Understanding Visible Political Participation: An Analysis of Yard Sign-Displays during the 2008 Presidential Election
46 Pages Posted: 29 Mar 2010 Last revised: 7 Jun 2010
Date Written: March 31, 2010
Displaying a political yard sign is a conspicuous element of the election experience but an understudied act of political participation. We argue that the study of spatial patterns in the dissemination of yard signs speaks to the debate over “context” as a cause of political participation. We ask whether evidence of such contextual effects exist, and if so, how they operate: through the micro-social environment and interpersonal communication, or the meso-social environment and impersonal information cues?
To address these questions, we utilize an original, geo-coded observational dataset of more than 25,000 households in Franklin County, Ohio from the 2008 presidential election cycle. In addition to traditional predictors of participation, we find evidence that spatial dependence exists in the distribution of yard signs at both the property level and at the Census block level, indicating that both contextual mechanisms are simultaneously important in creating the “sign wars” often observed in neighborhoods.
Keywords: political participation, yard signs, context, political geography, 2008
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