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WSU Newsline: Why political yard signs matter
Wednesday, October 8, 2008 11:17 AM

The scripts are available for printing and for sound bite identification.

Go to http://www.wichita.edu/newsline to get the current Wichita State University Newsline. If you cannot access the Newsline at the Web address above, contact Joe Kleinsasser at (316) 978-3013 or joe.kleinsasser@wichita.edu. Newsline cuts may be edited to suit your needs. If you have additional questions for Mel Kahn after listening to the WSU Newsline, please contact him at (316) 978-7136 or melvin.kahn@wichita.edu.

Background:

This is the season for all the autumn colors: brown, orange, yellow, and red, white and blue — as in political yard signs. They are often derided as useless, wasteful and ineffective, not to mention an eyesore. But Wichita State University political scientist Mel Kahn says political yard signs can help candidates.

Voice wrap:

Announcer: It's the season for all the autumn colors: brown, orange, yellow, and red, white and blue — as in political yard signs. Wichita State University political scientist Mel Kahn says that, at the grassroots level, political yard signs establish name recognition. Of course, not everyone is wild about putting them in their yard.

Kahn: "Most people don't want them, but the basic reason is you're either a relative or a good friend of a person, or you're strongly oriented toward your party and you want to help that person out."

Announcer: Although political yard signs are derided as useless, wasteful and ineffective, Kahn says well placed and well designed signs can help attract attention. This is Joe Kleinsasser at Wichita State University.

Sound bite #1

Kahn says political yard signs help candidates establish name recognition. The sound bite is 13 seconds and the outcue is "name recognition."

Kahn: "Basically candidates are aware, or should be aware, that people don't vote for persons whose name they do not know. And so it's a way, at the grassroots level, of establishing name recognition."

Sound bite #2

Kahn explains how political yard signs can help candidates. The sound bite is 18 seconds and the outcue is "bam, bam approach."

Kahn: "They don't actually produce voting a certain way. What they do is enable the first element to be reached, of getting candidates known. And they particularly work if they're strategically placed, so that there are many that are together, so you get a bam, bam approach."

Sound bite #3

Kahn explains how political yard signs can be effective. The sound bite is 30 seconds and the outcue is "thoroughfare."

Kahn: "A local candidate for the Legislature was quite successful, by the name of Sandy Duncan. And Mt. Vernon Avenue bisected his district, and all up and down Mt. Vernon Avenue, you would see signs, one after another, and people had to go down that roadway in order to turn into their side streets, and they couldn't miss it. And it just made a tremendous impact, particularly when you came over the hilly areas on that thoroughfare."

Sound bite #4

Kahn shares what makes a good political yard sign. The sound bite is 24 seconds and the outcue is "very large."

Kahn: "What makes a good sign is uniqueness. For example, research has shown that capital letters do not have a good impact, unless it's the initial letter of a word. Italics are much more effective. Also, if the sign is not too crowded; too many candidates put too much on the sign. The main thing is to get their last name out there very large."

Sound bite #5

Kahn tells what makes an ineffective sign. The sound bite is 20 seconds and the outcue is "for example."

Kahn: "Ugliness, wilting in the rain; that's why many candidates now use plastic signs that are water repellant. And signs that, you know, that get blown over very easily, that are put in by wood instead of by rebar, for example."

Sound bite #6

Kahn says some gimmicks can help signs be noticed. The sound bite is 14 seconds and the outcue is "used like that."

Kahn: "Moving signs in the latter days of the campaign will make them more noticeable. Tying ribbons on them that will float in the wind also call more attention. There are all kinds of gimmicks that can be used like that."

Sound bite #7

Kahn says the shape of a sign can draw attention to it. The sound bite is 20 seconds and the outcue is "call attention."

Kahn: "Another factor which candidates seldom do is to have a nontraditional shape to the sign. For example, Ken Groteweil, a legislator, used to use signs that are more vertically rectangular than rectangular from side to side. And that was a different sign that would call attention."

Sound bite #8

Kahn notes the importance of contrasting colors. The sound bite is 20 seconds and the outcue is "ineffective."

Kahn: "It's very important to have contrasting colors in order to highlight the sign. It's also important not to have colors that everybody else uses. For example, in many elections in Wichita, a lot of people like to use the Wichita State colors, but there are so many of them out there, they sort of blend together, and so they're ineffective."

Sound bite #9

Kahn shares an anecdote involving the political sign strategy of President Nixon's campaign. The sound bite is 31 seconds and the outcue is "temporarily."

Kahn: "One unique thing occurred when Richard Nixon ran for president the first time. He actually had a group of psychologists do research, and they came up with the conclusion that orange and the black were the best contrasts to use and to call attention. On the other hand, they also realized that when they appeared within a couple days of Halloween either way, they became sort of a joke, and so they would pull the signs then and put in other colors temporarily."

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Contact: Mel Kahn, Wichita State University political scientist, at (316) 978-7136 or melvin.kahn@wichita.edu.
Created on Oct 8, 2008 11:17 AM; Last modified on Nov 19, 2008 11:53 AM