08 Mar 2016
March 08, 2016

Political Yard Signs: Helpful or an Eyesore?

Depending on who you talk to, yard signs are eyesores or an essential part of a political campaign. During an election year the empty lots, street corners, and willing private residents become “breeding grounds” for them.

sign_template.pngPolitical yard signs are a love-hate relationship with political campaigns because their value has never officially been tested or verified. According to Politico, a 2015 study done by Columbia University found that “lawn signs increase voter share by 1.7 percentage points on average, a positive increase, but not a large one.” The study also alleged that the “...effects they found were in persuading voters to choose a certain candidate, not on turnout.”

Campaign yard signs are like an old, beat up, but dependable car: it may not be the most luxurious, but it will get the job done. Despite their seemingly small influence, campaign yard signs are simply a necessary evil for a campaign.

Fortunately, there are some simple tips to follow to make a good, or at least effective, one:

  • The candidate’s name and the office they are seeking are the most important part. According to Campaign Trail Yardsigns, these two components should be clear and easy to read on the sign. It’s pretty simple. If a voter looks at a campaign sign and cannot read the candidate’s name or understand what he’s running for, then the sign has failed to fulfill its main purpose.
  • Be smart with yard signs and research ahead of time, according to Campaigns and Elections. They say “force your staff to compile a list of sign locations and polling places so you know the actual number. How many campaigns do this? Unfortunately, not too many do. But it’s a much better idea to plan first and order later.” Scouting precincts and creating a “blueprint” of where campaign signs will be posted give candidates a good range of how many signs they need to order. Down the road, this could save money for more important needs.
  • Consider materials and cost. This may be more in the weeds, but consider what a sign is made of and look at the costs of ink, size, and materials. If it rains, will it be destroyed? Does certain ink cost more than others? It’s important to lock down a budget along with a good design before committing to a certain type.

Yard signs are not rocket science. Many people overthink the signs, and the result is a useless and expensive piece of marketing for the campaign.

Here are some pitfalls to avoid when planning a campaign yard sign:

  • Colors. Look at most campaign signs. The majority of them are strong, primary colors. Why? Signs must be easy to read. A yellow and purple one might stand out, but can someone read it?
  • Font, type, and size. Less is more when it comes to these. Try putting too much text in an unclear font, and the sign becomes unreadable.
  • Moving another candidates yard sign. Don’t do it. Every election cycle, someone from a campaign gets busted for moving another candidate’s sign. Even if their sign is in the best spot in the district, find another spot.

Last but not least, political yard signs will cost money. Adding up the cost of printing, shipping, and placing the signs, the budget has the potential to over-burden a campaign.

That is why fundraising is so important. Continued fundraising will help cover the costs of materials like signs and the manpower necessary to get them placed. By raising more, campaigns can help manage unforeseen costs down the road and invest more in their marketing.

political fundraising slideshow

Evan Harris

Written by Evan Harris

Evan Harris is a political consultant and former communications consultant for the California State Legislature. In his free time, Evan loves catching up on political and military history, trail running, and cooking.