Eliminating the old election cliches - Denny Scott editorial
So, last week Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided that, in the early stages of the fourth wave, Canadians will be going to the polls to elect the next leading party of Canada, be that in a minority or a majority government.
We’re already about a third of the way through the campaign process - which was only the legal minimum of 36 days to begin with - but within what seemed like minutes of the announcement of the election there were political signs up all over Huron County (and likely the country).
For years I’ve hated the entire idea of the signs - while studies show they may be good at getting the names of local candidates out, they haven’t shown a significant impact from that simple recognition. (As a matter of fact, in a 2016 study on the eyesores, it was discovered that the lawn signs raise vote shares as much as other “low-tech” campaign tactics like direct mailers, which is around 1.7 per cent).
Those results startled even the researchers themselves, who thought that signs are a waste of time and money, when in reality, they are just as effective as stuffing mailboxes (which, if you’re by the Blyth post office when those mailers go out, seem to all make their way into the recycling).
That same study showed that the same kind of increase in voter turnout can be achieved simply by reminding people that they need to get out and vote, so the bump isn’t even necessarily going to happen for just one party, but all parties that are running.
This year we’re going to see a different kind of campaigning compared to every other election in modern history because of COVID-19. Heck, we’ll even need to change the clichés because no one is allowed to be shaking hands or kissing babies. I propose we also make this the year that lawn signs are done with because, aside from providing a thrill for younger siblings when they abscond with them, the science shows they serve no real purpose.
I guess I should say I’m talking about all political signs and not just the ones on public grounds. No one is going to change their vote because their neighbour supports someone else, and, hard as it may be to believe, other things you do in life will broadcast where your political biases lie. For example, if you’re against big government, we know you’re at least a small ‘c’ conservative, if not a big ‘C’ conservative. If you’re in favour of unions, you’re likely a supporter of the NDP or the Liberals. If you are interested in environmental efforts as the cornerstone of a political power, The Green Party may have recruited you. The bottom line here is, you don’t need to advertise your political leanings. As we’ve learned from our neighbours to the south, the best that’s going to happen is you’re going to find your neighbours agree with you while the worst is that you might lose friends or family over it. The odds of you changing someone’s mind with a sign are slim to none.
As far as I’m concerned (and I’ve got the research at hand to back me up), putting up signs is the least effective way to drum up support for a political candidate because the majority of voters have their minds made up long before the election is even called.
Either you’ve made the decision based on the people running locally, or you’ve decided based on what you think the country needs.
If you support Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his Liberals, you’re likely going to vote for James Rice. If you find Trudeau’s actions either too far left or too far right, you’ll vote for incumbent Conservative Ben Lobb or the NDP’s yet-to-be-named representative. If you want to focus on environmental issues more, you’ll vote for whomever the Green Party puts forward (no word on them yet either).
For those rare few people who wait to make up their mind, I can’t believe that yard signs are going to make a big difference, not when there are websites to help you pick a party to support, great local newspapers that will provide biographies and platforms of the candidates and debates (even if they have to be held by Zoom). There are enough ways to help one of those few undecided make up their minds.
No one is tallying up who has the most yard signs, except for the people who have to plant and retrieve them (and maybe the employees and the municipal landfill sites to charge for disposing of them).