When driving down the streets of Duluth in October, it is easy to observe that Halloween decorations are not the only colourful additions to the front lawns and yards of houses. The most prominent markings of the season are the multicoloured political signs, which are everywhere during this stage of the 2012 presidential election. “This is the fewest I have ever had out” said Duluth resident Tamara Jones, as she glanced out at the plethora of political signs in her yard.
Many Duluth residents choose to show support every year for a wide variety of issues and candidates by posting such signs all over the city. Residents have many different reasons for posting political signs in their front yards.
Rallying for votes and more support is the most common reason why residents put out political signs.
“I hope people, such as, our neighbors who know us, will see the signs and respect our views and show support as well,” Jones said. “Also it is a big pick me up for candidates to see that they have support.”
Political signs have drawn both positive and negative attention around Duluth. Those that have a positive outlook enjoy the sense of community that they feel when neighbors and community members display the same signs as they do.
But some community members find the political signs to be ugly and "in your face politics". Problems can arise when residents find political signs in their neighborhood offensive to their eyes or their views.
Jim Soderberg is a Duluth resident who owns political signs.
"The only issue is people vandalizing the signs and taking them," Soderberg said.
Vandalizing and stealing signs is a common problem that sign displayers have around town. Although some signs are taken and vandalized, many people who believe in their signs are not discouraged.
“They are actually helping that campaign by stealing my signs,” Jones said. “I paid 10 dollars for the sign, so I will just go buy another one.”
Since so many people have been displaying political signs in their yards this election, are the signs actually effective in rallying more votes for a candidate or an issue?
“It really depends on what you mean by effective,” said Tucker Staley, a political science professor at the University of Minnesota Duluth. “Effective in changing minds? no.”
A sense of community and a news update is really what many people see is the purpose of the political signs.
“They are effective in showing community,” Staley said. “And they serve as a reminder of what is going on.”
Displaying political signs has been happening since our country and government started.
“We have always had them,” Staley said. “But not to the extent we have them now.”
Signs are much more abundant now than ever before. The ability to mass produce signs gives any person access to a sign.
Handmade signs in the past were few and far between but proved to be more effective because of the lack of media coverage on early elections.
“They were really important when we didn’t have mass communications like we do today,” Staley said.