Alex Blaze

Missing yard signs in California

Filed By Alex Blaze | September 24, 2008 12:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, Politics
Tags: amendment, Barack Obama, California, gay marriage, marriage, marriage amendment, marriage equality, Prop. 8, same-sex marriage, yard signs

Not that this sort of thing makes much of a difference, but the Yes campaign for Prop 8 in California didn't get the million yard signs they ordered:

yardsign.gifThis past weekend the Yes on 8 campaign had talked up passing out ONE MILLION lawn signs. It was going to be their big splash event, something big and bold to get a bunch of earned media.

To counter that push, the No on 8, Equality for All campaign organized a bunch of visibility events for the media and to raise the public face/profile of the campaign. Then shuttled the the volunteers back inside to do the work that will bring this election home: calling undecided voters.

But a funny thing happened.... There were no lawn signs, no big events from the Yes side.

They ordered the signs from a Chinese manufacturer and they'll be showing up three weeks late:

The YES on Prop 8 yard signs have been delayed in route from China. We expect to distribute them within the next two weeks. I will email you as soon as they arrive so we can make sure you have one immediately. In the interim, please continue to take note of any friends or family who would like one as well.

Not that these yard signs make all that much of a difference (Sean Quinn, commenting on the Obama campaign's lack of signage over at the wonky 538):

Barack Obama's organizers hate them. John McCain's organizers hate them. It's because yard signs don't vote - but they do generate a ridiculous amount of complaining that must be patiently listened to. Until yard signs sprout little legs and go to the polls on Election Day, in a presidential election with universal name recognition they are just a nice little decoration.

They're little feel good things, making you feel like you're on the team. There is nothing wrong with that - that's not the objection. The objection is that there is limited time for organizers to accomplish a wide array of prioritized tasks, and in this election they've chosen to prioritize identifying, registering, persuading and getting their voters to the polls. Yard signs cut into the organizer's sleep time - literally.

A lot of people aren't going to like hearing this truth, but organizers recognize that the majority of people who walk into offices for yard signs are, for volunteering purposes - and this is a technical term - useless. In the majority, these people are not going to knock, they're not going to make phone calls. Instead, they are going to throw the organizer's incredibly precious, sleep-deprived time down a bottomless abyss of irretrievability.

People who plant yard signs are maybe going to make their neighbors aware that they support a particular candidate, and in theory, if they live near voters who cede their opinions to peer pressure, they could theoretically be shading the influence of a vote here or there.

Just as is the case with McCain and Obama's name-recognition, I doubt there are all too many people in California who don't understand the concept of same-sex marriage. And anyone willing to turn out to the polls just because this amendment is on the ballot isn't going to find out via yard sign.

The point was to get some earned media for a lame campaign move, but it's pretty expensive in the end for the Yes campaign. How much did these signs cost? How much did/will they pay for postage? Even if they had it all done for a dollar a sign, it's still 6% of their budget on something that won't move numbers.

And the signs are showing up late, taking a few weeks out of whatever persuasive time they had.

Although I hope that the Yes campaign has already paid for these signs and plans on buying lots more. It's a great way for them to waste their fundraising advantage over the No campaign.


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As an organizer I gotta add to this. It's not the people that come in and pick up a yard sign that drive us crazy, it is those who call and request we bring one to them. They inevitably don't get it fast enough for thier taste and then call back to gripe about not getting it. So, really, you are such a big supporter you can't donate the $8 to get one sent to your house from the website or take the 10 minutes it takes to drive to the HQ and pick one up?

Lawn Signs serve one purpose - to make the candidate feel good when they drive around their district.

It might help with name recognition in school district races. I never know who those people are when I go in to vote (I know, I suck).

So how much do they cost a piece?

Michael Crawford Michael Crawford | September 24, 2008 1:09 PM

Why didn't the God-fearing anti-gay evangelicals buy American made signs? They keep railing on about gay marriage is going to destroy and then the go and spend a buttload of money in China.

But are the signs made out of melamine like baby and pet food? Since they're coming from China and all...

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 25, 2008 4:01 AM

No, they are made from recycled bibles. The Chinese have a ting about recycling bibles!

Brynn Craffey Brynn Craffey | September 24, 2008 7:16 PM

They ordered the signs from a Chinese manufacturer and they'll be showing up three weeks late

That is classic!!!

As far as yard signs are concerned, I think they do have an effect. When I saw a "No on 8" sign in my dad's conservative neighborhood, it gave me hope! It was also a topic of conversation with his neighbors, which offered an opportunity for education on the issue.

I was just wondering how you say thank you in Chinese.

OK, I have to share. There was a post over at FiveThirtyEight on the eternal lawn sign debate that said it better than I ever could. You can read it here.

Among other things, it says:

Listen.

Organizers – the people out there killing themselves to win this election – hate yard signs with the white-hot intensity of a thousand suns.

Barack Obama’s organizers hate them. John McCain’s organizers hate them. It’s because yard signs don’t vote – but they do generate a ridiculous amount of complaining that must be patiently listened to. Until yard signs sprout little legs and go to the polls on Election Day, in a presidential election with universal name recognition they are just a nice little decoration.

They’re little feel good things, making you feel like you’re on the team. There is nothing wrong with that – that’s not the objection. The objection is that there is limited time for organizers to accomplish a wide array of prioritized tasks, and in this election they’ve chosen to prioritize identifying, registering, persuading and getting their voters to the polls. Yard signs cut into the organizer’s sleep time – literally.

A lot of people aren’t going to like hearing this truth, but organizers recognize that the majority of people who walk into offices for yard signs are, for volunteering purposes – and this is a technical term – useless. In the majority, these people are not going to knock, they’re not going to make phone calls. Instead, they are going to throw the organizer’s incredibly precious, sleep-deprived time down a bottomless abyss of irretrievability.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | September 25, 2008 4:07 AM

Ah Hummm! WJ, I think you may want to kick back a little on the caffeine and re read Alex's post...

Just sayin :)

Ya, sorry. I just hear the phrase "lawn sign" and start to twitch (no caffeine necessary). But I do take a great deal of satisfaction in the fact that the Yes on 8 folks have to be getting far more "where's my yard sign" calls than I am right now.