I live in Georgia’s sixth congressional district. As you may have heard, we’re having a special election to replace Tom Price, the new secretary of health and human services. Price was a popular incumbent, but Trump barely scraped out a win in this district, so there’s a lot of national attention on this race. And even if there weren’t, Georgia has a system for special elections where everyone will run in a primary (on April 18), and if nobody gets 50% of the vote (which there won’t), then there will be a runoff between the top two candidates on June 20.
And I do mean everyone. There are 11 declared Republican candidates and 5 declared Democrats. What little polling there’s been indicates that we should end up with a standard partisan election in June, with Karen Handel (former Secretary of State of Georgia and former candidate for Governor and Senator) for the Republicans, and Jon Ossoff, former congressional aide, current maker of investigative films, and person who is younger than me and therefore unelectable due to things he posted on Facebook, for the Democrats.
But this post is not about politics. It’s about yard signs. If I’m not mistaken – and I very well may be mistaken – I’m seeing more yard signs than I did for the presidential election. Now, I live in an American suburb, which means that there are houses on main roads that people pass by, and there are houses in subdivisions that nobody drives by unless they live in the subdivision. And I’m noticing that yard signs seem to be more prevalent on the main roads.
Is this true? It’s hard to count and drive at the same time – it’s easy enough to count the signs, but counting the houses is tricky, and without the denominator this would be worthless – and I wouldn’t have been able to get a large enough sample anyway. But it seems to make sense. I live on one of those roads that nobody drives down unless they live on it. If I had a sign, who would see it? I’m not much for putting up signs anyway, but if I were, I’d be more likely to if I lived on a road where the sign would have more effect. As it turns out, I’m not the only one. The paper Understanding Visible Political Participation: An Analysis of Yard Sign-Displays during the 2008 Presidential Election came up with a model to predict which properties display yard signs, and traffic volume (subjectively coded into six categories from “dead-end” to “major artery” does turn out to be significant. I found out about this from a Slate article by Sasha Issenberg which rounds up a lot of the research on signs.
By the way, this is one of those things that’s very hard to Google, because the advice on how to put up signs swamps the research on signs. But the conventional wisdom seems to agree that signs on busier roads are more valuable. One sign vendor writes (emphasis added):
- The most effective way is to combine your dooknocking [sic] with your yard sign recruitment. Target the busiest streets for door to door work first, and for those people who are friendly, ask them if it would be okay to put a sign in the yard.
Perhaps this is why nobody bothers to canvass my neighborhood and offer me a sign.