This toolkit s is a blueprint for a campaign that uses yard signs to engage rural progressive base voters, and help grassroots organizers identify the most vocal supporters in rural communities for issue-based or electoral campaigns. This toolkit was created based on our field experiment organizing in 45 rural Kentucky precincts during the 2019 governor's race. Even though many of the organizations in our network run campaigns on a smaller scale with smaller budgets, with this toolkit, we’ll show you how to integrate our findings and ideas from our 2019 campaign to fit your needs.
Surprisingly, political yard signage is an understudied tactic in political campaigns. For generations, political yard signs have been a staple in political campaigns at local, state, and national levels. However, substantive research on their efficacy is almost impossible to find. “Yard signs don’t vote” is a statement heard by almost every rural organizer working with beltway consultants. And as Sasha Issenberg wrote in 2012, it has become “fashionable to dismiss the lawn sign as overrated, a vestige of old-style campaigns that may raise spirits but not vote totals.”
In small towns and rural communities, where social ties and kinship networks are often constituted much more densely than in urban and suburban areas, a key knowledge gap exists regarding the efficacy of yard signage in political races. Recent studies conclude that the impact of yard signs is greater than zero, but they’re unlikely to be large enough to alter the outcome of a race that would otherwise be decided by more than a few percentage points. However, this research was conducted in upstate New York, Fairfax County, Virginia, and Cumberland County, Pennsylvania—all urban and suburban areas—and failed to examine the impacts of signage in small towns and rural communities.