I once worked for a local political campaign, and while my candidate didn't win the election, he won my enduring respect for insisting that the campaign staff quickly remove all of his many yard signs from wherever they'd been placed. I can think of many other candidates over the years who didn't make that a priority.

If we were to divide up into sides, I find myself on the side that doesn't really think that campaign yard signs do much of anything but clutter the landscape and create an eyesore. The quantity of yard signs touting a particular candidate has never made me think that I should back someone because his/her name is shouting at me from the most lawns (and anywhere else someone found a place to stick one).

That's just me. What do experts think about the effectiveness of the political yard sign? The Washington Post delved into the topic, and found them to be "98.3% useless." They spoke with Donald Green, a professor at Columbia University. Professor Green has studied voter outreach for a long time, and his takeaway is this:

“[I]t appears that signs typically have a modest effect on advertising candidates’ vote shares — an effect that is probably greater than zero but unlikely to be large enough to alter the outcome of a contest that would otherwise be decided by more than a few percentage points.” The effect of such signs, the study suggests, is about the same as direct mail. Of the researchers’ four experiments, only one involved what you might generally think of as yard signs. In three of the experiments, signs were placed in public places within randomly assigned precincts. In the fourth, signs were placed in supporters’ yards — the thing that campaigns often spend a lot of time coordinating. In that case, interestingly, the effects were essentially zero. Aggregated, the four experiments suggested that there was a 1.7 percentage-point boost to the candidate from the signs -- with a standard error of 0.7 percentage points.

The good news is that election day is this coming Tuesday, April 4th. If you don't see a large majority of Rockford-area yard signs removed from their current placement by Saturday, April 8th, make sure you let the candidates whose names are prominently featured on those signs know about it.

As you may or may not know, the curse of the political yard sign is not just an American problem:

Click here for the Washington Post's full piece on campaign yard signs.