7 percent of the vote on average, surprised even the study’s authors. “They’re supposed to be a waste of money and time,” Alex Coppock, a co-author of the study, told Politico. “Many campaign consultants think that signs ‘preach to the choir’ and not much else.”
In fact, it’s hard to tell if yard signs are even reaching the choir, which has led to many campaigns at the federal level to scale back their use. In many cases, they’re now considered limited-edition campaign swag which supporters must pay for. Data-driven campaigns simply don’t have the evidence to support the printing expense.
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Still, there are some benefits to the traditional sign. They reassure existing donors and supporters that your campaign is robust and strong. The trouble with other forms of campaign communication is that they often go unseen. A TV ad lasts 30 seconds and disappears. Direct mail, nicknamed “the silent killer” because it flies under the radar, isn’t usually sent to staunch supporters. Signs offer tangible evidence the campaign is gaining ground.
They can also psych out your opponents. Having a robust sign program has the potential to drive your opponents insane because not only will they see the signs and likely overestimate your support, but the rival campaigns will receive calls from their supporters claiming your side is “everywhere.”
Signs are also an opportunity to create a gotcha moment when your opponent or her supporters steal your signs. Countless candidates simply cannot resist the urge to tear down, kick over, steal or otherwise destroy your yard signs.
As much as they inflict grief on the other side, they can also increase your own candidate’s self-esteem. As your candidate travels through the district, it will make him or her feel good to see their signs as an anecdotal signal of broad-based support.
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The simple truth is lawn signs are only effective at two things: driving consultants mad and making candidates and supporters feel good. They don’t win elections.