Campaign Lawn Signs as Part of the Field Campaign


Precinct Walking Koreatown 10-9-2010 (15)Canvassing and phone banks are the biggest part of field campaign. These are critical components to a campaign because you are directly contacting voters with the candidate’s message. In addition, the more personal the contact the more impactful it will be. Talking with someone at their door is far more powerful than a radio spot or a campaign lawn sign.

With that said, yard signs are a part of political campaigns and one of the easiest ways to distribute signs to voters is to bring them along to canvasses. When you are going door to door for a candidate, put a few signs in the back of the car so that when you identify a supporter you can ask them whether they would like a sign and quickly fulfill the request.

Likewise, when you are phone banking your targeted voters and have called a supporter, give them an easy ask to become more committed to the campaign: ask them to take a yard sign. A couple dollars will emotionally invest the voter in the campaign. Then, there is an opportunity a few days later to ask for a bigger investment in the campaign such as with a small financial contribution or asking them to volunteer with a mailing.

Yard signs can take up a lot of time, but there are ways to reduce the time it takes to deal with this part of a campaign such as by putting signs in the car of canvassers and incorporating a yard sign ask in the phone banking script.

Campaign Lawn Signs – Who Needs Them?

Fold Over Political Campaign Yard Sign
Standard Cardboard Campaign Lawn Sign
Depending upon the strengths and weaknesses of a candidate, the campaign should focus on certain tactics and strategies over others. Campaign lawn signs are increase candidate name recognition, so candidates with higher name ID need fewer signs while candidates who aren’t as well known need more.


The classic example is incumbents. The longer that you have been serving at your post in elected office, the greater chance that your constituents know who you are and the fewer campaign signs that you will need for your campaign.

Small business owners

This can cut both ways. If the business is in the retail sectors, you’re a real estate agent, or other business where the candidate is in contact with a lot of potential voters, the campaign can safely avoid ordering a bunch of yard signs. On the other hand, if the candidate is far removed from day to day customer interaction or is involved in business to business transactions, the candidate might have a great resume for elected office but will need some campaign lawn signs to improve name recognition.

Civic leaders

Candidates who are active in major civic associations, pastors, and others who are actively involved in the community are at an advantage over other candidates who don’t have the name identification that comes with these roles. Civic leaders need fewer signs than other candidates.

Candidates in the helping professions

Candidates in the helping professions have a lot of advantages. Particularly for lawyers, doctors, and dentists but also other occupations like police officers and nurses, these candidates often have a great network to raise the money they need for a campaign.

In addition, candidates who are in the helping professions also often have good name recognition. These candidates don’t need as many yard signs as others do.

Of course, use common sense. A corporate lawyer likely doesn’t have the name recognition of the attorney down the street that does wills and helps local business owners set up shop.

Political activists

While political activists often start with a great volunteer base, which is a significant advantage over most other candidates, they aren’t often the most well known outside their sphere.

Candidates with a background in activism will need more signs than most.


When ordering yard signs it’s important to realize that their primary benefit is to increase candidate name recognition. If the candidate already has great name recognition than order a small amount to put in the yards of your supporters who want them and also at polling places but you won’t need much more. On the other hand, other candidates who aren’t as well known in the community will need more signs than the average political candidate.

Political campaign to watch

In the race for Caseyville borough council, incumbents have eschewed yard signs and challengers are using them. This should be an interesting race to watch! While there are other factors like whether voters want more of the same or something different and other local concerns, yard signs maybe play a factor in this race.

With that said, one of the challengers notes that he needs campaign lawn signs to increase candidate name recognition. Yard signs are more important for challengers compared to incumbents who are more likely already know among the electorate:

Four candidates looking to unseat members of the Caseyville Village Board say they will continue using campaign signs, despite a pledge by incumbents to not use any outdoor ads.
“People may know my face, but not my name. Signs will help me more,” said Rob Watt, one of seven people running for three seats on the board.

All three incumbents in the race �?? Kerry Davis, Patrick Dyson and Ron Tamburello �?? recently promised to not advertise their campaigns on placards because some residents became upset with the “tremendous number” of signs used in the November election season, Davis said.

Remove Campaign Yard Signs After the Election

[audio:|titles=Remove campaign yard signs after the election]

Campaign Trail Yard Signs Podcast Notes

It’s important for campaigns to remove campaign signs from the road and instruct private property owners to remove their signs following an election.

If you’ve won your campaign

  • First impressions matters. Seeing a yard sign after the election might be the first impression that a constituent has for you as a newly elected official.
  • In many districts, you are violating the law by not removing the sign following an election.
  • Demonstrate that you care about how the community looks by removing campaign yard signs.

If you’ve lost your campaign

  • You’ve built up a good reputation in the community. While you didn’t win, there might be another election down the road or you are going to stay active in the community in another way. You probably aren’t feeling particularly motivated, but take down your signs quickly for the sake of a future campaign or your reputation more generally in the community.
  • Possible legal mandates and caring about the looks of your community also apply if you have lost the race.

It’s okay to take a day to celebrate your victory or lick your wounds but soon thereafter, remove your campaign lawn signs.

Yard Sign News Round Up – May 2011

Reese Signs a Sticky Issue

This is one of the bigger yard sign news stories of the primary election season and it’s right in my own back yard!

Copyrighted yard sign
Reese for Sheriff

The Hershey Co. isn’t real sweet on Mark Reese’s campaign for Lancaster County sheriff.

A spokesman for the nation’s largest chocolate maker said the Republican candidate’s campaign essentially lifted the company’s trademark Reese’s candy logo for use on his yard signs.

“We believe this is an unauthorized use of our trademark,” said Kirk Saville, a spokesman for The Hershey Co. He also said, “The Hershey Company does not endorse political candidates.”

Reese’s campaign chairman said, in a statement Tuesday night, that the company had contacted the campaign and had reached an “amicable resolution to the matter.”

Read more:

How Brown Did It

I saw what seemed like gazillions of campaign workers, waving signs and clad in shirts identifying their candidate, up and down Atlantic Boulevard â?? which I travel every evening on my commute home.

My wife and I voted Saturday at the Regency library. An “army” of very enthusiastic Brown supporters were nearby, as were a multitude of his “political yard signs.”

I can’t even begin to guess how many Brown signs were stuck in the ground on Atlantic, between the mall and St. Johns Bluff Road. There were a lot. A whole lot. I thought I might have seen a couple of Mike Hogan signs, too, wedged in there somewhere. But it was hard to tell for sure.

Let’s just say name identification couldn’t have been a problem for Brown.

Mr. Fretz hit the nail on the head here.  Yard signs increase the candidate’s name recognition dramatically.  The candidate leveraged campaign yard signs with volunteers who were also waving signs to increase their effectiveness.  Much to be learned here!

Bolts Fans Battle HOA to Put Their NHL Team’s Signs Up

On April 2, Steven Paul, a 28-year-old Lightning season ticket holder from the Tampa suburb of Brandon, proudly planted the sign in his front yard. Four days later, he received a letter from the Providence Lakes homeowners association informing him that he had to remove the sign.

According to Providence Lakes bylaws, “No signs, billboards, posters, or advertising devices of any kind” are permitted on residents’ property, with the only exceptions being for sale and for rent signs, construction signs and â?? according to the notice â?? security company

The fan, however, wasn’t defeated but instead:

True to his word, Paul did just that, using a permanent marker to turn the white “Go Bolts” sign into a “Protected by Go Bolts Security” sign, hoping it would be considered legal under the HOA’s bylaws.

Under the HOA’s rules, security signs are permitted in the development.  Since, other residents in the HOA have taken pictures of the sign, presumably to report it to the HOA, but the Bolts themselves have taken Paul’s side giving him a team flag and any other fan pack material he might need.

Political lawn signs show base of support

If you missed this really interesting article about campaign lawn signs, here is the meat for a political campaign:

I have a theory when it comes to yard signs. My theory states that a candidate’s position on any given issue is not nearly as influential or important to a prospective voter as the condition of the house that his or her yard sign occupies. Shallow yes, but completely true.

Don’t believe me? During the last mayoral election, my wife and I had just moved to Downers Grove and didnâ??t know anything about the candidates or the local hot-button issues, so we didnâ??t vote. However, in the evening when I would walk the dogs around the neighborhood I started to notice an odd pattern in the distribution of yard signs.

The majority of homes that featured yard signs for the incumbent needed exterior work. Not all, but most. Neglected rose bushes, peeling paint and the sun blasted carcasses of old lawn ornaments all hid in plain sight behind those signs. By contrast, the homes that featured the challengerâ??s signs were either relatively new construction or had tasteful additions and well-maintained front landscapingâ??not an old TV antenna anywhere in sight.

Based on my decidedly unscientific observations, I surmised this election pitted “old school” Downers Grove (established, maybe older) against a newer, younger homeowner who desired a change from the “same old way.” I didn’t follow the election, but I knew what the outcome was going to be. It was right there in the signsâ??or, should I say, crumbling behind them.

With April fast approaching I have some advice for the candidates. Your signs tell me your name, but their location tells me more. In between meet-and-greets at the pancake house I would sneak around town under cover of darkness, inspecting the homes that featured my campaign signs. Bring along a tub of spackle and a Philip’s screwdriver, maybe a few gallons of exterior white.

I’ll leave the issue of established communities versus new residents alone.  Instead, let’s focus on this idea: what house you place a sign at matters.  Are tastemakers posting your sign on their lawn?  Do you have the town barber, pastor, fire chief and others who have a strong social network?

This article looks at sign distribution in a general sense.  Are you focusing on the right precincts that are vote rich.  If not, target your campaign lawn sign strategy to the most important neighborhoods to save campaign dollars and maximize the effectiveness of your sign campaign.

Cresting your candidate lawn sign strategy on Election Day

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Today we’re going to talk about something really important for a lot of campaigns and I’ll use an example of this phenomenon in the 2004 Democratic presidential primary.  I was out in Iowa supporting Howard Dean for president.

You could tell about two weeks out he was getting a lot of positive reaction at the doors.  This was one of my first campaigns volunteering day in and day out.  First presidential campaign I mean.  I was out there knocking on doors, making phone calls, and you could tell there was a lot of really positive reception a couple of weeks out, but then things started to turn.

And with each day, the reaction that you were getting on the door and on the phone and from other volunteers was that the mood was getting sour for Howard Dean.  By the time the Iowa caucuses happened, John Kerry had won and the reason why was Howard Dean crested his campaign a couple weeks too early.

Ideally, you want your campaign to crest on election day.  You want the most support that you’ve ever gotten on election day.  Sometimes you hear in political circles you hear “if the election were held today who would you vote for?”  This is a common question in public opinion polls.  For Howard Dean if the caucuses were held maybe two weeks before they were held they might have won.  But they weren’t and you don’t want that to happen in your campaign either.

Because if you crest too early or never even gotten to that point of cresting, you’re at least leaving a lot of votes on the table and perhaps losing the race because of it.  What that means for your yard signs strategy: you want to make sure that your yard sign distribution is slowly building.  Have a strategy to it.

By the time election day rolls around you want to have delivered all of the signs that you wanted to deliver, when you wanted to deliver them, and where you want to deliver them.  If you don’t have a strategy behind what you’re doing with yafd signs or other aspects of your campaign, you are going to crest too early or never crest at all.

That’s why it’s important to have a some sort of strategy by where you are going to strategy yard signs in the district, how you are going to do it.  Know what your campaign yard sign budget is, spend that money, and then distribute those signs in a way that is going to maximize their value and isn’t going to crest too early or you’re going to leave votes on the table by not cresting late enough.

That means if it’s election day and you have a stack of yard signs in your basement or campaign headquarters, you didn’t do the distribution you needed to do to crest on election day.  The converse is true; if you have run out of yard signs two months before the election and you’re forced to reorder them, turnaround time is slow because you are in the heat of the election season, and you maybe needed some changes, or you had to skimp on how you are doing the yard signs now, then you’ve crested too early with your yard sign strategy.

So it’s important to be giving yard signs out in a methodic manner in a way that makes sense for your district and your campaign.  Good luck with this strategy.  Take these tips to ensure that you are going to crest on election day and not after.  Good luck!  This has been another episode of the Campaign Trail Yard Signs podcast.