With Election Day less than a week away, and early voting already underway, the yard signs have sprung up in New Albany.
If you talk to people who are avid about their politics, you often hear discussion about yard sign trends. Are there more Obama yard signs this year than in 2008? Do the presence of signs for Democrats in local races mean that there could be a Democratic surge? If you see more Romney signs than Obama signs, does that mean that the Romney voters are more energized? In short, can we draw any meaningful inferences from the number of yard signs we see?
There probably is some kind of inverse correlation between yard signs and voter apathy. Obviously, you aren’t going to put up yard signs if you don’t give a flying fig about the outcome of the election. And the unexpected presence of a bunch of political signs could be a signal of a broad shift. If you suddenly saw lots of Romney signs in traditional Democratic strongholds, for example, you might take notice.
Beyond that, though, I’m a bit skeptical of whether yard signs can serve as any kind of indicator of future voting trends. Local signs don’t mean much with respect to national races, in my view; people often put up signs for friends or acquaintances who are running for judge or city council. People who talk about seeing more signs for their preferred party than they did during the last election cycle might just be seeing what they are hoping to see. And even if they aren’t, a change in yard signage may be attributable to many other factors. Maybe someone who put up signs last year decided not to do so again because their neighbors complained. Or, more likely, they got sick of constantly adjusting signs after one of the many blustery October storms blew through town. Signs made of a cheap wire frame and plastic wrap have an irritating tendency to blow down, after all.
The number of political signs may be interesting water-cooler talk, but I don’t attach much significance to it.