Election season in Hawaii is already underway, having just completed Republican and Democratic votes for president.

With the June 7 filing deadline for state contests fast approaching, we can expect those ubiquitous campaign signs to start cropping up all over.

But, do they actually help persuade voters? Maybe not.

Campaign signs along wall of one house on Waialae Ave in Kaimuki on August 27, 2014
Campaign signs along the wall of a house on Waialae Avenue in Kaimuki, August 2014. PF Bentley/Civil Beat

New research from the Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University sought to gauge the effectiveness of lawn signs in particular.

The study’s main conclusions:

  • After pooling the results of the four experiments and examining their averages, it appears that lawn signs raise vote shares, on average, by slightly more than 1 percentage point.
  • Based on pooled results, lawn signs are “on par with other low-tech campaign tactics such as direct mail that generate … effects that tend to be small in magnitude.”
  • Signs, in some scenarios, do not appear to be as effective when they make reference to a specific political party or ideology.

Bottom line: “While lawn signs appear to have a modest effect on voting outcomes, they could, theoretically, provide an edge in certain tight elections.”

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