Mike Kueber's Blog

September 21, 2010

Using signs in political campaigns

 Last week, the local paper published an article on the (mis)use of large signs in political campaigns.  http://www.mysanantonio.com/news/election_signs_serious_business_103220994.html.  The article wasn’t concerned with yard signs, but rather with large 4’ x 6’ signs that are plastered along major streets in San Antonio.  According to the article, these signs are like weeds in more ways than one – they spring up everywhere, especially places where the landowners don’t want them.

Earlier this year, several people criticized my congressional campaign for failing to use political signs, and I told them that my non-sign strategy was both practical and principled.  As a practical matter, signs cost a lot of money and both of my campaigning books – Winning Your Election the Wellstone Way and How to Win a Local Election – advised that signs were generally ineffective.  As a matter of principle, signs insult a voter’s intelligence because they provide no substantive information. 

I suspect, however, that my campaign books provided their advice because of principle instead of practice.  Actual experience in San Antonio suggests that signs are effective.  Because there are a multitude of low-visibility races and low-cost campaigns in which the voters are exposed to minimal substantive information, the only thing the voters may know about a contest is a name they saw on some signs.  If the signs weren’t effective, candidates would stop spending money on them. 

If I ever run for office again, I will reconsider using highway signs because they will earn some votes, but I would rather leave that campaign technique to those who try to buy an election victory.

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