Welcome Visual Clutter

Tomorrow is the official beginning of spring.  All flowers may not be blooming quite yet, but you can count on seeing political yard signs sprouting at every street corner.   Are they effective or just an eyesore?

I counted 10 signs in a row for the same candidate along one city street. Does more signs in a row equal more votes?  I doubt it!  It’s more like visual clutter.

Political strategists will admit that signs are effective especially in local elections where name recognition is important, but they don’t necessarily persuade voters.   In fact, people who put signs in their yard are already supporters of a candidate or political party.


There’s a term used in advertising called the “mere exposure effect”, which says that the more familiar we are with something, the more we tend to like it or the more often a person is seen by someone, the more likable they appear to be.

How does this relate to campaign signs?  Let’s say you have no idea who is running for a particular political office.  But every day on your way to work you pass a “Vote Charlie Brown for Town Council” sign.  On election day, you may be more apt to for good ole Charlie Brown because his name was more familiar to you.

According to sign makers, the best signs are always ones that have no distracting backgrounds, use bold typeface, and no more than seven words. Our attention spans are short, and even shorter at 25 or 30 miles per hour.

A bad sign, on the other hand, could backfire on a candidate especially if the photo isn’t clear or the text is too difficult to read.   I can’t help but wonder if the candidate can really handle the office for which they desire if their signs look like they were done by a preschooler.

Then there’s the cost of them.  Standard two-sided signs can cost up to $6 each.  500 of those can put a big dent in a campaign budget.

I say its time we look past the signs, dig a little deeper, and make sure the candidates views are in line with our own.  With turnout falling lower than ever before in recent elections, we need to do everything we can to engage our friends and neighbors in to casting an informed vote.

Even though they can be an eyesore, campaign signs still have a place in our elections but they shouldn’t take the place of one-on-one voter contact.  I for one like to hear what the candidates have to say, what their plans are if they’re elected, and where they stand on issues that matter to me.

A bigger, more flashy sign, can’t take the place of that.


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