Las Vegas Sun

January 19, 2022

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Why don’t candidates put their party affiliation on their signs?

Sun Coverage

Mr. Sun,

Why don’t candidates for office in Nevada put their party affiliation on their ubiquitous signs?

—William Greene


Many Las Vegans driving past political signs curse them as a blight on the otherwise beautiful landscape or a reminder of the acrimonious democratic process. But you, dear Sun reader, might not be the target audience.

Cynical political professionals tell Mr. Sun that candidate signs exist primarily to sway low-information voters — the type who don’t read newspapers and head to the polls having done little research. Candidates hope that once these people are ensconced in the voting booth, they will remember the name from the sign and pull that lever.

Under this theory, if candidates identify themselves as Democrats or Republicans, they risk alienating a portion of the public. A party label may be all that’s needed to lose a vote.

Also, candidates are always pursuing independent voters. If you’re a Democratic candidate, you expect to get the Democratic vote. What you really want are the Democrats, plus independents and a few Republicans. That’s an equation for victory.

And that’s why this campaign season you will see slogans such as “Independent like Nevada” but never “Republican like Reno” or “Democratic like Dayton.” (For you low-info Nevadans, there actually is a Dayton in Nevada. Just don’t ask Mr. Sun where it is.)

All of this is, of course, a generalization. But so was the question.

But before you e-mail Mr. Sun with all the candidates who include their party affiliation on their signs, I’ll acknowledge that there are plenty of exceptions. One is U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, who calls herself a “conservative Republican” on her signs.

The effectiveness of campaign signs is a matter of debate. Some professionals say they’re just to please the ego of the candidate and the candidate’s spouse and have little effect beyond that. One went so far as to say that if a candidate complains there aren’t enough signs, it’s a sure indication the candidate is driving around and avoiding more useful tasks, like knocking on voters’ doors or calling potential donors to solicit contributions.

Questions for Mr. Sun should be sent to [email protected].

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