Academic doubts poll signs’ worth

Gareth ThomasAlbany Advertiser

There is little doubt an election is imminent when every spare section of fence, front lawn and even some vehicles are emblazoned with the smiling faces of political candidates vying for your vote.

The type of candidate branding that is being seen in electorates across the State is a traditional part of the craft of electioneering that many in the business of campaigning are not ready to give up despite there being little evidence to suggest they are effective, according to a Murdoch University senior lecturer for public relations.

Dr Kate Fitch said there was little academic research to support the use of the types of small-scale signage on streets, cars and front yards, and they only accounted for about 1 per cent difference in the total vote. “There was a study in America last year that looked into their tradition of erecting lawn signs and they found it had a very minimal effect, perhaps just over 1 per cent,” Dr Fitch said.

“They are quite an old style and in many incidences they have been overtaken by technology where it can be easier and cheaper to have targeted campaigns online.”

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Dr Fitch said this type of signage had a similar effect as direct mail- out and other “low-technology campaign methods”.

“In general at best the research suggests there’s a very modest impact on the outcome,” she said.

After the 2013 State election the Albany Advertiser reported on multiple complaints made regarding the number of signs during the election and on polling day with some referring to the signs as “visual pollution”.

In that report Peter Watson and Robbie Sutton, who are both running again, agreed that political signage had gone too far.

Yet, it seems there has been little change in the four years since then.

Dr Fitch said online messages and shareable content produced a more effective result for candidates and campaign directors, especially when considering the cost of printing the physical signage.

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