Blockin' up the Scenery, Breaking my Mind
November 1, 2010 9:54 AM   Subscribe

The Bloodsport known as Sign Wars can cause neighbor to viciously turn against neighbor. "I've crawled over there on my hands and knees and put garbage bags over his signs". And respected community leaders to become petty vandals. But do Yard Signs have a measurable effect on electoral outcome? Some media outlets would have us believe so. They certainly are Big Business, with signs becoming more elaborate and customized. And they are Not Going Away, in the Digital Age.
posted by Cookiebastard (84 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I would NEVER mix-up a batch of homemade Napalm and launch it at those monstrous 5 x 10 ft. signs that have sprouted on CT lawns this election season.

But I've sure thought about it.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 9:57 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


As a Cook County resident, let me assure you that while Tony Peraica may be many things, being among the "respected community leaders" isn't one of them.

Mileage may vary on that, so your point definitely still stands. I'm not sure what's crazier about Peraica's story -- the fact that he may have been out vandalizing his opponent's signs or his alibi -- that he was there patrolling on a Saturday night because reports were somebody else was doing the same to his signs.
posted by MCMikeNamara at 9:58 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I find them helpful. I keep a running tally sheet in my car, I count blue ones, red ones, and green ones.. the color with the lowest tally on Nov. 2 gets my vote.
posted by HuronBob at 10:00 AM on November 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


There was a bizarre incident in DC regarding this, where a candidate was caught removing signs, and then replacing them with those from another candidate entirely, which she vehemently denied after being caught on camera.
posted by schmod at 10:02 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've designed exactly one yard sign in my career, for a local guy running for state representative. He lost, but my signs were specifically mentioned in the local press as being the most attractive of the campaign. So, in that sense, I won. But, I also lost, as the design was immediately copied by other candidates in the following elections and primaries.
posted by Thorzdad at 10:03 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Well, we just take note of the ones that have crap like "Stop Force Healthcare" and other teabaggery, and make a point of shunning them. I've recently thought about putting hobo marks on the curb near them, too, but in the Digital Age, perhaps a USB plug would be better.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:04 AM on November 1, 2010


I am a campaign manager by profession. Let me tell you just how many hours I spend each election trying to convince candidates that lawn signs are meaningless. "Lawn signs don't vote. People do." I say to deaf ears. Candidates loose hours and hours of sleep fretting over how many signs they have out. They will get volunteers to illegally put lawn signs in public parks or highway medians.

Many people are surprised by this, but most politicians know nothing about politics. They have no clue how to get elected. For the majority of them campaigns are referendums on how awesome they are. It is an ego thing. And for them politics is nothing but a game of chess played with lawn signs. They are dogs marking their territory.

There is only one game to play with lawn signs that I approve of. And that is finding out where your opponent lives and how they get to work and get as many people as possible along that route to put up your signs. If lawn signs are all about a candidate's sense of self then I will gladly use them as a weapon against our opponent. But otherwise, for the love of god, get your dirty hippie signs off my lawn.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:05 AM on November 1, 2010 [83 favorites]


Anecdotally, I was told last week by an aide to a congressman up for re-election tomorrow that lawn signs have zero impact.
posted by victors at 10:06 AM on November 1, 2010


That first link was about as far from bloodsport as it could be. A democratic kid who lives across the street from a republican woman he considers his "second mom," and it's a friendly rivalry based on genuine mutual respect.

"I've crawled over there on my hands and knees and put garbage bags over his signs".

In good fun, and then she invited him over to watch tv on her couch, where she said "I love it," of [her neighbor's] passion for politics.

Not to say that the democratic process can't produce some real ugliness, but in this case it looks about as good as we could hope for.
posted by headnsouth at 10:08 AM on November 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


"but most politicians know nothing about politics"

ftfy
posted by HuronBob at 10:08 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


does anyone really think stealing a political sign will make an measurable differance. It seems to have a 'zero effect'
"my sign was stolen, hmm maybe i'll vote for the other person" besides the feeling something was stolen, it is ratfucking 101.
the real problem is when the signs are stolen, what does one do with them?
posted by clavdivs at 10:10 AM on November 1, 2010


They do have one benefit for me: if I'm unsure of a candidate, I try to remember who else's signs are on the same lawn as the signs of somebody I like. Also, guilt by association for the guy I'm not voting for.

The biggest drawback of political signs is that, on Saturdays, at this time of year we hear this more often while out driving:

"Hey, there's a garage sal--crap, another election."
posted by AzraelBrown at 10:12 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


A friend ran for a city office, and spent about $300 on signs. He spent one weekend putting them all out. By Wednesday all of them -- every single one -- had been removed (even the ones on private property put up by homeowners). Clearly some other candidate had decided to remove the signs, but no one ever figured out who (City Council, so a multiple candidate race).

We persuaded the local paper to do a story on the "theft" of his lawn signs, getting him an interview, photo, and quotes from other candidates about how terrible and unsporting the theft was.

He was the top vote-getter in the election. Says it was the best $300 he ever spent.
posted by anastasiav at 10:12 AM on November 1, 2010 [19 favorites]


Oh man. As someone who's worked as a staffer on a number of campaigns (this is the first even-numbered year since 2004 I'm not, and frankly, it feels weird!), I have to say that lawn signs are the bane of any campaign staffer's existence. They take up an enormous amount of time and effort, everyone knows that they make no difference (except *maybe* in the case of very local, downballot races), and people think that putting up a lawn sign means they've volunteered, when what you really need is people making calls and knocking on doors.

Man, just thinking about lawn signs makes me all cranky!
posted by lunasol at 10:13 AM on November 1, 2010 [6 favorites]


A friend of mine used political signs as one way to evaluate candidates and propositions: look at the signs in front of the most rural ranch areas, and do the opposite. I imagine that some neighbors would do the same with the vehemently loud on certain sides, depending on personal views.

And at some point, people just get tired of hearing about someone, even facing possible voter backlash at personal spending. Seriously, I'm tired about hearing from/of Meg Whitman.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:15 AM on November 1, 2010


the real problem is when the signs are stolen, what does one do with them?

This? Why, I can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl...
posted by Tavern at 10:16 AM on November 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


When you're driving out of my apartment complex, there's pretty poor visibility because of a little hill just to your right. Two weeks ago, some helpful political activists went out and put a Connolly (R, VA) sign every. twelve. inches. for about a half mile in either direction. Visibility went down to zero. It was miserable; trying to make a left turn was "gun it and pray that nobody's coming from your right".

So yeah. Screw you, political signs.
posted by specialagentwebb at 10:16 AM on November 1, 2010


What's really fun is paying too much for a lousy rental and then having to look at signs the landlord put up - for candidates you hate.

Not that all those signs stay up for the duration ...
posted by NorthernLite at 10:17 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Somebody near my mom's place has a homemade sign that says WORST PRESIDENT EVER. I guess he's talking about Obama, but he might be complaining about the head of the homeowners association, hard to tell.
posted by marxchivist at 10:21 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


There was a bizarre incident in DC regarding this, where a candidate was caught removing signs, and then replacing them with those from another candidate entirely, which she vehemently denied after being caught on camera.

That's not really bizarre. She got busted and is contending that the owner gave her permission. With no way to deny the charges (she's on camera), she can only try to make it a "he said, she said" situation.

It seems like her only defense. I think she's better off pushing the "miscommunication" angle, as opposed to the "conspiracy to entrap me" angle.

Electoral politics are petty and lame; local electoral politics even more so.

A Nobel Prize (that's right, I'm awarding them now) to whomever can institute a democratic system where the most qualified people get elected, instead of the richest or most effective campaigners.

But do Yard Signs have a measurable effect on electoral outcome? Some media outlets would have us believe so. They certainly are Big Business, with signs becoming more elaborate and customized.

Anecdotally, I was told last week by an aide to a congressman up for re-election tomorrow that lawn signs have zero impact.


Of course they don't. Campaign signs aren't intended to affect electoral outcome. They're intended to be yet another way for blowhards to spout their opinions to everyone who doesn't care, and to identify the winners from the losers. See: bumper stickers. That's the real reason they will never go away.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:22 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


I started volunteering for elections in 1996, when I was young enough to be a mascot for our party's county HQ. People always came in looking for the signs. I felt like there must be some secret reason everyone liked them; they are pointless as advertising and make me hate elections more than I already do.

This is why I like MetaFilter. After 15 years I no longer have to feel like the only person who doesn't get this social phenomenon. Woot.

(My mother has kept a lawn sign or two from every election. They sit in the garage, mocking us when we get out of the car. Someday they'll be worth something, I'm sure. Especially the county commissioner ones.)
posted by SMPA at 10:22 AM on November 1, 2010


We seem to have a de facto mutual non-aggression pact when it comes to political signs on our block. The only traffic on our side street is residents, and when asked by a candidate I agreed with to post signs, I pointed up and down the sign-less street, and said I didn't feel the benefits to her would outweigh the balance of peace we had attained. She understood.
posted by dglynn at 10:25 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


As someone who's worked as a staffer on a number of campaigns (this is the first even-numbered year since 2004 I'm not, and frankly, it feels weird!), I have to say that lawn signs are the bane of any campaign staffer's existence. They take up an enormous amount of time and effort, everyone knows that they make no difference (except *maybe* in the case of very local, downballot races), and people think that putting up a lawn sign means they've volunteered, when what you really need is people making calls and knocking on doors.

This, this, this, a thousand times this. I can't tell you how many times I have had long, drawn out, mutually frustrating exchanges with constituents who would bitch and complain and pester and torment with "Are the signs in? When can I get my sign? Why won't you give me a sign? Are you hiding signs? So-and-so has a sign, but I don't have a sign. I WANT A SIGN!" Meanwhile, try to get 95% of the sign-wanters to do something that really matters like canvassing, or phone-banking. It won't happen.

They're an ego boost for candidates, yes, but they're also the political version of a yellow "Livestrong" bracelet you can show off to everyone who passes your house. "LOOK AT ME! I AM POLITICALLY ASTUTE AND I SUPPORT THIS GUY OR LADY!"
posted by rollbiz at 10:26 AM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've found that a proper yard sign helps cut down on doorknockers. Your side knows you don't need convincing, the other side won't waste time on you.

That said, my yard is proudly sporting a nice, green Keith Ellison for Congress sign right now. I look at it as teabag repellant.
posted by gimonca at 10:27 AM on November 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Around here, the signs are just litter. People plant them in the median or along the shoulder and leave them there until they blow away into the woods.
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:28 AM on November 1, 2010


I hate seeing signs all over public property but I like them in people's windows. I'm enough of a herd animal that it's a relief to see a sign that supports the same position I do. I'm not a brave person. When the opposition is being SO noisy & blowhardish, and just dumping money into flyers and signs, I start feeling like I'm the lone voice in a wilderness of hate and meanness, and is it worth the bother to agitate? Or will I just get bricks through my window?

This is especially true when the issue is something that reflects a core value of mine. I was in Tulare, California during the Proposition 8 campaign (California's gay marriage proposition) and it was a veritable sea of "Yes on 8" signs. Talk about feeling alone! Just one "No on 8" sign would have made the whole town feel less scary, and I'm not even gay.

TL;DR: I'm not sure signs are a complete waste.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:37 AM on November 1, 2010 [8 favorites]


One of the few reasons I have interest in those signs is as a mark of the mindset of the design firm that makes them for whatever candidate. The Democrat's signs in my district are blocky, clunky, and clumsy, just like the candidate. The Republican's signs are well-designed, assertive, and obnoxious, just like the candidate.

The signs also give me a tiny clue as to whether any Democrats live in my district. More do than I thought.

Otherwise, they're litter. I went and early-voted on Thursday evening and the polling station driveway was completely blanketed with them, from major-party candidates on down the line. It's just a particularly noxious form of territorial marking and oneupmanship.
posted by blucevalo at 10:38 AM on November 1, 2010


This, this, this, a thousand times this. I can't tell you how many times I have had long, drawn out, mutually frustrating exchanges with constituents who would bitch and complain and pester and torment with "Are the signs in? When can I get my sign? Why won't you give me a sign? Are you hiding signs? So-and-so has a sign, but I don't have a sign. I WANT A SIGN!" Meanwhile, try to get 95% of the sign-wanters to do something that really matters like canvassing, or phone-banking. It won't happen.

Ugh. I remember those folks. My personal favorite conversation with a supporter:

Crusty New Hampshire Democrat: "What do you mean you're OUT OF SIGNS? How will I show my support for $CANDIDATE?"
Me: "Well, sir, we only ordered a handful for the regional office, because they're pretty expensive, and most of them are already out on the more visible roads in town. If you want to support $CANDIDATE, we'd just like you to go out on Tuesday and vote, and get as many of your friends and family members as you can to vote, too."
CNHD: "Oh, I'll be out of town that day, and I missed the deadline for getting an absentee ballot. But I really want to get those signs up as soon as I can to show support!"
Me: *single gunshot*
posted by Mayor West at 10:49 AM on November 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


'Libertatem Automony'


- T. Quintus Flaminius.
posted by clavdivs at 10:50 AM on November 1, 2010


This year I requested a sign - never expected to do that! But a local candidate has the same name as my grandfather, and my mom insisted on having a sign to put up in his yard. The candidate is not one I would ever consider voting for, but my grandfather lives outside of this voting district, so I got him a sign in the end. Seemed weird seeing it in the garage for a few days - can't imagine seeing it out in the yard!

I, too, find the forests of signs to be useful litmus tests of which minor candidates not to vote for, based on their association with major candidates I don't support.
posted by dorey_oh at 10:53 AM on November 1, 2010


Talk about feeling alone! Just one "No on 8" sign would have made the whole town feel less scary, and I'm not even gay.

I was 200 miles north of you in Contra Costa County at the time and those omnipresent blue-and-yellow Yes on 8 signs all over town with the cutesy disingenuous stick-figure family raising their arms in the air were the bane of my existence. If I'd only sensed before how unwelcome a gay couple was there, those signs put the nail in it.
posted by blucevalo at 10:55 AM on November 1, 2010


Please take them down the day after the voting. If your signs are still blighting the landscape a week after the election you should have to spend a Saturday picking up trash in a park.
posted by longsleeves at 11:12 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


The larger the elections, the less important yard signs are. In the case of Obama, yard signs were only important as a fund raiser for local party organizations. Signs were sold in excess of cost by county parties to raise money for the grassroots level, since people tend to give to candidates instead of local party organizations where the money is actually needed the most.

But as a vote getting device, yard signs are worthless in a national election. Name recognition in national elections comes purely through TV. Yard signs in national elections simply make the sign planter feel like they are doing something. Yard signs in a national election merely mark where the neighborhood cranks live.

Where yard signs are worth their weight in gold is in small elections or elections where the candidates are obscure. Most elected judges are elected purely on the basis of who has the most yard signs out. If you are running for dog catcher, just put out as many signs as you can and be done with your campaign.

Some general vote getting effectiveness guidelines are:
  • Direct mail: gets one vote for every 500 pieces of mail sent when targeted at undecideds.
  • Phone banking: gets one vote for every 400 calls when targeted.
  • Canvass visit from a stranger: gets one vote for every 300 door knocks when targeted.
  • Personal canvass visit from a neighbor: gets one vote for every 12 visits.
  • Partisan voter guides/cheat sheets handed out at the polls: gets one vote for every 10 handouts.
The most effective vote getting mechanisms are the things most people are least likely to do: visit their neighbors and be outside their polling place talking to their neighbors.

Most people who volunteer for campaigns want to do things like "stuff envelopes" or "drive vans to the polls." These are not terribly effective things to do to win elections. Campaigns actually spend a lot of energy providing things for volunteers to do that the volunteers actually want to and will do, just to keep the good will of the volunteers and present an image that the campaign is "doing somthing," whether or not those activities are likely to produce any votes.

Sometimes local campaign offices get overwhelmed with hundreds of people dropping by because they have an hour or two to "stuff envelopes" or "drive a van." Often they are sent out to canvass in groups, but not in their own neighborhoods. That kind of canvassing can actually have the reverse of the desired effect as people get annoyed with having to answer the door for a stranger reciting a speech the canvasser learned earlier in the day.

But when someone knocks on a door and says, "Hi, I'm such and such, your *neighbor* from 123 Nearby Street, and I'm wondering if you need any information about voting. I have a voter guide for you with information about voting. Are there any questions I could answer for you about registering to vote or getting to the polls?," well, the effect is almost like magic. As soon as someone knows that you live around the corner and they might be likely to run into you again at the grocery store, that's a game changer.

The political movement that learns how to get its supporters to do this would be unstoppable. And yet, no campaign ever figures this out because almost all its supporters are likely to say, "Oh, I could *never* do that. I'm not really good at talking to people." Even people who seem to not be able to stop talking otherwise. At best you get volunteers wanting to know if there's a script they could memorize to go door to door and then campaigns send them out on some Saturday morning into targeted neighborhoods which are usually greatly mismatched to the volunteers.

At the end of the day, campaigns are only as good as their supporters' willingness to do things that campaigns can't really direct. Most campaigns waste far too much money and effort on phone banks. At best, a positive phone bank connection results in identifying what callees would like a free yard sign. And there ain't no such thing as a free yard sign.
posted by 3.2.3 at 11:16 AM on November 1, 2010 [192 favorites]


Our next-door neighbors in our modest, lower-middle-class neighborhood are a young couple in their mid-20s. We don't know them well but our interaction has been quite friendly and pleasant. I was chagrined when they planted a sign for the right-wing senate candidate I strongly oppose. Now I feel differently towards them. Disappointed; I'd thought they were smarter than that. I'm relieved we'd never discussed politics.
posted by FormerMermaid at 11:22 AM on November 1, 2010


Most campaigns waste far too much money and effort on phone banks. At best, a positive phone bank connection results in identifying what callees would like a free yard sign. And there ain't no such thing as a free yard sign.

I agree somewhat with the general sentiment, but you've failed to address a very important element of a campaign: GOTV. Even phone banks and stranger candidates are pretty effective at getting people who want to support you to actually get out and do it.
posted by rollbiz at 11:26 AM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


Whoops, stranger *canvasses*, not candidates.
posted by rollbiz at 11:27 AM on November 1, 2010


I wonder if GOTV is less important as early voting and vote-by-mail and no-excuse absentee voting become more widespread and popular.
posted by enn at 11:29 AM on November 1, 2010


Maybe I should start getting me former neighbours in Toronto to send me Canadian election campaign signs and put them up here on my US lawn. I wonder if anyone would even notice.
posted by GuyZero at 11:34 AM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


Old'n'Busted: "crap like "Stop Force Healthcare" and other teabaggery"

I have altered your prescription co-pay.

Pray I do not alter it any further.
posted by idiopath at 12:01 PM on November 1, 2010 [18 favorites]


Two weeks ago, some helpful political activists went out and put a Connolly (R, VA) sign every. twelve. inches. for about a half mile in either direction.

D, VA. VA-11, to be exact.

See! They really don't work at all.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 12:09 PM on November 1, 2010 [5 favorites]


I vote local elections based on signs. Ugly signs never get my vote. If you can't manage well enough to get a decent sign made, you can't be smart enough to run government,
posted by cccorlew at 12:11 PM on November 1, 2010


Any time anyone from any political party calls me and asks if they can put a sign on my front porch I politely refuse because they just wind up in a landfill after the election ends. Even if they get recycled it's a waste of time, energy and resources. Plus they're an eyesore, and it depresses me to think that anyone, anywhere of any political affiliation might base their vote on the number of signs they see in their neighbourhood.
posted by The Card Cheat at 12:13 PM on November 1, 2010


I have worked in Oregon (vote by mail) and New York (vote on the day) and GOTV is still immensely important. You don't spend all summer doing voter ID and education just to not remind them to actually get off their asses and vote. The difference between the two, as far as I have experienced it, is that vote by mail means a three week simmering of GOTV effort where as vote in the booth is a week long boiling ZOMG VOTE ZOMG MONEY LAWN SIGNZ GHAAAA!

Either way, I am underpaid and could use a drink.
posted by munchingzombie at 12:14 PM on November 1, 2010


munching zombie, lunasol, rollbiz, mayor west, and 3.2.3.

Why are you on MeFi and not knocking on doors? ... oh, wait.

Get out that vote!
posted by Michael Pemulis at 12:17 PM on November 1, 2010


My old state senator would call every election season to see if we would like to put out his yardsign. We'd say yes and he would drop it off, then come back by after the election and pick it up. His campaign literature includes a brief outline of what he has worked on for the past termm what he would like to work on for the next term, plus his home phone number. In the interest of saving resources the yard signs don't have a year, just his name. I think he printed one batch back in 1996 and has been re-using them ever since.
posted by ChrisHartley at 12:36 PM on November 1, 2010 [7 favorites]


Somebody's been messing with my mom's signs.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:37 PM on November 1, 2010


We put our house on the market in August when the pre-primary sign-planting was peaking in Rhode Island. Thankfully the house sold pretty fast, but I had constant fears that no one could find our relator's red-white-and-blue "For Sale" sign among all the various candidates' red-white-and-blue signs.

Realtors must hate election season!
posted by wenestvedt at 1:00 PM on November 1, 2010


Anybody from New Hampshire wanna talk about how crazy strict (and appropriate) your laws are requiring folks to remove their yard signs come presidential primary time? I don't remember the details -- and maybe they aren't as strict as I was told and it was just a motivator -- but I found it pretty amusing (as I did nearly everything regarding the NH primary experience)

(Six years ago, I was a volunteer who stuck around the day after the election in order to remove signs -- which was necessary because literally every possible place for a sign had 20.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 1:08 PM on November 1, 2010


be outside their polling place talking to their neighbors.

I want to bash people who do this over the head with a yard sign.

Thank God for vote-by-mail.
posted by madajb at 1:18 PM on November 1, 2010


Someone's been putting "Jay Inslee, Bankrupting America since 1992" signs around here. They look just like real campaign signs and must've cost quite a bit; I presume they were put up by his opponent, whose name isn't springing to mind.
posted by The corpse in the library at 2:04 PM on November 1, 2010 [1 favorite]


munching zombie, lunasol, rollbiz, mayor west, and 3.2.3.

Why are you on MeFi and not knocking on doors? ... oh, wait.


I posted from work during lunch. I'm taking the entire day off tomorrow to hand out voter guides at the polls.

but you've failed to address a very important element of a campaign: GOTV. Even phone banks and stranger candidates are pretty effective at getting people who want to support you to actually get out and do it.

GOTV was what I was talking about. Every activity about a campaign comes down to GOTV. If it's not GOTV, it doesn't have a purpose in a campaign. And I don't agree that phone banks and stranger canvasses are effective at that. They're just activities political consultants use to relieve candidates and parties of their cash.
posted by 3.2.3 at 2:58 PM on November 1, 2010 [3 favorites]


I'm working as a caretaker for a guy suffering a bit of dementia right now. I helped him fill out his absentee ballots.

He had two criteria for choosing candidates: party affiliation, and name recognition. And given his dementia, it takes a lot of repetitions to get him to recognize names. But we take a walk through the neighborhood every day, and he asks about all the signs, and who they're for.

Name recognition, for him, was especially important for non-partisan races, and races with multiple candidates. Unrecognized names were not considered. (That part doesn't seem completely absurd to me-- votes for 3rd place candidates don't really have much meaning.) There were cases of name recognition back-firing, as when he thought that a certain candidate was always running for one position or another.

So that's why I find it hard to swallow the idea that signs are totally ineffective. Sure, they might not be cost effective, but that 1/500 number up there sounds more reasonable.
posted by nathan v at 2:59 PM on November 1, 2010


Those mass-produced signs are pretty slick, but to demonstrate real outrage, take a cue from the knucklehead in my neighborhood who probably spent most of a weekend cutting out, priming, and painting a bunch of plywood white, upon which he spray-painted the most damning acrostic he could come up with:

One
Big
Ass
Mistake,
America

("Oops, I kinda ran out of room on 'mistake' and 'America'. Oh well! Maybe if I add this hammer and sickle at the bottom nobody will notice!")

Then for good measure he nailed on a couple more pieces of wood, one spray-painted with "Hurts Kids" and the other "Kills Jobs".
posted by usonian at 3:07 PM on November 1, 2010


munching zombie, lunasol, rollbiz, mayor west, and 3.2.3.

Why are you on MeFi and not knocking on doors? ... oh, wait.

Get out that vote!


Posted here at my work desk. You can't work without sleep without a few breaks at least. And my printout is done so I am off to run a phonebank.

kisses!
posted by munchingzombie at 3:18 PM on November 1, 2010


3.2.3 -
* Direct mail: gets one vote for every 500 pieces of mail sent when targeted at undecideds.
* Phone banking: gets one vote for every 400 calls when targeted.
* Canvass visit from a stranger: gets one vote for every 300 door knocks when targeted.
* Personal canvass visit from a neighbor: gets one vote for every 12 visits.
* Partisan voter guides/cheat sheets handed out at the polls: gets one vote for every 10 handouts.


This is fascnating; what's the source for this? I'm sure that a huge amount of commercial and academic effort goes into determining this stuff, but it seems like the data sets must be nightmarishly complex, with more confounding variables than one could shake a slide rule at. Is there really some solid source that these kinds of numbers are based on, or is this just the received wisdom?
posted by metaBugs at 3:34 PM on November 1, 2010 [2 favorites]


In terms of local elections, various friends of mine who are active in local politics echo 3.2.3's observation. They all loathe yard signs, and yet several of them say "the first time I tried to run, I did it without yard signs and failed utterly". To the comments about neighbors knocking on doors, I take note of which neighbor is endorsing whom, so a yard sign is kind of like a canvassing knock without the "I'm in the back yard up to my elbows in *cough*fertilizer and have to clean up to answer the door" factor.

And combinations of signs have led to good conversations with neighbors; I met one guy a few streets away when he was pounding in signs for a county administrator candidate and city councilmember seeking re-election who've been at each other's throats on the council, and we had a "yeah, I support her because of her stance on this, and him because...". Which goes back to the best endorsements coming from conversations with neighbors.

On the "get out the vote", every neighbor I've talked to swears they voted absentee weeks ago.
posted by straw at 3:46 PM on November 1, 2010


Well, we just take note of the ones that have crap like "Stop Force Healthcare" and other teabaggery, and make a point of shunning them. I've recently thought about putting hobo marks on the curb near them, too, but in the Digital Age, perhaps a USB plug would be better.

Classy. Nothing encourages discourse like being a total dick to a neighbor with a differing opinion.
posted by rulethirty at 4:37 PM on November 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


Yard signs have always seemed to me to have about the same effect on elections that posting a Facebook status has on helping a cause or a charity, which is to say: not much, just makes the person posting it feel a little better.
posted by immlass at 5:37 PM on November 1, 2010


upon which he spray-painted the most damning acrostic he could come up with:

A neighbor posted this little gem at a very busy intersection near my house. Unfortunately, no one could seem to parse what it said, so it sort of "evolved" over the course of the weeks leading up to the election, until it was a patchwork of overpaints and ply-wood ad-ons.

In 2006 we saw these spring up all over the city. My favorite is "Vote Maybe on Yes".
posted by anastasiav at 5:55 PM on November 1, 2010 [4 favorites]


clavdivs: "does anyone really think stealing a political sign will make an measurable differance. It seems to have a 'zero effect' "

Where I live, it did make a difference. They caught the actual candidate on tape in the act stealing opponent's signs at a busy intersection, "because their sign was blocking mine." Cited and did not win reelection to the county commissioner seat.

So it does make a difference. Like moths to a flame.
posted by pwnguin at 6:29 PM on November 1, 2010


Where I live, it did make a difference. They caught the actual candidate on tape in the act stealing opponent's signs at a busy intersection, "because their sign was blocking mine."

I remember this. In this case it is like an essay during college admissions. It can only hurt you. Don't steal yard signs, it won't make a difference who has the most. Start stealing them and get caught on video ... well you just look like an asshole (it hurts he didn't seek contrition, though I don't know how much that hurt).
posted by geoff. at 6:55 PM on November 1, 2010


That first link was about as far from bloodsport as it could be. A democratic kid who lives across the street from a republican woman he considers his "second mom," and it's a friendly rivalry based on genuine mutual respect.

They explained the ages and actions of the "combatants" before the mutual respect, and lemme tell ya, I was about to outragefilter the SHIT out of this place.
posted by mreleganza at 8:35 PM on November 1, 2010


Like moths to a flame.
my, and thank god that person want elected
like i said a 'zero effect'. I said stealing. I must clarify, if i stole something, i got away with it (unless i kept it around), in my mind that is just logic or else dont steal because
you won't get caught.

The political signs in my neigborhood indicate how many people are voting republican when they voted democrat before.

i mis-spelled 'difference'
posted by clavdivs at 8:52 PM on November 1, 2010


I know of a campaign. And this unnamed campaign uses sign stealing as a tactic, but not how you'd think. They send volunteers out to steal their own signs. Then they target those whose signs they've stolen with phone calls. The phone calls essentially let the already declared supporter know that they need help from volunteers as much as possible. The campaign points out that the race has gotten particularly nasty with signs disappearing and such. The declared supporter (whose sign was stolen intentionally by the campaign) gasps and exclaims something akin to "My own sign was stolen!"

Then it's easy, "see sir/ma'am, we really need you to come down to the office and help us canvass." It's amazing how many extra volunteers they get this way. Seems when people feel personally slighted by the alleged malfeasance of the other campaign, they are more inclined to participate in a more meaningful way than sticking a plastic bag or cardboard sign in their yard. So, I think campaign signs have their uses.
posted by IvoShandor at 10:17 PM on November 1, 2010 [11 favorites]


Classy. Nothing encourages discourse like being a total dick to a neighbor with a differing opinion.

Nothing gets the rabidly intolerant to see reason quite like a warm hug and a few verses of Kumbaya.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 10:27 PM on November 1, 2010


One local congressional candidate got a flood of money from FreedomWorks PAC, and they have taken to putting up signs for her. All over the damn place - one sign every 10 feet or so on some roads. You can pass by hundreds of these signs in a ten minute drive. I hope to hell this backfires.
posted by azpenguin at 11:13 PM on November 1, 2010


Well The headline was "Neighbors Have Friendly Contest With Placards", and the story mentioned how it was a fun and friendly little game they were playing, but honestly, the idea of a grown adult sneaking into her neighbors yard to fuck with the 13-year old's hobby is a little sick, if'n you ask me. The phrase "Blood Sport" was intentional hyperbole just for lulz though.
posted by Cookiebastard at 6:27 AM on November 2, 2010


I am a campaign manager by profession. Let me tell you just how many hours I spend each election trying to convince candidates that lawn signs are meaningless. "Lawn signs don't vote. People do." I say to deaf ears. Candidates loose hours and hours of sleep fretting over how many signs they have out.

munchingzombie, when you get a break, I would love to hear more about this. I don't have the first clue about what's effective and what's not, and I'd very much enjoy a primer about the most effective ways to reach potential voters. Feel free to wait until after all this election hullaballoo is over, of course!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:04 AM on November 2, 2010


Oh wait, just noticed 3.2.3's thing about it. Interesting!
posted by Greg Nog at 9:07 AM on November 2, 2010


My dad is currently in the running for city council, so of course we put up signs, since in local elections, name recognition is hard to come by. My dad refuse to put up signs illegally, though pretty much every other candidate didn't have the same qualms.

In any case, we had both yard signs and larger signs. We had gone through the trouble of finding places to put up the large signs, including one prominent one by the big freeway off ramp (on private property).

It was, of course, stolen twice. It's not like they were pretty or slick either, they were blocky two color things. I wish I had done what anastasiav did.

In any case, there is apparently no fine or penalty for putting up signs illegally here. And there is legitimate reason for most restrictions, namely that signs can be dangerous if they get on the road, with those thin metal stands puncturing tires.

But really, signs are not insidious... it's the mailers. There are mailers attacking candidates for my small cities mayor filled with outright lies, apparently funded by state wide organizations. The trouble with Mailers is that whoever has the money gets to set the dialog. In signs, it's hard to do more then give a slogan or web address.
posted by gryftir at 9:13 AM on November 2, 2010


In my county, during the Primary election, there were 40 candidates running for various offices. Figure 1000 yard-signs each, and at 3 square feet per sign, that's over 100,000 square feet of non-biodegradable, non-recyclable yard-signs going into the landfill.
posted by Cookiebastard at 9:24 AM on November 2, 2010


But when someone knocks on a door...

I'm an antisocial crank who hates people who ignore my "no solicitors" sign so much that I'm invariably muttering about how I'm just going to vote against whatever the last one was for. Same for phone calls and paper spam left at my house.

I frankly doubt you know more about the issues than I do, random crank at my door or on my phone, but even if you do, you're not likely to change my mind with whatever unsourced assertions you bring to bear.

God I can't wait for it all to be over.
posted by Zed at 10:28 AM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


get your dirty hippie signs off my lawn

Why "hippie"?
posted by nickyskye at 11:13 AM on November 2, 2010


Nothing gets the rabidly intolerant to see reason quite like a warm hug and a few verses of Kumbaya

Better than a bag of flaming feces on the porch.

Partisan voter guides/cheat sheets handed out at the polls: gets one vote for every 10 handouts

Isn't that illegal? Or what do you mean by "at the polls"? (I guess it's state to state.)

This whole pollfuckery business on both sides needs to stop. Yes, Ms. Obama should know better too.
posted by mrgrimm at 2:21 PM on November 2, 2010


I'm an antisocial crank who hates people who ignore my "no solicitors" sign so much that I'm invariably muttering about how I'm just going to vote against whatever the last one was for.

There was an amusing couple of letters in the local paper about people doing just that.

A man wrote in complaining that campaigners ignored his "no soliciting" sign, whereupon another person wrote in explaining in some detail (with quotes from the founding fathers) that political campaigning was in fact "canvassing" and not "soliciting".

Talk about missing the point...
posted by madajb at 5:38 PM on November 2, 2010


madajb: "A man wrote in complaining that campaigners ignored his "no soliciting" sign, whereupon another person wrote in explaining in some detail (with quotes from the founding fathers) that political campaigning was in fact "canvassing" and not "soliciting"."

The important difference here is that if you have a "no soliciting" sign and someone tries to sell you a vacuum cleaner, you can take them to court on trespass charges and win. Not so with political canvassing, judicial precedent says that it is protected under the first amendment.
posted by idiopath at 8:27 PM on November 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


munching zombie, lunasol, rollbiz, mayor west, and 3.2.3.

Why are you on MeFi and not knocking on doors? ... oh, wait.

Get out that vote!


Ha, just saw this now because I spent the last two days doing just that. We kept MA blue!

I have some commentary on 3.2.3's contribution that I will try to get to later this evening...
posted by rollbiz at 1:56 PM on November 3, 2010


mrgrimm:

In most states that I've lived in, there's a specific number of feet from the entrance of the polling place before campaigning is allowed. A guy was standing just past this sign, handing out Democratic party voting guides, when I voted yesterday. Only the official party observer types, actual voters, and the Board of Elections staff (i.e. the precinct workers) were allowed in the area with the voting machines.

I walked around him because I find this behavior creepy (I also avoid exit pollsters) but at least three people took guides from him, and one held an extended conversation with him, blocking my intended exit path from the parking lot.

In my experience, someone engaging in the kind of behavior that the average observer would consider "campaigning" in a polling place will be schooled by random voters, if not the precinct staff, if not the extremely zealous observers from the other party. But then, I've only ever actually voted in Ohio and California, and in Presidential elections, I've been "fortunate" enough to be in Ohio for three hotly contested races (2000, 2004, 2008) where observers were thick on the ground and everyone was itching to file a lawsuit.
posted by SMPA at 3:54 PM on November 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Mr.Nog,

3.2.3's assessment is good but it is much more complicated than that, as they indicate. The effectiveness is dependent on a whole lot of other factors including incumbency, name recognition, the media narrative... the weather. A phonebank one day will convince Jesus to shave his beard and the next day it couldn't convince an alcoholic to drink.

There are instances in which lawn signs can be useful. For instance, you are in a field of candidates all with low name recognition. The simple repetition of your meaningless name over their meaningless name can help. Though, you need to have those signs on lawns, not on public medians. There are an awful lot of people who vote the way a friend or neighbor votes and they will look to a lawn sign for guidance. Though, if you are reaching out to local politicos you might as well have an actual field campaign rather than playing lawn-sing Risk. Additionally, lawn signs have a shelf life of about two weeks. After that they are just streaks of blue or red along a road.
There is nothing more effective than having the candidate talk to people and having those people talk to people. My strategy is always to check the voter rolls and see who votes all the time and talk to them first. I am not interested in the kid who voted for Obama and never again. I am interested in the 80 year old woman who votes in every primary and general. Those are the people who talk to their neighbors.
And then there is the issue of purpose. 3.2.3 is right, phonebanks are not effective if you are trying to convince people to vote. A canvas with a good, persuasive script that the canvaser knows well and has rehearsed is excellent at that. The name of the game is Voter ID. You have a list of who you think will vote, you find out how they will vote, and you keep that info in a database. You do that all summer and a few weeks before election day you start phoning those poor suckers and harass the shit out of them until they cry and promise you they will vote for your candidate if only you will leave them alone.
This is the most effective strategy I have ever seen. It is also the least expensive and the most labor intensive. Yeah, I have seen campaigns won entirely on mail pieces. But you spent $15,000 to mail to 30,000 people, most of whom will just throw the damn thing out or you spend $15,000 to canvas between 30,000-50,000 households and have actual, persuasive conversations. Few campaigns use this strategy as it is so labor intensive, most managers don't have the infrastructure, and most candidates don't know shit about good campaigning.

So, Mr.Nog, there is my novella on campaigning. If you have any questions I am now unemployed (my campaign won on Tuesday!) and happy to answer them.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:54 PM on November 3, 2010 [4 favorites]


I heard I'd been side-barred from a friend last night. What a weird feeling. Anyway, there was one response to this thread that deserves particular response and that is a question concerning the source of my figures.

Of course, any statistician can tell you that odds which end in double zeroes are bogus, just as the guy who tells you he need exactly 100 yard signs hasn't canvassed and really has no idea how many yard signs he needs.

The first three statistics (1 in 500, 400, and 300) were rounded up slightly from an six year long internal state party study, which was used in 2008 to inform a statewide coordinated campaign strategy.

The 1 in 12 came from another two year internal state party time and motion study of canvassing. The same study concluded that it takes roughly one hour for canvassers to knock on twelve doors, making canvassing in your own neighborhood not only very effective, but also highly efficient with volunteer time compared to boiler room operations.

These kinds of studies are easier in my state because voting records are public. That is, any citizen can go to the Board of Elections and request the voting history of any or all voters in the state for just the cost of media. These histories include a whole bunch of ancillary demographics like age, gender, ethnicity, address, precinct, party affiliation, and date of registration.

Things like party affiliation and whether somebody consistently votes in primary run-off elections are great for targeting. The histories come as CSV files by county when electronic copies are requested. So you can do all kinds of before/after and control group breakdowns.

The 1 in 10 is a very conservative direct observation on my own part from handing out voter guides outside my polling place for the last several elections, whether general, mid-term, municipal, or primary. I base it on the ratio of the number of voter guides I hand out to the number of enthusiastic, "Thank you, that really helped, especially in the judicial races," responses I get from people on their way out of the polls.

It's kind of stunning at the end of a day of handing out voter guides outside the polls, even though I've been standing for 13 hours just how, I don't know if "satisfied" is the right word but, some kind of goodness I feel from getting thanked by my neighbors a couple of hundred times. A more accurate number might be 1 in 5 but I don't want to stretch it.

I just know that all day long people come back up to me to tell me how they would not have known who to vote for on a large part of the ticket if I had not helped them. It's fun to watch people take those guides and go sit down to read them for twenty minutes or so before walking into the polls.

Even better were the number of people who come through waving a voter guide they brought with them to the polls because a canvasser took a guide to their houses before election day. About 1 in 4 voters I tried to hand a guide to turned out to already have one.

At the end of Tuesday, the Democratic vote in my county averaged about 67 percent across all candidates. My county and the adjacent one have to make up for the Republican vote in the entire rest of the state. The decisive factor was turnout. Turnout in my county was only 45 percent, compared with about 70 percent in 2008 when the state went for Obama.

This year the Democrats were slaughtered in my state and I can attribute it directly to the self-fulfilling "enthusiasm gap" prophecy the major news outlets were pushing. We held on to our Democratic US Representative by a comfortable margin against a tea party candidate. But we didn't help the rest of the state enough. My state legislature is now Republican for the first time since Reconstruction. If that other 25 percent who went for Obama in 2008 in my county had bothered to go to the polls this week, things could be a lot different.
posted by 3.2.3 at 11:05 AM on November 4, 2010 [5 favorites]


Thank you, munchingzombie! And congrats on the win!
posted by Greg Nog at 11:06 AM on November 4, 2010


The same study concluded that it takes roughly one hour for canvassers to knock on twelve doors,

whoa whoa whoa whoa whoa don't tell my canvassers that!

I give them 70-90 doors, 3 hours, knock on the "not homes" when they're done.
posted by Michael Pemulis at 10:32 AM on November 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


I live in a cul-de-sac. When my neighbor across the street (who thinks Fox is "pretty balanced") puts out yard signs that will only be seen by five people, I use them as a reverse voting guide.
posted by mecran01 at 3:49 PM on November 13, 2010


Aaaah, I just saw this FPP (thanks to 3.2.3's awesome sidebarred bit)! I must have missed it on Election Day...because I was out canvassing for Deval Patrick (one of the few races I cared about that went well). I was a campaign staffer in 2008 and the FiveThirtyEight piece was sweet, sweet vindication - "until yard signs sprout little legs and go to the polls"? Hilarious, brilliant, and what I'd been trying to tell my volunteers all. bloody. fall. This whole post + comments are fantastic.
posted by naoko at 5:29 PM on November 30, 2010


« Older Geometry, Surfaces, Curves, Polyhedra   |   Art IS a weapon Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments