Do political signs work?

Posted at 7:47 PM, Oct 30, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-30 21:04:23-04

Take a look at "signs of the times" ahead of Tuesday's election.

Candidates will pull out all the stops to get our attention before many of us head to the polls. But how well do these signs work? That depends on who you ask.

Look around, they're everywhere.

In an election that many say will affect our cities, our state and our nation, candidates want one final shoutout before we cast out ballots.

But voters like Sara Taylor consider them entertainment.

"I kind of laugh at them a little bit because they don't really, it doesn't really make a difference. I'm basing my decision on who I'm going to vote for on my own research," she said.

No one argues with that, but to candidates and political parties, signs are no laughing matter.

"The number of yard signs has an impact, I believe, on the voting, the voting population," explained Col. Jon Ker of the Texas Republican Executive Committee.

They don't cost much relative to other campaign expenses, and they send a message, or they're supposed to.

Do political signs really change voters opinions? Recent studies suggest maybe not as much as people think. A 2015 study from Columbia University says political signs have a minimal impact on voters.

"Fines move the dial maybe 1% to 2%. But there's a personal aspect to it as well," said Chris Kelley Rosenberg of the Bell County Democrats.

It's one that even the study found hard to measure. Add to that the impact of COVID-19 and limited in-person campaigning and you'll understand why maybe we see a few more signs this year.

Campaign managers say, it personalizes a campaign.

"This is the chance for the voter to get out, along with bumper stickers to be able to say, "Hey, you know this, this is what I believe in,"" said Kirk Bell of the Pete Sessions campaign.

It's a message without having to get in someone's face to tell them. But it hasn't stopped what some describe as opposition speech.

"What if someone who is not supportive of that candidate decides there's too many yard signs out here, we got to get rid of some. Well then you have that element within our society. That doesn't care about the criminal penalty that's associated with that," said Ker.

That's right, tampering or vandalizing yard signs can result in a criminal charge.

Because tampering with free speech, even on a sign, tampers with the very foundation of this country.

Even Taylor admits while she might get a chuckle out of political signs, they do get her attention.

"They do a little bit, but like I said, if I see somebody say, "I'm on a sign," I'm still going to go and research them, so maybe they influenced me in that way," she said.

And that's all many candidates say they really want.